May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
A number of years ago, when I was serving in Watertown South Dakota,
I would go to the little town of DeSmet once a month.
DeSmet South Dakota, is well known as the “Little House on the Prairie” town:
Where Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family settled.
(That fact is irrelevant to this sermon, but is nonetheless, a fun fact.)
I lead a service in their small nursing home.
We would worship in the nursing home’s little chapel.
Sometimes we would light the candles on the altar:
Sometimes we didn’t.
But I ALWAYS wore a stole.
On one particular Sunday:
I was half way through the Eucharist prayer:
At the part where Jesus says, “do this in remembrance of me.”
And I realized that I didn’t have on a stole.
I didn’t even bring one.
I totally forgot.
It absolutely didn’t matter.
Not one bit.
Because what mattered:
Was what was in our hearts:
To be gathered together,
To worship the living God.
It didn’t matter if the candles were lit,
Or the priest was wearing the appropriate vestments,
Or the people responded with the right words
Or that we went through the motions.
Or in the case of today’s Gospel reading:
that the disciples washed their hands.
In today’s story:
The Pharisees are upset that Jesus and his disciples aren’t following the so called “rules”
Jesus says to them:
“Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
Even further: Jesus says:
“You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
This is as true today, as it ever was.
And sometimes, Christians in the church,
Are just as guilty as the Pharisees during Jesus’ time.
Now, don’t get me wrong:
I’m not saying we should be like the disciples, and not wash our hands.
For multiple and obvious reasons, we should be washing our hands more than ever.
But this isn’t about hand washing.
This is a warning about “going through the motions.”
It’s a warning about doing things for the wrong reasons,
Or for no reason at all, except for “we’ve always done it that way.”
And God knows we need to hear this.
And I can’t help but be amazed that we should get this Gospel story on the day that we decided to shake things up, and have church outside.
(I see what you did there, God!)
God is reminding us about what really matters:
God is reminding us that what’s important is us gathering together:
With open minds, open hearts,
Ready to love.
Rather than being worried about the candles, or the vestments, or in the case of the Pharisees, the washing of the bronze kettles because their ancestors “always did it that way.”
In preparation for this outdoor service,
A number of you asked me what we needed to set everything up.
The real honest answer to that is, not much.
We need some bread and some wine if we’re going to share in communion.
A table is nice, and makes it more convenient but it’s not necessary.
Candles are pretty, but not essential.
(As a matter of fact, we really only have candles on the altar because “we’ve always done it that way.”)
Because churches didn’t have electricity and the priest needed light to read the book!
The only things we really NEED
Are not things at all.
We need God.
And we need each other.
We need very little else.
The church has a real fancy word for this.
A Greek word called “Adiaphora”
Adiaphora are those things or matters that don’t really matter!
Things that are not essential to our faith:
But might be nice little “extras”
Things that are allowed, or permissible, but not essential.
It’s a really important distinction:
To think about, and consider those things that are adiaphora.
It’s not that we Can’t or shouldn’t do those things:
But that we shouldn’t make those things into the most important things.
Candles on the altar are nice and pretty.
Vestments are reminders and markers of priesthood.
(But I purposely didn’t wear a collar today, just to make the point that the things we wear are adiaphora: and totally non-essential.)
When the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Why do you let your disciples eat without washing their hands as the law requires?”
Jesus basically replies,
You are hyporcites if you only worry about clean hands,
When you don’t even have clean hearts!
When you are worried about the things that don’t matter,
When your hearts aren’t in it,
When your heart isn’t yearning to be delighted by God’s beloved embrace!
When your heart isn’t craving to give and receive love from others!
But our longing:
The murmur in the center of our very being:
To be united to the God who calls us beloved.
To be united to each other:
Who we see as beloved:
Where love received is love shared.
I want to do something a little different today:
And invite any children to come up front with me.
We’re going to go “back to basics.”
Which isn’t just for kids:
But is helpful for all of us: regardless of age to go back to every once in a while.
And what better time, to go back to basics,
Then at a baptism!
Anybody know what kind of sign this is?
What does it mean?
When we see this shape on the side of the road, we know that we need to stop.
That’s what a symbol does.
With one simple shape we create a sign,
And a symbol communicates a specific meaning.
Signs and symbols are really important for us,
Because they help to communicate something that is sometimes hard to understand.
Sometimes its hard for us to put our faith into words,
And so God gives the church important signs to offer to people so that we might know that God loves and forgives us.
In the church, we call these important signs, “sacraments”
They are holy symbols that Jesus gave us to help us recognize God’s action in our lives.
One sacrament is baptism.
And we are going to experience and celebrate that sacrament today.
In baptism we take a little “bath”
And God cleans us up,
And reminds us how much he loves us.
Another sacrament is communion:
And we’ll experience and celebrate that sacrament today too!
We eat the bread and the wine,
Which are symbols reminding us that Jesus gave his entire life to us.
When we eat the bread and the wine,
We are putting Jesus into our bodies,
So that we might become more like him:
It’s a reminder to us of how much God loves us,
And how much God wants us to love others.
But lets go back to baptism:
The church has lots of symbols for baptism.
One is (of course) water.
And another one is the shell.
In the early church,
Christians often used a shell to pour water over the heads of people being baptized.
The shell also represents the protection that baptism gives us as we travel through life:
Much like a shell protects creatures in the sea.
Jesus told the first disciples that those who believe and are baptized will be saved.
In other words, Jesus told his followers to use water to symbolize that those who trust in him are washed clean, and are given new life: Forever.
So for us:
Seeing a symbol for water, or the shape of a shell,
Is kind of like seeing a stop sign.
When we see these symbols,
We can stop.
We can think of our baptisms,
And remember how much God loves us.
I’m inviting everyone to take home a seashell:
As a reminder to you of the symbols that God gives us to recognize and remember his love.
And the seashell is the perfect symbol:
Not just because of it’s relationship to water.
But every single shell is unique. No two are exactly alike.
Just like us.
Each one of us is unique:
No two are exactly alike:
Yet we are all children of God,
made in God’s image:
And God loves us ALL.
And don’t ever forget that.
Dear God, thank you for giving us ways to recognize your love. Help us to stop and remember that your love cleanses us like water. Amen.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh
Lord our strength and our redeemer.
Hunger and Satisfaction.
We find this tension in ourselves every single day.
People say that you shouldn’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry.
You’ll end up buying things that you don’t need.
Things that wont actually satisfy your hunger.
Or: If I go out to dinner:
And eat an appetizer, salad, and the main course meal:
I usually feel worse:
Even if I was REALLY hungry.
When I over-fill: I can’t even function for the rest of the evening.
Shoveling it all in when you’re hungry wont actually satisfy you.
And you’ll just be hungry again…
We have a hard time stopping when we’re satisfied:
When we’re feeling Just right.
We have a hard time just sitting with “enough.”
We meet Jesus in today’s gospel just after he has fed the multitudes.
We pick up right where we left off last week:
The people were hungry, there was limited food:
And so Jesus turned a few loaves of bread:
And a few fish:
Into enough for thousands to eat.
For thousands to be filled.
There were even baskets full of leftovers.
Everyone had their fill of bread and fish.
They had the pleasure of eating enough.
They supposedly ate until they were satisfied:
Or at least satisfied for a brief time:
They had enough:
For a brief time.
Funny thing about “enough.”
Just what is “enough”?
“Enough” for us humans:
Is rarely enough.
We seem to always want more.
And even for the multitudes:
Enough wasn’t really enough.
Because the people weren’t merely hungry for food:
The people Jesus had fed wanted a guarantee that they would always have
Jesus’ provision of plentiful bread seemed to them something they wanted more
They wanted Jesus to continually give them more.
So they pursued him.
They thought if they could have him, they could have bread –
limitless, wonderful, unending bread.
They thought, if they could just find Jesus: they would have enough.
But enough would never be enough:
People will always want more:
Yet not the “real more”
Not the more that will truly and actually satisfy.
Jesus fed hungry people.
He knew that people need to eat.
He told his followers to feed people, real, physical, tangible, nutritious food.
But he also promised that he himself would be enough.
He didn’t want to be just a provider of physical bread.
To do miracles, so that people could eat a lot of food, from a little.
He wants to be our bread –
our sustenance, our nourishment, our daily strength, our source of satisfaction.
Physical food alone cannot satisfy our whole hunger.
The multitudes thought that they wanted unlimited food and drink:
They searched for Jesus—wanting him to give them more food:
And Jesus redirects their quest:
Telling them what they don’t really want to hear:
Yet it is an extreme word of Hope:
Jesus says: “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the
signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
Its as if he’s saying: You just want more food: But that will never satisfy you!!
He goes on to say: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that
endures for eternal life.”
The people want the food:
And Jesus redirects them: by giving them himself.
His very self:
The only food that will ever really last:
The only food that will ever really satisfy.
The only food that we ever REALLY need.
Jesus is bread, but he wants to fill the hunger of our hearts and not just our
He wants to fill the gnawing, aching emptiness that we try to fill with lesser
That emptiness that we try to fill with that appetizer, salad, and full course meal:
Or with junk food on a hungry trip to the grocery story.
Or with money:
Or with big houses:
Or with big churches:
Or with power:
Or with worrying about having enough of anything.
None of those will ever be enough.
None of those will ever satisfy:
They will only possess us.
Jesus invites the multitudes,
To allow ourselves to fall into the hands of the one for whom we were made:
To be fully satisfied and fed by the only one who can truly feed and satisfy us.
Jesus is daily sustenance.
He is bread to be savored, gathered around.
Bread to inspire thanksgiving, to remind us of the wonder of life, to strengthen us.
We can contemplate him thoughtfully, chewing slowly, pondering:
But we will be satisfied: If we come to him:
Open to whatever he places in our outstretched hands.
And trusting that whatever He places there:
It will indeed be enough.
As a matter of fact:
The verb used in John’s gospel for believe:
Can also be translated as TRUST.
And I wish we read it as TRUST.
When Jesus urges the multitudes to strive for real satisfaction:
Through believing in God:
He’s also telling them to TRUST.
To TRUST that God is enough.
To TRUST that God alone can satisfy the hunger.
To TRUST that our abundant God has graciously given us everything we need:
And those other things:
That we cling to in hunger:
Are the things that will never satisfy as God does.
Jesus was taken, blessed, and broken.
He is to be shared.
He is enough to satisfy our every hunger:
He IS the bread of life: Whoever comes to him:
Whoever trusts in that truth: Will never be hungry.
Enjoy the weekly sermons at anytime.