Sunday, August 9, 2009

bread from heaven, bread for the world

In the name of God, source of all being, eternal word and holy spirit. Amen.

How are we to live?

The people in the wilderness cried out and God said to them, I will give you bread from heaven. They were in a time of turmoil and change, of fear and doubt. All that they knew in the security of their captivity was gone!

Something new was coming. But what was it?

How are we to live now? Between the old place and the promise?

To begin to accept ourselves as sustained by the grace of God.

To begin to trust Jesus – that the source of our being is the source of all being.

To trust God’s provision and providence – and move forward through life alive to that promise – and its fulfillment here and now.

In the desert the people yearned for their past, the security of their captivity, and they complained. Paul in the epistle says, put away rancor and wrangling and bitterness and anger – as a Lutheran theologian, Paul Lee, said to me last summer, Badmouthing is negative prayer – put all that away and be imitators of God. God is loving, God is kind, God is forgiving and tenderhearted. In your speech and in your actions be imitators of God.

God’s word builds you up, sustains you.

May God make us a gracious people, a generous people.

SO how are we to live? We are to live as imitators of God, as members of his kingdom.

Be kind to one another, be tender-hearted to one another, forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven us.

How are we to live? Through Jesus: he is the bread of life, bread from heaven, bread for the world.

Live free from fear, free from want. Rejoice in God’s abundant grace and sustaining love.

Hope in the promise of the presence of God with us, giving us life through his son, sustaining us.

Act secure in the knowledge of the love of God, as his hands in the world, heralds of his kingdom arriving in our midst.

God is with us. Christ is with us. Let’s live that way. God give us the bread we need today – the sustenance of your saving love.

Jesus live in our hearts forever. Amen.

August 9, 2009


Saturday, August 1, 2009

‘Summer Hours’

Have you ever visited an artist’s home? Have you seen the collection of their own work, the work of their friends, the work they admired - gathered together over a lifetime of aesthetic sensibility? Have you ever visited such a home - and seen it kept as a shrine, long after they’ve gone, by friends or family or fans? Robert Louis Stevenson inspired such devotion, both in Edinburgh, Scotland, and in Carmel, California, where he lived for a time - and doubtless in Tahiti too; his writing desk left intact, pen and pipe standing by. His honeymoon hideaway at Silverado is long gone, however, with only traces of the old mine-works scattered down the mountainside. Sometimes a surviving spouse or children keep intact the memories they’d shared, by Not Moving Anything. Sometimes they move on...

How do you honor the past without getting stuck in it? That is the challenge faced by the children of Hélène Marly née Berthier in ‘Summer Hours (L’heure d’été)’ a film by Olivier Assayas (2008). At her 75th birthday, they gather in her home to celebrate and to remember. The mother wants to speak about her death – in terms of the disposition of her beloved possessions.

“In general, you prefer objects not weighed down by the past,” she tells her daughter, ceramics designer Adrienne. True, the daughter replies. She prefers clean, elegant, contemporary values in her own pieces – “but beauty is beauty.”

And yet the older brother, Frédéric, wants to keep the family matrix intact – memories, artwork, house, and all. If they keep the house they can pass it on to their children, he argues – “if you have any” his childless sister wryly observes.

What about the younger brother, Jérémie? He lives in China. He is technical supervisor for factories that make running shoes. He needs to buy a residence in Peking, and wants to own a vacation home in Bali. He will not be coming back.

They, the three of them, are not ready yet to face the dissolution of the old establishment. So it is the mother who says to the elder brother, you are the one who wants to hang on to it all, you are the one who has to organize my legacy – and let it go. And soon – not many months later – she is dead. What remains?

What we see develop is the siblings’ ability to deal with the legacy of their forebears – alone and together. (I have not told you all. There is utility – and humility – in how a loyal old soul receives a parting gift.)

Then at last we see how the next generation begins to deal with the past. “It is from another era” one boy says, early on, of a family art treasure. Finally we see, as at the end of “Doctor Zhivago,” the future’s heirs moving forward together.

As members of families, we may feel we face similar questions: What do we inherit? What do we pass on? What do we value? An aesthetic sensibility? An appreciation for beauty? A wistful sense of love? Of loyalty?

As Christians, in fellowship in the body of Christ, we are called to something more than maintaining a family system. We are called to unity in Christ, and we are called to a common mission. We are commissioned to carry out and carry forward the Kingdom of God. We are called to inherit, to realize, and to transmit the Good News of the Word of Life.

As the apostle wrote, “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1-3)

May we, as we gather in the name of Christ, as we hear the Word proclaimed and as we respond to it, as we pray together and celebrate together the supper of the Lord, as we are sent into the world rejoicing in the name of Christ—

May we indeed embody and bear forward into the future what is truly lasting – not treasures that on earth would rot or rust or pass away, but what will never pass away, secure as we are in the knowledge of the love of Christ: his own grace and peace and joy. –Fr. John

For St Alban’s Grapevine August 2009

L'heure d'été (2008)