Sunday, August 5, 2018
Year B Proper 13 2018 Paleo Jesus
Year B Proper 13, 5 August 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
Collect: Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a Ephesians 4:1-16 John 6:24-35 The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
We live in strange days. I was always told never to discuss religion or politics in polite company. I tend to agree because so many believe they are experts on those two topics, no matter where they land. But both are a part of our lives, for good or bad.
Once, supposedly, the Dalai Lama was asked what about humanity surprised him the most. The Buddhist teacher responded, “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Not sure if the story actually happened or not, but it speaks truth. We want things on our own terms and in our own ways. A friend said to me this week, “The only people who want change are the ones calling for it.” We want what we want when and how we want it. We want things on our own terms.
Nothing wrong with that. When I go to Starbucks, I have to tell them the 6 or so decisions I have to make to get the cup of coffee I want. However, when we are offered something, something that takes time to craft and attention to detail, we do not tell the person, usually an expert, what terms are required for us to be on the receiving end of said outcome.
Alas, human nature has not changed at all. Imagine the setting, the day after the feeding of the 5,000 We want to follow you Jesus, and get what you promised. And Jesus would respond, “Then do what I tell you to do.”
But we don’t. There are costs. Things that we have to do. And other things that we have to stop doing. The time. The commitment. It is expensive in so many ways to follow Jesus. Let us not fool ourselves, or try to fool him. He knows us too well. So how honest can we be with ourselves? David, who loved God and was called a man after God’s own heart, thought he could get away with acting on his lust and murdering to cover his tracks. Adrian Plass, a British playwright and poet, tells the story from today’s readings this way...
“Nathan Rap” by Adrian Plass.
[Adrian Plass, “Clearing Away the Rubbish,” Kingsway Publications, ISBN0551031735, p162-165, 2000]
It was evening in the palace when the prophet came by, There was trouble in his manner, there was thunder in his eye, He was still for a moment, he was framed in the door, And the king said, ‘Nathan! … What are you here for?’ The prophet said, ‘David, I’ve a tale to tell,’ So the king sat and listened as the darkness fell, While the hard-eyed prophet took a seat and began, The story of a merciless and evil man.
‘This man,’ said Nathan, ‘had a mountain of gold, Sheep by the thousand he bought and sold, He never said, “Can I afford it or not?” What this man wanted, this man got! And one thing he wanted, and he wanted real bad, Was the only living thing that a poor man had, And he knew that it was wrong, but he took it just the same.’ ‘I’ll kill him!’ said the king, ‘Just tell me his name!’
‘It was a lamb,’ said the prophet, ‘just a little baby lamb, But he saw it and he took it and he didn’t give a damn, And he knew that it was special, and he knew it was a friend, And he knew about the sadness that would never, never end, And that same man began to plan a far more evil thing.’ Then David rose and cried aloud, ‘He’ll reckon with the king!’ ‘So do you think,’ said Nathan, ‘we should stop his little game?’ ‘I’ll smash him!’ shouted David, ‘tell me his name!
‘Be careful,’ said the prophet, ‘don’t go overboard,’ For David’s eyes were shining like the blade of a sword, ‘Perhaps you should be merciful, perhaps you should try To understand the man before you say he must die.’
But David said, ‘I understand that wrong is always wrong, I am the king, I must defend the weak against the strong.’ Then Nathan questioned softly, ‘So this man must take the blame?’ And the king was screaming, ‘Nathan! Will you tell me his name?’
Then a silence fell upon them like the silence of a tomb, The prophet nodded slowly as he moved across the room, And, strangely, as he came he grew more awesome and more wise, And when he looked at David there was sadness in his eyes. But David’s anger burned in him, he drew his sword and said, ‘I swear, before the dawn has come, that sinner will be dead! No more delay, no mercy talk, give me his name!’ he cried, Then Nathan said, ‘It’s you, it’s you!’ and the king just died.
The world is not Burger King, you do not get to have it your way. I trust that this is not news to you.
Whether it was Jesus calling out the log in our eyes before we look for a brother or sister’s splinter, some things keep us from doing what we should. Hypocrisy is the easiest to see... in somebody else. We want things fair and level, when it works for us. David did. He demanded justice, until he saw that he was the perpetrator. #metoo is nothing new. It is just that the spotlight is getting bigger and bigger beyond a king’s hypocrisy.
Like David, we want things on our terms and fulfilling our whims and desires. Petulant children make demands like that. Ephesians today reminds us of our duty in Christ. For us to fulfill the roles we are called to do, we must take on the maturity in the fullness of Christ.
“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:14-16
The people wanted the Jesus they wanted, not necessarily what they got. “Free bread? Great! Give us more of that!” His response was, “Don’t focus on the bread which will just make you hungry all over again! Me. I am the Bread of Life, the eternal bread. Take me, and I will show you a way of life, eternal life, not energy for a day of life.” From today’s Gospel reading:
...they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Now if Jesus said that today, what would be the response? “I am the Bread of Life.”
But Jesus, is that Gluten-Free?
But Jesus, I avoid carbs. I follow the Paleo Diet.
I hate to break it to you if you have not figured it out, there is no Paleo Jesus.
We are no different from the ones seeking the easy way back then. And Jesus has always been up front and clear. The Treasure in the Field and the Pearl of Great Price, both metaphors, required a commitment of everything. Nothing could be held back, or the Desired Wealth could not be obtained.
Yesterday I got to witness our church at its best. It took dozens of people hours upon hours to pull together a funeral for our dearly beloved Barbara Blakemore. I saw people give of their time, talent, and treasure. Grass cutting, dish washing, chair setting, and people ushering. What I witnessed was moving and honoring to her and to God. We did not hold back, and to God be the glory!
As we do that collectively and individually, we will see amazing things happen. We will see the power of God reside here, and the Spirit of God abide here. We will see the community of Ashland be more and more “on earth as it is in heaven.”
When people hear that you go to Church to be fed, some will think that you are talking about some silly wafers and think that you are just as silly. Others, though, who have “tasted and seen that the Lord is good” will know you are speaking of the Bread of Life. For those who come for that, “will never be hungry, and those who believe in him will never be thirsty.” Lord Jesus, give us this bread, always. Amen