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.
My process for sermon prep
2009-07-26 by Rina Terry
On Sunday evenings, I generally take a look at the lectionary texts for the upcoming week, begin to think about the overall worship design for the service, and, perhaps, write a Call to Worship, or Prayer of Confession.
CALL TO WORSHIP
L: In times like these we need a Savior
P: Jesus, you are our Solid Rock
L: In times like these we need an anchor
P: Our anchor holds when we grip the Solid Rock
L: In times like these we need the Bible
P: We’re very sure, Jesus, that you are the One
L: In times like these we need not be idle
ALL: Our Rock is Jesus; yes, he’s the One.
(based on In Times Like These, Ruth Caye Jones)
Since August 2nd will be Communion Sunday, what's floating through my head right now is the connection between receiving the bread of life (Johannine text) and building up the body of Christ (Epistle text).
2009-07-25 by David von Schlichten
Thank you to all who contributed posts this week. I hope others will scroll down to read them. There is much to work with here - a whole lot of splashing going on in the tub.
This Sunday I will finish a series on a journey through hell and then, the following Sunday, will begin a four-part series on a journey through heaven. In tomorrow's sermon (or whatever it is), my heroine, Pastor Katie Michael, will travel the River Styx, where she will see on the water a terrifying sight that she thinks is Satan but that turns out to be Christ coming to her rescue.
I look forward to your input, eternally
Yours in Christ,
David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator
Slow-witted, Naive, and Scared
2009-07-22 by Tuck Taylor Bounds
“Slow-witted, Naïve, and Scared”
Poor Philip, he is not known for a quick mind or the boldest spirit. In fact, he is not known for much of anything. Philip didn’t even seek Christ out as some of the others had, but Jesus had to go to Philip. No doubt Philip was a stable soul, a good man, dependable; but adventuresome, or risk-taking probably are not the adjectives to describe him. And it is Philip who Jesus asks: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” What is he thinking? We know the ones in our church, in our families, maybe it’s even our very selves, who you do not ask their advice on issues of spending money – unless you want to be shut down immediately. Scripture is clear, Jesus asked it of Philip as a test. Would, could, Philip overcome his basic nature to move slowly, not take risks, see the world as it is, be practical? “Are you kidding me?” Philip says (in so many words), “we couldn’t feed all these people even one bite even if we had 8 months of salaries.” I wonder how long it took Philip to do that calculation! Seems his mind is quick in some areas – numbers, perhaps. But trusting the Lord who stood before him, the one who had been teaching and performing miracles for quite sometime now – well, Philip just couldn’t quite get it. “No way”, Philip says, “no way we can swing this one financially.”
And then there’s Andrew. I have an Andrew. He is the youngest of my 4 boys. The “baby”, we call him, even though he is a full 8 years old! He is, by virtue of his age, more naïve than my other boys who are worldly and knowledgeable beyond their teenage years (at least in their minds). How they like to roll their eyes at the naïveté of their youngest brother – “right, Andrew, that’ll work.” Jesus’ Andrew was much like mine, I think. We know he is young, Peter’s younger brother, “here, he says, we have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish”, but then abashedly, “but that wouldn’t work would it?”
And then we have the story of Jesus walking on the water. How frightening to the disciples: the slow-witted, the naïve as well as the adventurous, older and wiser ones. We have tamed Jesus in our minds: made him our fishing buddy, Jesus of Sunnybrook Farm. This text reminds us however, that when Jesus approaches it can, and often is, frightening.
What a group of followers Jesus has?! Slow-witted, naïve and scared. Which one are you? Certainly there is not one among us who doesn’t relate to either Philip, Andrew or the scared disciples in that tossed about boat. Perhaps more than we would ever like to admit. And yet there is good news! Jesus knows all about Philip and his conservative, rather pessimistic view. He knows all about Andrew and his sweet desire to help and solve the problem. He knows all about the fear that each one felt in that tossed about boat. And for each one, Jesus provides what is needed. For Philip who cannot make his mind open up to the possibility of God’s abundance in the midst of apparent scarcity, Jesus tests, teaches, and no doubt leads Philip to a stronger place of faith. For Andrew who wants to help, who sees the world in simplistic ways, Jesus takes Andrew’s naïve sounding solution and brings forth a miracle. And finally, for the scared and frightened, Jesus provides assurance and salvation.
We are the hopelessly slow-witted, sometimes naïve, too often scared followers of Jesus. And it is enough – not because of who we are, but because of who Jesus is. Glory be!
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