thoughts on waiting

Advent is one of my favorite times of year. I love the music and the progressive lighting of the weekly candles. I love the themes of waiting, of preparing, of expecting. We wait for Jesus’ birth at Christmas, and we wait for God to come into our lives today.

Waiting, I have realized, is a privilege. When I have waited for things in my life (opening Christmas presents, having a birthday party, receiving college acceptance letters), I have known exactly what I was waiting for and more or less when I would receive it. I have never had to hope and wait endlessly for an unknown arrival date. It is easy for me to preach patience because mine has never truly been tried.

When Martin Luther King, Jr., was imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama, he received advice from some pastors who, like me, had never had to wait for something they truly needed. King responded,

I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” …when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it so hard to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the blackness of corroding despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

When I consider this kind of forced waiting endured by King and all the African-Americans living under segregation, the unrest in Ferguson and around the country following the death of Michael Brown makes a little more sense to me.  I cannot excuse violence, but I can begin to see that waiting is no longer an option for people who have felt the “stinging darts” of racial profiling, of Driving While Black, of a society that assumes they must be up to no good, and of ongoing tension between police and citizens.  I begin to see that I must find a way to shorten the wait.  I cannot live in a world where my sisters and brothers are valued less or treated with suspicion simply because their skin is darker than mine.

Advent may be about waiting, but some waits have lasted long enough.  When it comes to civil rights and basic human dignity, there can be no more waiting.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

thoughts on loving evildoers and sinners

I have recently been reading the writings and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I had heard a few of his speeches and read his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” but that was about it. King writes about the importance of nonviolence as a means of resistance, and says many compelling things about this philosophy. One statement that really struck me was in “Nonviolence and Racial Justice,” written in 1957. King says about those who adhere to nonviolence that they “rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the evil that he does.”

King, of course, is talking about segregation and its supporters as the “evil deed” and the people perpetrating it. It is a noble and admirable aspiration, to find a way to love people who sought to oppress King and his fellow African-Americans simply because of their skin color. Indeed, I would be surprised to find anyone who would take issue with King’s goal of loving the segregationists while hating and working against segregation. It seems congruent with Jesus’ injunction, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

King’s statement sounds very similar, however, to phrases used by some modern Christians who profess to “love the sinner, but hate the sin” when it comes to issues like sexuality. When it comes to this version of the statement, I have heard plenty of objections. “It’s an excuse for being mean to people who don’t behave the way they want.” “It’s not possible to love someone while hating how they act or think.” “That’s the easy way out.”

So what is the difference? In part, it’s that we pretty much all agree with King that segregation is evil, while there is a definite lack of consensus on whether certain expressions of sexuality are sinful. More importantly, it has to do with how the other person is described. King writes that he must love “the person who does the evil deed,” while the modern paraphrase instructs us to love “the sinner.”

“The person who does the evil deed” or “the sinner.”

One recognizes that there is a person behind the deed, while the other defines the person solely by the deed. One grants the possibility of separation between the person and sin, while the other does not.

If these are our two choices, it seems clear to me that we are obliged to take the choice that leaves the other person with hope and the possibility of reconciliation. We are obliged to hate evil and sin, yes, but we are also obliged to love other people, whatever their sin might be, and see them as our neighbors, as fellow children of God.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Comments

thoughts on Ashes

This sermon was preached on Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The Gospel text was Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18.

Let’s start by naming the obvious issue here: irony. Irony, as a college English professor defined it, is when we expect one thing, but the opposite happens, usually in a strange or funny manner.

For example, it seems ironic for a preacher to read Jesus’ words: “Beware of practicing your piety before others… whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you… whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door… whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites… your Father who sees in secret will reward you,” and then invite the gathered congregation to come forward to publicly and clearly mark them with a smudged black cross on their foreheads.

In other words: it sounds like Jesus says not to put on showy, public displays of piety, and then we go right ahead and have one anyway.

So why do we wear the ashes?

Hopefully, it’s not in order to “be like the hypocrites.” Jesus doesn’t tell us exactly who they are, but it sure sounds like the disciples know.

These are the people who are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing by serving and worshiping God, but they’re acting like it’s a truly impressive sacrifice that everyone should see. These are the people who have a dozen bumper stickers on their camel or their Camry, identifying them as the ones who REALLY follow God.

These people care more about their public displays of faith than about what they do in private. Their private faith doesn’t match their public faith. In Jesus’ context, there was a major problem with flashy displays of piety. But, in our modern culture, is that our problem?

I think our problem might be the opposite, actually. Instead of flashy, public displays of piety, we keep our beliefs private. I have heard it said that “religion is like underwear. It’s great if you have some and like it, but no one else should have to see it.” Like the people Jesus is talking about, our public faith doesn’t always match up with our private faith.

Now, please don’t hear me wrong. I am not saying that you should all go home, find a soapbox and a megaphone, and spend your free time on busy street corners preaching repentance.

I am suggesting, however, that when we focus too much on our personal beliefs without thinking about how they impact our lives—and without making it clear that the impact is because of our faith—we take the easy way out.

It’s not that God is impressed by our piety one way or another, because that isn’t what Lent is about. When Jesus talks about these practices, he doesn’t say “if you pray, if you give alms, if you fast,” but rather “when you pray, when you give alms, when you fast.” God expects that we will pray, give to the poor, and abstain from excessive indulgence. Lent is a season the church has dedicated to paying special attention to prayer, sharing with those in need, and avoiding those things that keep us from God.

So why do we wear the ashes?

In part, we wear them as a way of publicly reflecting our private faith. We are proclaiming that what we believe matters enough to let other people know we believe it.

It’s more than just that, though. Because if it were just that, we wouldn’t say something as morbid as “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

There is no sugar-coating here. You are made from the stuff of earth, and you will be returned to the earth. Young or old, the promise is the same: you are dust.

But this is not the final word.

We don’t just haphazardly apply ashes to your foreheads. We leave you with a big black cross.

A cross, which, by all accounts, is an even uglier reminder of mortality. Not just our own, but especially of the mortality of the one who came to save us from our sin, Jesus Christ. His death on the cross was not the last word, either. Three days later, new life came.

So why do we wear the ashes?

Because that new life is ours, too.

The first time I was marked with a cross on my forehead was at my Baptism. And, in that sacrament, the pastor said to me, “Elizabeth Michelle, child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”

The ashy smudges remind me of my death, yes, but they remind me also of the new life that has been promised to me in my Baptism. The ashes will be wiped off before I go to bed tonight, but the cross that marked me at Baptism will never smudge or wipe away.

In my Baptism, Christ claimed me as his own. In your Baptisms, you, too, were claimed by Christ as his very own. In the ashes, hear the reminder of death, but feel also the reminder of your eternal life in Christ:

You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

So why do we wear the ashes?

Not to display our piety to the world.
Not to shame our neighbors who couldn’t make it to worship tonight.
Not to impress God with our acts of faithfulness.

So why do we wear the ashes?

To publicly reflect our private faith, yes,
But more than that:

To remind us of our own mortality, yes,
But more than that:

To be marked, once more, with the cross of Christ that joins us to his death and resurrection.

Children of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

thoughts on Perfectionism and the Holy Spirit

Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
This sermon was preached 2-23-13. The accompanying readings were Matthew 5:38-48 and 1 Cor 3:16.

Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

Be perfect.

Perfect?

Really?

In a culture of perfectionism and constant striving to be smarter, wealthier, prettier, quicker, healthier, better, this doesn’t sound very realistic.

Because we all know that we can’t be perfect. We know that supermodels are airbrushed, that sports stars use steroids, that the best diet and workout regimen in the world can’t prevent disease and death, that the wealthiest among us don’t always get there on their own merit.

We know very well just what our perfectionist ideals look like and we know just as well that we may never achieve them.

It doesn’t stop us from trying to be perfect, of course. We buy the wonder products, sign up for gym memberships, read the self-improvement books, and put our best self forward on Facebook. When I was reading this text with my friend Emily, she said, “One of the things I struggle with most is reminding myself that I don’t always have to be perfect.”

And it’s not just us individually. We see the imperfections in a society that perpetuates and excuses racism as just another piece of the status quo. We watch helplessly as poverty and homelessness skyrocket with unemployment and unaffordable housing costs. We write letters to our elected officials, praying that maybe this time it will make a difference.

Be perfect.

The other stuff Jesus says seems, if difficult, at least POSSIBLE. If someone wants to take your coat, give also your cloak. If someone makes you carry their stuff, carry it farther. Give to everyone who asks you for something. Instead of hating your enemies, pray for them.

It turns into a to-do list. A demanding list, to be sure, but at least to-do lists can be worked on. We can feel like we’re getting somewhere. But “be perfect” is something else entirely. There’s no checklist on the way to perfection. At this point, it seems like a bit of a surprise that Jesus managed to keep even twelve disciples.

We can agree that he has impossibly high expectations, but that doesn’t let us wiggle out from dealing with these commands. Jesus says “be perfect.”

So, what do we do? One option would be to strive to keep every law, every commandment, exactly as it is written. Of course, then we would have to figure out which laws apply in which ways to our lives today. For instance, do we need to keep kosher in our eating habits? I’m not sure I can give up bacon and cheeseburgers, both of which are prohibited by the letter of the law.

But if that isn’t the way to be perfect, what is?

The most perfect thing in the Old Testament was the Tabernacle. It was the place where God promised to dwell among the people of Israel. The whole structure was built to precise specifications. If you’re curious, you can read the descriptions of its construction and furnishings in the books of Exodus and Numbers. The Tabernacle was built to these very particular directions because it was God’s dwelling place, the holiest and most perfect place. It was so important that whenever the Israelites moved during their time of wandering in the wilderness, the Tabernacle led them, and when they stopped to camp, it was set up right in the center of camp.

And then, centuries later, when the Temple was built, also to precise and detailed instructions, the Tabernacle was placed in the innermost room, the Holy of Holies. The Tabernacle was God’s perfect dwelling place, and had to be treated with the utmost respect.

So why does that matter? The Temple is long gone—in fact, the second Temple is also long gone.

You all are God’s Temple,” writes Paul. “God’s Spirit dwells in you.”

Even when all we see are the imperfections in our lives and our world, the Holy Spirit sees the perfect place to dwell. Just think about the richness of the word “dwell” for a minute. God isn’t passing by, or just dropping in for a minute. God is putting down roots, squeezing in on the sofa, and helping with the dinner dishes. God is here to stay, dwelling and working in each one of us. And, in so doing, the Holy Spirit makes her dwelling places perfect.

In college, I was flying back to school from Spring Break, when there was some bad weather that canceled or delayed many of the flights coming through O’Hare, where my connection was supposed to be made. I was 17 and flying by myself, so I figured that if I stood in line long enough to explain my situation, the gate agent would find a way to get me on a flight that day rather than get stuck trying to deal with an unaccompanied minor in the airport overnight.

As the line snaked along, I noticed a family in line behind me. Mom, dad, and three kids under 12 stood, presumably waiting to make their case to the agent and try to get on the next flight. I originally noticed them because the dad was loudly complaining about everything at the airport, but I quickly realized that their 7- or 8-year-old daughter was staring at me. She smiled shyly at me, and I smiled back.

Emboldened by my friendly response, she asked, “What happened to your arm?”

This is pretty normal for me, so I assured her mortified mother that her curiosity was just fine, and I answered, “Well, I was just born with one arm.” And, since the line was going nowhere, I continued, “This is how God made me.”

She got very quiet as she thought this over, and then asked one more question. “Well, then what’s God doing with your other arm?”

It was my turn to be quiet and think it over. Finally, I said, “I don’t know.”

I don’t always know what God is doing in my life, how God is working through the things that seem so imperfect.

I do know that when God looks around at me, at you, at the gathered saints, at the old faces lined with wrinkles and the young faces smudged with this morning’s snack, at the tired faces waiting for answered prayers and the hopeful faces living in joy, God smiles and says, “Perfect.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

thoughts on Joseph’s silence

The following is a sermon preached 12/22/2013.  The gospel text was Matthew 1:18-25.

 

There is a lot of research in education circles about learning styles.  Experts emphasize that without appealing to a range of learning styles, some children are left out.  There are visual learners, who learn by reading or seeing.  There are auditory learners, who like to have concepts explained out loud.  And there are kinesthetic learners, who learn by touching and doing.  Successful teachers work to engage students in as many senses as possible to reach each student.

If ever there is a time of year that vividly engages all five of our senses, it might be Christmas.  You know the five senses: touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing.  We feel the cold wet of snow as we build snow forts, see the lights twinkling on rooftops around the neighborhood, smell the pine trees decorating our homes, taste the many batches of Christmas cookies, and hear Christmas carols played from just about every sound system we encounter.

But if cookies and lights and trees are the sensory experiences of Christmas, what is it that we see and hear and taste during Advent?  I have tasted plenty of delicious soups and smelled homemade bread served alongside!  We can imagine seeing John the Baptist, dressed in camel hair and eating bugs—a taste I would rather not share.

But what does Advent sound like?  Whose are the voices raised above the din?

We’ve heard Mary’s voice.  The beloved words of the Magnificat, the song she sings when the Angel Gabriel announces God’s plan to her.  These are the words that make up our beloved Holden Evening Prayer, that we sing every Wednesday in Advent, coming from Mary, the mother of our Lord.

We’ve heard John’s voice, declaring repentance and announcing the Kingdom of Heaven come among us.  We’ve heard Elizabeth’s voice, calling Mary “blessed among women.”  A few weeks ago, we even heard Jesus’ voice, warning us of the day when he comes again.

And this week we hear… absolutely nothing.  Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus Christ says not one single word.  In fact, Joseph is never recorded saying anything at all in any of the Gospels.

But why?  We have Mary’s words stretching from the announcement of her pregnancy to the Cross, words that we treasure!  So why is Joseph silent?  Couldn’t he at least have had one or two lines, just to remind us that he’s there?  After all, anyone who has done theater will tell you that important characters are expected to have a lot of lines.  Nobody is going to get nominated for Best Supporting Actor without any lines!  How can we be expected to remember Joseph if he never says anything memorable?

But, let’s hang on a minute.  Trying to look like an important character or get nominated for awards or be remembered by generations to come are… okay ways of measuring success, I suppose, but maybe not the ways God measures success.

Joseph may not look successful to us, but we are told that he is a “righteous man” descended from the line of King David.  This righteous man is, as far as we know, an everyday craftsman.  He’s a carpenter, working day in and day out to make a living.  Maybe working with wood taught him to get his work done without talking about it.

And then this everyday guy found out that his wife-to-be is pregnant, and instead of publicly shaming her, he plans to “quietly dismiss her.”  This everyday guy trusts God’s words from the angel who appears in his dream.

Joseph doesn’t say a word that we ever get to hear, but he does some pretty important work.

Even before he hears from the angel, he plans to be quiet about his actions in order to protect Mary from the legal consequences of pregnancy outside of marriage—stoning to death.  After the angel speaks, he goes further against the cultural norms to take Mary as his wife, even knowing that the child she bears is not his own.  And, perhaps the most surprising: he believes what the angel says to him in his dream, following God’s commands about Mary and Jesus.

Joseph may not fit my expectations of a Bible hero, but he does something better.  He fits God’s expectations for him.

Joseph doesn’t need to be a great poet, because Mary is there to speak words of faith and joy at the coming of her savior.  He doesn’t need to be a great preacher, because John is there to speak a message of repentance to the Israelites.

Joseph needs to be willing to hear the voice of God and obey it.  And he is.  Joseph needs to be willing to welcome a teenage mom into his home.  And he is.  Joseph needs to be willing to protect and raise this vulnerable child as his own.  And he is.

We remember Joseph not because of his words of wisdom, but because of his actions.  Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “actions speak louder than words.”  The words we speak matter, but they can feel empty without actions to back them up.  Joseph knows very well that this is a situation in which words are just not enough.  Instead of making grandiose promises, Joseph simply does what needs to be done.  The Gospels may not record Joseph’s words, but they remember his actions.

Earlier, I asked what Advent sounds like.  Sometimes, Advent sounds like the song of Mary, glorifying God with her poetic words.  Joseph’s witness tells us that Advent often sounds like God’s people being silent.

The sound of Advent is God’s people being where God needs them, whether or not they are cast in a speaking role.

It sounds like Advent when a busy parent makes time to sit and read a book with a child.  It sounds like Advent when drivers make space for each other in rush hour traffic.  It sounds like Advent whenever God’s voice is heard among God’s people, challenging our expectations in order to be present in the world in new and surprising ways.

 

Maybe even in such a surprising way as coming as our Immanuel,

our God-with-us,

the promised one who saves us from our sins.

 

Please pray with me:

O Emmanuel, our God who comes to dwell with us, teach us to hear your voice and follow your will in our lives.  Give us words to speak when they are required and the courage to be silent when no words are needed.  Help us imitate your servant Joseph’s obedience to your voice.  Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

thoughts on being a “Jesus Feminist”

A few weeks ago, for the first time, I used the word “feminist” to describe myself.

Not because something radical has changed about what I believe about women and men, but because I’ve realized that I’m no longer interested in hiding from a word in order to avoid other people’s ideas about that word.

Of course, it’s not quite fair to say that nothing has changed.

I listened to classmates declare that they have gotten “Him’d” out of male depictions for God.  I announced my intention to refer to the Holy Spirit as “she” instead of “he” or “it.” (“You’re one of those people,” responded a friend.)  I realized that I can’t stand words like “brotherhood” to describe the Christian family, and I cringe when a song refers to “men” and means the whole body of Christ.  I have even started to wonder about words like “fellowship.”  (I’m not a fellow, after all; can I still have fellowship?)  When a popular Christian musician replaced “men” with “saints” in a carol on his Christmas album, I stopped rolling out pie crust to share my excitement with my husband.  (“Did you hear that?  Let saints their songs employ! Saints, not just men!”)

I have started to read blogs of women like Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey, women who claim “feminist” as a description for them, too. Several months ago, I encountered announcements for Sarah Bessey’s recently published book, Jesus Feminist.  She writes about how “following Jesus made a feminist out of her.”

Apparently following Jesus is making a feminist out of me, too.

This newly recognized-and-openly-named feminism keeps popping up at the most inconvenient times, making me wonder if there isn’t a way to shut it off, at least temporarily.  Buying Christmas cards this year was even more of an ordeal than it usually is.  My husband and I have always scoured the cards in order to find ones with art we like, but this year I rejected more than one hopeful because of the message inside.

Things like, “May His light shine on you always” or “May He bring peace and love to you” or “Let your hearts be filled with Him so that His grace may be with you now and always.”

I had no idea that Christians had decided it’s okay to replace God with a deified, uppercase He/Him/His.  Many of these cards did not even name God, instead offering those capitalized male pronouns as if that communicated the same thing as God’s name.

This woman, this feminist, this Christian isn’t going to settle for that any more. 

I am not going to settle for a Christianity that excludes half the world from full participation.  I am not going to settle for a paradigm that lifts up maleness at the exclusion of femaleness.  I am not going to settle for a Church that makes God over in our own images.

I am a feminist for women long gone who fought to give me the right to vote, to own property, to speak my voice.  I am a feminist for mothers and grandmothers who raised children in the hope that their daughters might not face the same prejudice they endured.  I am a feminist for the sweet and precious little girls in my life who should not have to live in a world where women are ignored or belittled for no reason but their gender.  I am a feminist for men who respect women and recognize the mutuality of the life we share.  I am a feminist for myself, for the voice that God has given me.  I am a feminist for the Church, that it might be the full and vibrant body of Christ in the world.

But aside from all those things, I am a feminist because my faith compels me to be.  Because I believe that Jesus Christ has called men and women to partnership and equality in doing the work of the Gospel.

Let Saints their songs employ.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

thoughts on Bread from Heaven

This sermon was preached on 11-27-13 for the Thanksgiving Eve/Pie Church service.  The reading was John 6:22-35.

I scoured the Bible for texts about pie, but it seems like there is a definite absence of pie in the Biblical narrative.  I suppose it hadn’t yet occurred to anyone to try mixing fruit with sugar and sticking it between two thin pieces of bread.  I did find fruit, though, and honey, and a lot of bread.  Starch, it seems, is the most basic staple of diets around the world, whether it’s potatoes, rice, noodles, or even—dare I say—lefse.

But is bread enough?

From a position of nutrition, we might argue that it is not.  After all, everyone from the lunch lady to the First Lady is trying to get children to eat more vegetables.  This is important, when some people consider ketchup and pizza sauce to be vegetables.  What about the people who don’t have access to fresh fruits or veggies?  Can we dismiss their health, saying that they can do alright just on carbs?

There’s an activity that has been done on high school and college campuses to raise awareness of the disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest around the world in terms of food.  Upon arriving at the cafeteria, the students would draw a colored ticket from the basket.  10% of the tickets are blue, 30% are yellow, and 60% are red.

Upon presenting the blue ticket, that student receives a plate loaded with a pork chop, risotto, asparagus, a dinner roll, and a dessert plate with their choice of strawberry shortcake or brownie.  They’re told that they can come back for seconds and are seated at a small round table with cloth napkins, silverware, and a floral centerpiece.  There are several choices of beverages in attractive glass pitchers.

Next comes the yellow ticket.  These students fill their own bowls with rice and beans, the dish that makes up their entire meal.  Oh, there’s corn and some sparse peppers in the mix, and it’s been flavored pretty well with chicken broth and some herbs.  These students are seated at long tables tightly packed with the other yellow ticket recipients.  Each student is provided with a spoon and paper napkins.  Plastic pitchers of water are placed on these tables, with no other choices for a beverage.

Finally, the red ticket students get their meal.  A smaller bowl is given to them, which they may fill with rice.  Plain white rice with a little salt makes up the entire meal for 60% of the students.  They pick up a spoon at the end of the line and are directed to be seated on the floor.  They can get up and walk over to the dispenser if they want water.  There are no second helpings.

The point, of course, is to teach students that their expectations of “enough” to eat may be very different from those of people with much less.  Is rice enough?  To the red ticket students, that yellow-ticket bowl of rice and beans looks like a feast.

Imagine what would happen if I tried to pull the same stunt with the pie downstairs.  You’d probably call the Contextual Learning office tonight and demand a new vicar.  Don’t worry; the pie is there for everyone, no lucky ticket required.

Of course, this congregation is already heavily involved in work to reduce hunger in this community and around the world.  There are partnerships with CES, collections for Change to Change the World, offerings for the Food Shelf, groups volunteering at Feed My Starving Children, and cooks serving meals at Our Savior’s Shelter.  We pray for CES every week because we believe that their work is important.  We believe that no one, man or woman, girl or boy, should have to endure the pangs of hunger.

It seems that this is a mission Jesus shares.  Just the day before the conversation in our lesson occurs, Jesus feeds 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish.  It’s the ultimate example of a food shelf taking your money and multiplying it to buy 10 times the food; here Jesus takes a small amount of food and multiplies it perhaps a thousand times in order to feed the crowd gathered at his feet.  There are baskets and baskets of leftover bread.  Is bread enough?

It’s certainly enough to send the crowd chasing across the sea to find Jesus.  He tells them, quite bluntly, that they have come not because they believe but because they’ve gotten hungry again.  It’s simple, really.  They’ve come to get what they want, what they think they need, but Jesus knows how to play this game, too.  The crowd is looking for bread.

Jesus sees this and informs them that he, the Son of Man, will provide them with heavenly food that never leaves the eater hungry.  As we might expect, the people are skeptical and a bit ungrateful.  Moses gave our ancestors bread from heaven, they say, implying that if Jesus could just give them some more to eat, maybe they would be convinced that he, too, is worth believing in.

Jesus is not to be sidetracked.  He offers the bread of God, the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.  Finally, the people seem to get it.  “Sir, give us this bread always!”

Because they need life.  They need God.  They need this heavenly bread.  They need to be fed and nourished spiritually even more than they need bread for their bodies.    They begin to see that bread to nourish their bodies, while important, is not the need that Jesus has come to fulfill.

“I am the bread of life,” says Jesus. Not Jesus plus mandatory attendance at the Temple.  Not Jesus plus tithing.  Not Jesus plus the Augsburg Confession.  Just Jesus.  Those other things are nice and good, just like it’s nice to have butter and raspberry jam for your bread, but ultimately they are not the staple.  It’s that bread that gives nourishment to live.  It’s the bread from heaven, Jesus Christ alone who gives life.  He gives totally freely, no strings attached.  This bread sustains us through joys and sorrows, through loss and thanksgiving.

Is bread enough?  Yes, thanks be to God, the giver of the true bread of life.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment