Thou art the Man
2009-07-30 by Roger Talbott
As John 6 and Ephesians 4 lead me to the conclusion that the “calling to which we have been called . . . to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” at the very least requires us to share our gifts (including, literally, our bread, with each other), I find myself more and more uncomfortable with Nathan’s story about the rich man who stole the poor man’s ewe.
As a chocoholic, I ponder a New York Times article about the economics and politics of cacao growing in Venezuela. It’s complicated. The same could be said for the cup of coffee that I’m drinking. Yes, these crops can produce exports that could improve the overall economy of the world’s poorest nations. But, corporate growers of the crops coveted by North Americans and Europeans drive small farmers off land that their corrupt governments have never allowed them to title. The land that could be growing food for local people, instead, grows luxuries for someone like me whose waistline proclaims that I already have too much to eat.
I am the man, indeed.
Lectionary Homiletics Exegesis for John 6:24-35
2009-07-28 by Rina Terry
As I read the exegetical article in Lectionary Homiletics today, I thought a great deal about what it means to be "under occupation." In some senses, pastors often find themeselves under the occupation of congregational factions that wish to maintain their power and control or bolster the in-crowd's status and decision-making power.
When this happens, the body of Christ can become impoverished. Over time, people will begin to show signs of spiritual starvation. If the pastor and members of the congregation have the courage to begin to implement change, or restore focus to the things of God, actual war can break out and, while there may not be bloodshed, there can be the kind of vindictiveness or maliciousness that does great violence. Such perpetrators have, as Mitzie Minor points out, taken the "bread without renewing their way of living..."
As I read, the article's emphasis on the four verbs characterizing the responses of authentic disciples: seeing, believing, knowing and receiving began to do a dance in my mind's eye. As we teach, preach, disciple members of the congregation, we would do well to remember those verbs. I am considering how I can make this a very "verby" sermon that leads into receiving the elements of the sacrament.
2009-07-28 by Rina Terry
Should have introduced myself. I am a UM pastor appointed at Cape May UMC in Cape May, NJ. I've been involved with the Festival of Homiletics for the past seven years and have met many of you.
I spent seven years as Supervisor of Religious Services at Bayside State Prison, an adult male facility.
Yesterday I spent the day just living with the texts. I read them periodically or think on them throughout the day. I try to find the connections between living my faith, living into and through the texts.
Holes that Must be Filled
2009-07-28 by Stephen Schuette
John’s Gospel is filled with dialogue in which the communication never quite happens. It’s clear, too, that the problem isn’t with Jesus. It’s John’s way of inviting us into the depth of this mystery that is beyond our typical way of “seeing.”
It reminded one colleague of this seminary exchange… The student, in frustration, confronted the teacher, “I keep trying to get a straight answer from you. Why can’t you just give me a straight answer?” The teacher responded, “I’ll give you a straight answer when you ask the right questions.”
OK, so we’ve got a big hole in us. Everyone has it. And we keep trying to fill it. It’s there in the child who is in the store and doesn’t understand why they can’t get something and the longing for it brings tears from a deeply injured self, even though the injury is only in the child’s perception. It’s in the dementia resident who travels from room to room in the institution in which they live collecting this and that. I think it was there in one who embezzled funds after losing a brother in Vietnam and a child to teen cancer. It’s there when we confuse what we merely want with what we think we need.
And we can hoard even more than money or things. Some may hoard “rights and wrongs,” that competitive scorecard that is an attempt to buttress a weak self-image. People can also hoard the injuries they’ve experienced, locking them in victimhood because at least that’s something that identifies them.
I stand in awe of the claim that Jesus makes. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Give Us This Bread Always
2009-07-27 by Roger Talbott
Mitzi Minor’s exegesis of John 6:24-35 in the Journal indirectly raises the question, can we begin to understand this passage unless we are hungry?
It’s so easy for those of us, who know where our next meal is coming from, to judge this crowd’s inability to understand the spiritual implications of the feeding of the 5,000. We say, patronizingly, “Of course, these people whom Jesus had fed the day before came back again looking for a free meal and they were put off because Jesus was trying to explain that they didn’t live by bread alone, but by the Word that comes from God.”
Me thinks we spiritualize too much.
I think we should take seriously John Crossan’s contention that if the gospel is good news for the poor, then, at the very least, it is about bread.
If we take seriously the Ephesians’ emphasis on unity in Jesus Christ, then the communion table becomes not just a symbol of Christ’s presence, but a foretaste of that feast where everyone in the world has a place at the table and everyone is fed.
It’s something we “see” just as clearly as the crowd saw the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and yet we, like them, do not really believe. A boy put his meager resources into the hands of Jesus and somehow it was enough. The Sign that Jesus talks about is the same Sign that we experience in those moments of unity when people come together and take care of each other.
There are moments people remember as miracles, of a sort: the evening the violent thunderstorm blew out the electricity, neighbors introduced themselves to each other as they moved tree limbs out of the road and patched damaged houses the best they could; the funeral that brought the estranged members of a family together and for a day or two the things that divided them didn’t seem nearly as big as the grief that united them. Common need, common effort, common humanity leads to a kind of communion that we only wish we could experience once in awhile at church.
Over and over again, people in these circumstances ask, “why can’t we always be like this?
Indeed during those few horrible days in mid-September 2001 some people ventured that everything had changed. Republicans and Democrats sang together on the Capitol steps. Liberals hung out American flags and conservatives volunteered for community service. Christians and Jews responded to acts of hatred toward Moslems by forming protective rings around mosques. Aid was distributed to those most directly affected by the destruction of the twin towers without regard to differences between CEO’s and janitors. When people come together in genuine community, the maldistribution of bread is no longer a problem.
“Give us this bread always” is a prayer for a world that is no longer afraid of itself; a world that is not fragmented, but centered in a common humanity or the Common Human Being – the One we all know and love; whose face we see in the face of our brother or our sister.
“Give us this bread always” is a prayer for a world that no longer is afraid of tomorrow – that day when there will be no bread – that day, like the others we worry and worry about, that never comes if we break bread together on our knees.“Give us this bread always” is a prayer for a world that is no longer afraid of gods who make distinctions based on creeds and rituals, but trusts in the God who gives gifts to us, not for our personal enrichment, but for the building up of the organic unity of humanity that Ephesians calls the Body of Christ.
We misunderstand this prayer if we think that once it is answered there is no longer any reason to pray, because the magic breadbox will supply our every need.
We only truly pray this prayer if we pray it as Jesus taught us to say: “Give us this day, our daily bread”. It is in the constant renewal of our dependence upon God and in the constant renewal of community so imperfectly effected by the coming together of the Church around the Table – but effected none-the-less.
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