Bread from Heaven

To begin, read our First Lesson for Sunday, August 2, 2009:  Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15.

I’m a product of the 1960’s and 70’s, and as such the music of this era had a huge influence on my life. Song lyrics reflected the unrest, anti-establishment and rebelliousness of the time. One song by the Rolling Stones, “I Can’t Get No” (Satisfaction), reflected the dissatisfaction prevalent in society. People would take liberty with the phrase and use it to reflect all manner of grumbling and complaining. While underneath it all; might there be a wanton desire, a longing and/or a deeper need to be filled?

On first read, the Exodus passage for this week sounds like there is unrest within the Israelite community. After having been freed from Pharaoh’s tyranny, there is dissatisfied and continued complaining about their new living conditions while wandering in the wilderness of Sinai. Mind you, walking around in the desert, scrounging for food and drink, sleeping amidst sand chiggers, scorpions and snakes, is not my idea of a good time. I’m sure I’d have been counted among the grumblers. I’d be chanting, “I Can’t Get No” (Satisfaction).

Yet even in their grumbling, the Israelite people turned to God, not away from Him. Amidst their dissatisfaction, they lamented their situation and asked God for help. And I would suspect there is also an underlying longing and/or deeper need to be filled than just food. God’s bread from heaven provides much more than mere physical sustenance.

The Gospel lesson (John 6:24-35) expands on this notion of Bread from Heaven and provides insight into the deeper need within us all.

Grace and peace to all,

Barb Peterson

bread

Snippets

This coming Sunday is July 26, 2009 – the 17th Sunday after Pentecost.  The Gospel passage, John 6:1-21, can be found here.

textile

I have a love-hate relationship with the Gospel of John.  I love the rich images, the layered metaphors, the themes that undulate throughout and tie together in various ways by the end.  I dislike how hard it is, for these reasons, to preach on John in snippets. 

There is a fancy church term for snippets: “pericopes.”  Literally, it means…snippets.

Some Bible stories lend themselves easily to snippets; they have clear beginnings, middles, and ends, with plots and characters and easy-to-find conclusions.  Others are more like eavesdropping at your parents’ door late at night in the middle of the conversation.  What conclusions you draw depends more on your state of mind than what is actually going on.

So this Sunday, we have the miraculous feeding story, the withdrawal from the crowds, the reunion as Jesus walks on water.  Three distinct acts in one very, very long and very, very odd day-in-the-life with Jesus.

Many will conclude that the obvious theme here is the miracles that Jesus performs, in both the multiplication of food and the walking on water.   He reveals his power in public (food) and in private (walking on water).  I see something rather different.  Perhaps larger.  I see John laying out his re-definition of a king.  What a king does, how a king acts, where even a king resides.  King Jesus seems like no king this world has ever seen.  On this day, he ingratiates himself to no one, he refuses any attempt to popularize him…and he wouldn’t even get in the boat with his friends. 

Snippets of a king, and His kingdom.  What conclusions do you draw from what you read and experience of this King?

King of creation, what are you showing us?  Where are you leading us?  Amen.

Addition to Blogroll

Many of you have been inquiring about our friend and congregational leader, Cheryl Sauke, as she undergoes surgery for a brain tumor.  Her son, Kelly, is maintaining a blog for the purpose of information and support. 

Please see the blogroll at left–it is titled, “Cheryl Sauke Update Site.”

Breaking Down the Dividing Wall

Berlin Wall Coming Down

Berlin Wall Coming Down

The second lesson for July 19th is a passionate exhortation about our unity in Christ.  You can find it in Ephesians 2:11-22, here.

For our devotion this week, I offer a poem. 

MENDING WALL by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Holy Spirit, are you the something there is that doesn’t love a wall?  Amen.

The Difference

Stop!  Don’t read any further until you check out the Gospel Reading for this coming Sunday, July 12th:  click here.

Salome Dancing Before Herod:  Gustave Moreau, 1874-76

Salome Dancing Before Herod: Gustave Moreau, 1874-76

This story has lots of tawdry details.  And judging by the ticker on CNN, we are a society that like to listen in on tawdry details!  Imagine yourself as Herod:  your new wife’s daughter dancing seductively for you and your friends; drinking a little too much wine; later, in a perfunctory display of power, making a hasty oath, then being bound by pride to do it (against your better judgment).  Or, imagine being Salome.  Herodias.  John the Baptist.  The Executioner.  The disciples who gather a headless body.  Or even the kitchen help sent to fetch a platter.

The meaning of the story can easily be lost in all of the tawdry details (are you listening, Jackson family?).   The real story here is the difference between power (which Herod has) and authority (which belonged to those who followed this message of repentence:  John, Jesus, the Disciples out on their Mission).  The contrast is clear.  Power can be used for good or evil.  Authority, true authority, is not necessarily found in banquet halls.

God of true authority, let us not be deceived by your weaker incarnation:  power.  Amen.

 

Authority

The Gospel text for Sunday, July 5th is found in Mark 6:1-13.  Read it here.

For me, this text is not about the particulars–where Jesus went, who said what, where the disciples were sent to, what they did.  How many shakes of your shoes is the right number?  Are these sandals OK?  Which two went with which two?  (You know, reading this story as a formula and a technical manual.)  Rather, this text is bigger–way, way bigger.  This text is about authority.  Who has it, but more importantly, where authority comes from, and how one uses it.

Think that where you live gives you authority from God?  Or that where you live automatically disqualifies you from God’s authority?  Mark’s story makes us think again. 

As the hometown crowd questions Jesus’ authority on the basis of his familiarity, I appreciate the profound wisdom that Jesus doesn’t defend himself, or plead with them to accept him.  Instead, he points to God’s authority in the similar fates of the prophets (vs. 4).  And though Jesus was amazed at their unbelief, he pressed on, passing God’s authority on to the disciples, who then spread the message even further.

scripture scroll

So we find in this passage that genuine authority is not diminished in the face of resistance.  Genuine authority is also not minimized by one’s empowering of others.  If this is true, why have we (the church) been so afraid to claim God’s authority, God’s message of healing, reconciliation and love, that comes in the person and work of Jesus Christ?  Furthermore, why have we been so timid in our empowerment of others? 

Lord God, faith takes many shapes.  Help us to realize that regardless of all else, faith is defined by a resolute confidence in a higher authority:  You.  Amen.