Sunday, July 31, 2011

two dogs

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Not anymore.

Two dogs got away with it.

Bummer and Lazarus lived in Old San Francisco, before the Great Earthquake and Fire.

Lazarus got hit by a freight truck but he lived to wag his tail. Bummer - was the king of the moochers. He was always bumming a meal. And his friend Lazarus tagged along.

They went from bar to bar in the old Barbary Coast. And there was a free lunch.

The idea of the barkeepers was to lay out a spread - or maybe pickled eggs and franks - so that folks would come in and buy a drink. Mostly it worked.

Unless you were a dog - and a teetotaller.

* * *

Isaiah says, come and eat. Come and get it. Your money isn’t good here. There is no price. Come and eat and drink to your heart’s content. Receive the fullness of God’s grace.

His mercy is without limit or fee. You cannot pay for it. You could not afford it.

* * *

Jesus went off by himself for a while. Seeking a little peace, perhaps. He went to a deserted place. But the people followed him. Moved with compassion he went among them, healing. They were a hungry crowd, hungry for grace, hungry – for dinner. And they were in a deserted place.

His disciples saw a lack of resources. Send them away – so they can fend for themselves. They can go buy something in a village somewhere.

They don’t need to go away, Jesus responds. You give them something. Here.

You have something to give.

And it will be enough for them. It will more than satisfy. It will be an abundance of good food, the stuff of life.

But we only have this here, here in the desert, enough for ourselves.

Nonsense. Bring them here, here to me, in God’s presence.

Here and now.

What Jesus gave them was an experience of the bountiful goodness of God.

When have we been like the crowd? Hungering, in need of compassion? Thirsting for what only God can give?

When have we been like the disciples when they were lost in a sense of their own limitation and need?

When have we been like the disciples when they take the bread and give it to the people?

May we take the bread from heaven and make it bread for the world.

* * *

Jesus gave them an experience of the bountiful good ness of God.

He did not shame them, or say, “What! That’s all you got?? What good is that to me?”

No – he took the offering, and he gave thanks to God.

One true God who created all things: blessed are you – your reign is eternal. You bring forth bread from the earth.

He broke it and shared it out.

The bread they offered, the bread that came from God, bread from heaven, became bread for the world.

All are welcome at the Lord’s Table, and receive abundance there.

For his grace takes what we offer, and makes of it a miracle, a sign of God’s everlasting faithfulness and steadfast love.

The staff of life, in the hands of the source of life, is made a gift that transforms those who give it.

Once small in faith and doubting they now in faith step forward and take the bread and give it out.

Growing in confidence, they see God’s hand at work in the world through them! Through the gift they had made – from five loaves and two fishes.

All they had, they gave. God shows, in this moment, that his love is more than enough.

Humankind lives not by bread alone but by the Word of God. The Word of God – he who is before them, honoring them in the Gift.

What they gave is not wasted. It is gathered up in its abundance.

When have we been hungry, seeking, reaching out for healing and compassion?

Surely at first this was the disciples’ state too. We all need that comfort, that compassion, and that love.

When have we been like the disciples, uncertain of our offering, of its adequacy?

When have we been like the disciples, astounded by what God does with what we bring to the table?

And perhaps, rejoicing by now, we take the transformed offering and share it out.

Bread from heaven indeed – now bread for the world.

* * *

May we take the bread from heaven, the manna in the wilderness, that is the true word of true God, from whom all things depend, and make of it a gift, of holy sustenance, bread for the world.

May we not stint, but share it out in confidence, knowing that he is faithful who called us to the task. He is loving, who gave his own life that we might live. He is the foundation of our hope. He who was raised and is glorified and remembered, may we remember him, every time in the breaking of the bread. Amen.

APentecost7, Proper 13, Isaiah 55:1-5, Psalm 145: 8-9, 15-22, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:13-21


Sunday, July 24, 2011

ask me anything

Go ahead. Ask me anything. Ask me for anything. Wisdom. Wise boy. Good choice. I am pleased. So I’ll give you the other stuff. The stuff you didn’t ask for. That should please you. And maybe— you’ll get the wisdom inside you in time. If not— I do not fear for my people. I’ll give you the wisdom on the outside too, on “spec” as it were, so you make some right decisions to start you off in style. But the rules haven’t changed. Wisdom must be sought – with diligence. Are you up to that?

Centuries pass. Another folk tale appears. A merchant seeks out pearls— and learns of one of great value. Too good to pass up. Too pricey not to ruin him— for ordinary things. Everything he has goes into the effort— all in, into the pot. It’s worth it – he says. This is the one. The one worth living for – and dying for?

Another man is in a field – ploughing for a neighbor or hired. He finds a hidden treasure. He doesn’t say a word about it, does he, to the owner of the field? No, he’s shrewd – and goes and buys the field for himself. Now he’s secure, the treasure is his – for what it’s worth.

Are these things worth all other things?

Purity of heart is to will one thing.

The one thing shrewd peasant wisdom wins – is that what Jesus was talking about? No – but we understand it.

We know how we’d feel if such an opportunity came into our hands.

And so, he says, it has—

Only it is invisible, hidden, and secret. It is still forming. It is small in appearance, even lowly. Humble. But its effects!

The leaven in the lump – of 50 pounds of flour! Enough for a divine feast – once the bread rises.

A seed – an ordinary, forgotten seed, mostly, perhaps, sewn by accident – here a man plants it expecting a few flowers – and he gets a shrub large enough for birds to nest in.

Not enough to match the grandeur of Solomon – but still: an outsized result, like an answer to prayer.

What could be more hidden than victory in and through the Cross?

What could be a greater boon than the love of God?

Spirit, fill us, so that we may ask.
Spirit, speak for us, when we cannot.
Spirit; inspire us to ask not for ourselves only but for your people and your world. Amen.


“Purity of heart is to will one thing.”
– Søren Kierkegaard

Saturday, July 16, 2011

the anticipation of things not seen

When our nephew was four years old, his parents announced the family was going to Disneyland during spring break. One night, in the middle of the night, about three o’clock in the morning, his mother awoke to the sound of little feet in footie pajamas padding lightly down the hall to the kitchen.

What are you doing?

I want to see the b’wochure about Dizzlieland!

He was so excited he could not wait until morning.

That is what hope does for us. It is the anticipation of things not seen, not know. For hope in what is seen is not hope – we hope for what we do not see.

And with faith growing in us we wait for it with patience.

With patience: because we trust in the Lord, we are able to wait – though we get all excited about it.

We wait for what is emerging – for that which is coming into being – which we do not yet see.

That is what “emergent” means – something that is becoming real, coming into our lives, that cannot be altogether explained by what we already know

We have to wait for it – and see. That is where trust comes in – and conquers fear.

Trust in God; do not be afraid. That is the message of the angel so many times when God’s messenger announces that something new is coming into being in the world.

And we can respond not only with trust, with hope, but without fear.

Remember the angel that appeared to Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, before John was born. Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son and he will bring to Israel the good news of the coming of the Messiah.

And remember Mary – hail to thee, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, the Angel proclaimed. Something new is coming, some One new is coming into being – and you are called to be the bearer, the God-bearer indeed, mother of the Anointed, God’s only begotten Son: Jesus.

Be with me as you say, Mary replies, in obedience and faithful response. And so a new order of the ages begins, with the Word, the Son of God, come into the world.

May it be with me as you say…

Paul in the Epistle to the Romans that we hear this morning continues the proclamation.

All who are led by the Spirit of God are his children. We did not receive a spirit of slavery – we are not automatons bound to obey a remorseless will. We have been adopted as sons and daughters, freely embraced and freely embracing God as loving parent. We are children, heirs; joint heirs with Christ.

And the whole of creation leans into this promise, groans with birth pangs, as it were, to bring forth the glory of God in this world.

Birth pangs: for the glory does not come without suffering. Jesus himself suffered as he waited in the garden anticipating death – but he trusted, and obeyed, and received the gift he now shares with us: the resurrection hope, the freedom from bondage to decay – the completion of life that is beyond death – because we know in the hope of the resurrection that Christ is alive – eternally present to the Father and we will be caught up in that glory as well.

Death does not get the final word. And even now coming into being in this world God’s kingdom comes – with our own hands, our feet, our hearts, our voices.

Working in us is the hope of glory – know that what is emerging in this world is not an emergency to panic us or make us fearful. We may not know what it will look like, what the future will hold for us – but we know that, as God reassures us through the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for your good and not for evil, that you may have a future with hope.”

That you, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, will show in your lives the hope that you have.

That all may be well, that trusting in God, who is faithful and steadfast to love us, we shall see faith fulfilled in love, and hope completed in glory, and we in our lives will show that we are free to worship him without fear, witnessing with our words and our deeds to the glory of the presence of the Lord.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may hold your name in awe and wonder. I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart and glorify your name forever more.



Isaiah 44:6-8
Psalm 86:11-17

Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43