Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fishers of ... Bears?

"Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz." 
("Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth.")
[ accessed August 8, 2012. cf. Psalm 104:14]

A week ago Tuesday during an evening discussion at CDSP, Mark D. Jordan, professor at Washington University in Saint Louis, recounted waiting for a ride, on the corner of 4th and Market in San Francisco, and looking at all the people passing by, and asking himself, what do we (the church) have to say to all these people?

At a well in Samaria a man sits in the heat of the noonday sun taking a rest. A woman approaches: he asks her to get him a drink from the well. And yet soon she is asking him: where is this source of living water? Show me, tell me, that I might thirst no more.

A blind man by the side of the road calls out: Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy, and a man replies, what is it that you are wanting? Lord, that I might see, that my eyes might be opened. And soon, they are …

A crowd follows a man around a lake, pursuing him, for healing, words and knowledge, for love, for bread, for more than food; and soon …

Soon the crowd will be satisfied, for now; but they want him to be their king, and he disappears. They follow his disciples back around the lake again, and there he is: but he says, there is more here than food. You see – but you do not yet see entirely. Work for what lasts, for what will nourish you forever.

What do we do to get this living bread?

Trust – believe, put your faith in God – and

All else follows
If you believe

The source of living water, of the food that endures; the source of life— is the Lord.

Give us this bread for always, they say.

I AM, said he: the living bread.

What does that mean? What does that mean for us?

What do we seek? What do any people seek? LIFE.

Where do we find it? IN CHRIST.

Why do we gather?

To proclaim the good news,
to hear it, respond to it;
to celebrate the gift of life, and
share it— at the Lord’s Table; then,
to go forth, changed by that holy meal,
sustained and made new,
to bear the good news into the world,
to carry that gift of life with us.

The mission of the church is the mission of Christ.

“Mission is really making us all aware of the incredible love that God has for all of us,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a May 19 webcast about Mission. “It says things like: you don’t have to earn God’s love. God loves you, period. Everything flows from there.” [1]

Who is God sending to us? Who is God calling us to seek?
What is our part in this holy mission, as individuals, and as a congregation?

The mission of the church is the mission of Christ:
to proclaim, reconcile, heal;
to bring the good news,
and the kingdom,
into the world.

But how do we do it? How do we show it?

Our communion, the Anglican Communion, has, in its worldwide discernment of its mission, identified Five Marks of Mission:

1. To proclaim the good news of God’s reign.

2. To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers, that is, to make disciples.

3. To respond to human need by loving service:

the bread,
the healing,
the restoration,
are not forgotten, but
carried on
by Christ’s people
in his name.

4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society.

I won’t tell you how to vote, but I will encourage you TO vote—

and to draw upon
your faith,
your God-inspired reason, and
the teachings of the church,
not only in your inward piety
but in your outward lives—

that what you do as people of God
in the world
will bring that
bread from heaven
            into service
as bread for the world.

5. To take care of the earth that God has made.

Sometimes intentionally, sometimes as accidental stewards...

Locals save drowning bear cub

To consider in our actions
how we are stewards of earth,
active partners in
custodianship of God’s creation.

And that includes the people of the world
that God loves
that we must not treat with disdain
but to respect and
uphold the dignity
of every human person.

Mission, then, is about receiving love and then responding by going out and sharing. “It is a matter of calling the near and the far off together into the fold. It is about healing and reconciling. It is about making that love incarnate in the lives of people around us and in the lives of people on the other end of the earth.” (Katharine Jefferts Schori) [2]

You are the source of life,
the gift of daily bread
            is in your hand;
the gift of eternal life
            is held out to us
            in your arms.

Embrace us, Lord,
            with your love
that we may turn outward
            and embrace the world
            that you love
            that you made.

On March 18, 1958, on the corner of Fourth and Walnut, now Fourth and Muhammad Ali in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas Merton had a vision of oneness with all people.  He called this vision an "epiphany." 
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.  It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race ... there is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
Paradoxically, Merton experienced this transformation when he was out of his everyday monastic life and was immersed in the hustle and bustle of our shopping district - now Fourth Street Live.  Merton said of his experience:
I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God's eyes.  If only they could all see themselves as they really are.  If only we could see each other that way all of the time.  There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed...
(Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, New York: Doubleday, 1996)

Lord, where else would we go? You are the bread of life.

May we, as we break and share the communion bread today, know you in that moment of celebration and thanksgiving. And may we know you more fully, see you more clearly, love you more dearly, follow you more nearly, as we go forth in your name. Amen.

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Psalm 78:23-29
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

[1]   “Five Marks of Mission”. The Grapevine, newsletter of Saint Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Kenwood, California, July/August 2012. p. 5, accessed August 5, 2012.
[2] Ibid.

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