Journal: August 20, 2021

My question for today: exactly when did they start using super glue to seal up the single serve string cheese? I can only imagine these things going in some small child’s lunchbox. I finally broke out a knife and slit it along the side and there may have been a few choice words along the way. Now that I’ve got that off my mind…

Movies: started several, finished none. Oy. Next.

I continue the Camino prep / exercise. After going at it strong for a week I gained two pounds. Rrr. Ok. Fine. I’ll just keep at it knowing that the process works. Exercise and burn more calories than you take in. That’s how it is supposed to work, although it can be as frustrating as opening a single serve string cheese! Each day I have to tell myself the Nike slogan and then put on my Brooks and do it. I will definitely get there.

When Christians fight one another: a disgrace. As Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Satan greatly approves of our railing at each other, but God does not.” There are more than enough studies out there showing that the Church is in decline and there are also several studies that show one of the greatest contributing factors is the way Christians treat other Christians. Yep. That’s right. The greatest harm to the Church is not from the outside, but from within. Think about it: you see fighting in your home, at work, on the TV, in social media and you think to yourself, “I’ll go to church, because there I will find peace and unity.” But instead of finding peace and unity, you find more upheaval, more of the same, more of the world. Who needs that?! Not me. “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” — Brennan Manning.

The Christian is to remain humble. The Christian is to see themselves as the greatest of all sinners and their brothers and sisters as souls to be loved. The Christian is to build up and not tear down. The Christian does not wave a flag, the Christian carries a Cross (a Cross that is for you to be crucified upon so that you might die with Christ and Rise with Christ.) The Christian is a candle in a dark cave, seeking out the lost and showing the way to freedom, fresh air, and The True Light.

“Finally, brothers (that includes you sisters, too!), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me (I was going to delete that bit, because it is not always what you see in me) practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

My goodness! He went and got all preachy on us.

What I learned today (and have known, but wanted to say): I also believe in miracles.

Thought for the day:

StTeresa of Calcutta

“These are the few ways we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one’s self.
To mind one’s own business.
Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
To avoid curiosity.
To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never to stand on one’s dignity.
To choose always the hardest.”

Sermon: Saint Mary the Virgin

Photo by Luca Tosoni on Unsplash

I don’t remember telling you about this before… I know of a man who, while praying the Rosary, had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He had been walking along a country road. On one side of the road was a piney forest and on the other was a field and a pond. As he was walking, he had been searching for the Virgin, but unable to find her, then in the distance, he saw her walking toward him down the road. He quickly turned and ran to meet her, but—and this is probably funny—the closer she got, the bigger she got so that when they finally met, she was able to reach down and pick him up and put him in her pocket.

He tried to see through the weave in the fabric of her dress to see the outside world and determine where she was taking him, but was unable to. Not only that, but the further they went, the darker it became until all was dark. Yet as the light had lessened, he had been able to detect something new: a sound. At first, it sounded like the soft beating of a drum, but a short distance on, the sound was unmistakable: it was the beating of a heart. He began to not only hear the heartbeat, but to also feel it in his entire body. Each beat was like a loving embrace. It was then the man realized that Mary had done what she had always done: she had brought him to Jesus. You see, it was not her pocket that she had placed the man into. No. Mary had placed the man in the wound in Jesus’ side so that the man could be near the beating loving heart of the Risen Lord where he had learned even more of the great love of Jesus. He had been allowed to remain there for a short time and then was sent on his way to try and fulfill the Lord’s will.

There is always much confusion surrounding the role of Mary in the Church and in the life of God’s people, but that confusion only arrises when people fail to understand her purpose. Her purpose is to draw people in so that she can lead them or even take them to her Son… so that she can place them near His heart that they might know of His great salvific love for them.

I encourage you all to take her by the hand and to walk with her. When that walk ends, you will find that you have been brought to Jesus.

Eternal Father,
you inspired the Virgin Mary, mother of your son,
to visit Elizabeth and assist her in her need.
Keep us open to the working of your Spirit,
and with Mary may we praise you for ever.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen

May the Lord bless us,
protect us from evil
and bring us to everlasting life.
Amen

Sermon: Proper 15 RCL B – “Bread of Heaven, Part III”

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

A Rabbi was sitting next to an atheist on an airplane. Every few minutes, one of the Rabbi’s children or grandchildren would inquire about his needs for food, drink, or comfort. The atheist commented, “The respect your children and grandchildren show you is wonderful. Mine don’t show me that respect.” The Rabbi responded, “Think about it. To my children and grandchildren, I am one step closer in a chain of tradition to the time when God spoke to the whole Jewish people on Mount Sinai. To your children, you are one step closer to being an ape.”

When it comes to how we were created, whether you hold to the story of creation or the theory of evolution, it is still going to be a mystery. As the Psalmist states, “I praise [God] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” and it all is a great mystery. Think about your breathing: maybe I’m just a bit on the weird side, but if I think about my breathing, about having to take a breath, then I find I have to keep thinking about it. It is like the automatic process stops, because I made it a conscious action rather than allowing it to remain a sub-conscious function. Speaking of our brains: our brains are able to process 11 million bits of information per second, of which only 40 to 50 can we be consciously aware. A lot happens in the background that we never give a thought to. Imagine if you had to make a conscious decisions to take every 22,000 breaths that a human averages every single day or the 100,000 times per day the heart beats… “beat, beat, beat, breathe, beat, beat…,” then Scarlett Johansson walks by “(fast) beat, beat, beat, beat, beat…. breathe.” I’m sure scientist can explain parts of it, but behind it all is a great mystery.

Today, we continue with the Bread of Heaven / Life discourse from John’s Gospel and in today’s verses we find some of the most difficult passages of Scripture (and I want to read this part for you again): Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” As we will read next week, this teaching was a show-stopper for many. Jesus goes too far. We’re not cannibals. We’re not vampires. And for the Jews, for meat to be kosher, there can be no blood. Jesus manages to offend everyone and he knows it, because he will ask, “Does this offend you?” I’ve no doubt that it still offends many today, but here is the truth: each Sunday when we partake of the Holy Eucharist, we truly receive the body and blood of Christ.

Over the years and still today, there are many who want to ease this teaching, to make it easier on the stomach, by stating that the bread and the wine are merely symbolic of the body and the blood, but it is our belief that this is an error. Why? Because Jesus did not say, “Take eat, this a symbol / representation of my body” or “Drink this wine (and he certainly didn’t use Welch’s!) Drink this wine and pretend it is my blood.” No. Jesus said, “This is my body… this is my blood.” Why? Because a symbol cannot bring you forgiveness of sins nor can a representation give you life eternal. If it is not the body and the blood, then we are simply participating in a charade. It is true, the consecrated bread and wine maintain their appearance, but through the Holy Spirit (at the epiclesis—when the priest holds his hands over the bread and the wine), they are no longer only bread and wine, but are transformed into the body and the blood.

We’ve discussed this before: Jesus told the disciples, at the institution of the Holy Eucharist on that first Maundy Thursday, to do these things “in remembrance of me.” That word remembrance is translated from the word anamnesis, which means to “make present.” “Take, eat: This is my Bod, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” “Do this for the anamnesis of me… do this and make me present.” Not a representation or a memorial of me, but a making present. A true and real presence.

The big question: how does this happen? How does the bread and the wine become the body and the blood? How were we created? How does the mind work? How can you regulate your breathing or beating of your heart? How can we know the depths of the sea or the heights of the heavens? The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “There’s no shame in admitting what you don’t know. The only shame is pretending you know all the answers.” How does the bread and the wine become the body and the blood? I don’t know. I only know that it does. How do I know that? Grace and faith. I’m going to let my friend Thomas à Kempis help me out here:

“God can do more than man can understand… Many have lost devotion because they wished to search into things beyond them. Faith is required of you, and a sincere life, not a lofty intellect nor a delving into the mysteries of God. If you neither know nor understand things beneath you, how can you comprehend what is above you? Submit yourself to God and humble reason to faith, and the light of understanding will be given you so far as it is good and necessary for you… Be not disturbed, dispute not in your mind, answer not the doubts sent by the devil, but believe the words of God, believe His saints and prophets and the evil enemy will flee from you…. Go forward, then, with sincere and unflinching faith, and with humble reverence approach this Sacrament. Whatever you cannot understand commit to the security of the all-powerful God, Who does not deceive you…. If all the works of God were such that human reason could easily grasp them, they would not be called wonderful or beyond the power of words to tell.” (TAK IOC Bk IV.18)

I don’t know how the bread and wine become the body and the blood, but through grace and faith in God we know that they do. We do not need to know how everything works in order to believe that they are true.

Finally, I know for some of you, I’m preaching to the choir, but I’m not so naïve as to believe that this teaching is contrary to what others of you hold to be true. Therefore, today I only ask that we all truly and faithfully meditate upon the words of Jesus and the teachings of the church and of those that have gone before us, for that act alone signifies that what we do in the Eucharist is far more than simply eating a wafer of bread and having a sip of wine.

Let us pray:
Jesus, our God,
You art infinitely good and perfect.
We love You above all things
and with all our hearts.
We desire to receive You in Holy Communion
that we may love You more and serve Thee better.
Come to us and strengthen us,
so that we may never be separated from You on earth
and that we may live with You eternally in heaven.
Amen.

Journal: August 14, 2021

Last night: I have not watched The Matrix since I left seminary. This is a phenomenal movie and highly entertaining. Top on the list of cooldom are the phones (well, not top, because let’s face it… this is an awesome movie.) No. Not the old rotary dial gizmos. Yes. I’ve used one. Had to deal with the finger slipping and the wrong number dialed… lost my place and gotten one hole more than I should… etc… but we’re not talking about those kinds of phones. We’re talking about the Nokia 8110. This is design. This is cooldom. This is the phone we all want, but what we have are designless unimaginative coasters. Yes… they do all sorts of fun things and have more computing technology than the lunar landers, but…

Need I say more? No. That said… I would even trade the Nokia 8110 for my old Blackberry 8100 Pearl. That was a sweet phone. That was last night.

This morning: I slept in. Beautiful to sleep in. Had a few chores around the house that I knew I could get done… no worries. First chore: unloading the dishwasher. Half way done… the phone rings.

Phone message… phone message… I didn’t get to it while it was ringing, so I went about my business. My business was so important. Don’t you just hate it when the dishes in the dishwasher are supposed to be dry, but the little depression in the bottom of the glasses always holds the water. Then, if you don’t get to them in time (at least here in Enid) the hard water leaves a white ring / film on the bottom of the glass…. phone message… just let me finish with this one chore and I’ll get to it….

… it was his mom. He couldn’t call… he had died in his sleep. He was three years younger than me. God knows I hate myself sometimes. She couldn’t speak. I knew. I rushed. I put on the collar. I drove across town. Who the hell do I think I am? The prayers. The words. More words. He’s still gone and mom’s still… shit.

I came home. Took off the collar. Petted and loved on the Queen… then… then I finished unloading the dishwasher. Managed to run a knife deep into my hand in the process… it wasn’t intentional.

I should delete this, but I won’t. This is me.

What I learned today: “You do not know….” We all know that one. I don’t need to repeat it.

Thought for the day: May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Sermon: Clare of Assisi


St. Clare of Assisi: we know very little of her childhood other than she was born to a very wealthy family, however, at the age of eighteen she had the opportunity to hear St. Francis of Assisi preach and left it all.

Sneaking off from her family who would have prevented her, she went to Francis and told him of her desire to follow in the way of his teachings. She exchanged her fine clothes for a dress of rough fabric. She cut her long beautiful hair and replaced it with a veil. At one point, her family tried to pull her back, but in the end, she prevailed and would later be followed into the convent by her sister, Agnes, and her mother when she was widowed.

How did she live? She was barefoot year round, she did not speak unless absolutely necessary, she spent hours a day in prayer, had no source of income, so begged for alms, ate no meat, fasted on bread and water, and slept on the hard floor (she would eventually be ordered by the Bishop and Francis to sleep on a mattress for health reasons.) You would think such a life would be so unappealing that no one would follow in her footsteps, but that is not the case. When she died, “there were forty-seven convents in Spain alone, with many others in Italy, Bohemia, and France. And not long after Clare’s death, four convents of Poor Clares—as they became known—were founded in England.”

She was considered so pure and righteous in faith that bishops, cardinals and Popes came to her for advice, and it was a Pope, Innocent IV, who heard her last confession. Following that confession, he said, “I would to God I had so little need of absolution myself.”

On the day of her death, August 11, 1253, she was heard to say, “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go without fear, for he who created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed are you, O God, for having created me.”

Could such a movement continue? Today, there are 20,000 Poor Clares spread across the world, living cloistered lives, with the purpose of praying. Praying for the needs of the church and the world.

In writing to Agnes, the daughter of the King of Bohemia, but who also became one of the Poor Clares, Clare wrote,

When You have loved [Him], You shall be chaste;
when You have touched [Him], You shall become pure;
when You have accepted [Him], You shall be a virgin.
Whose power is stronger,
Whose generosity is more abundant,
Whose appearance more beautiful,
Whose love more tender,
Whose courtesy more gracious.
In Whose embrace You are already caught up;
Who has adorned Your breast with precious stones
And has placed priceless pearls in Your ears
and has surrounded You with sparkling gems
as though blossoms of springtime
and placed on Your head a golden crown
as a sign [to all] of Your holiness.

There is no doubt that St. Clare of Assisi has received the golden crown from the One she loved above all others—Jesus.

Sermon: Proper 14 RCL B – “Bread of Heaven, Part II”

Sermon: Proper 13 RCL B – “Bread of Heaven, Part I”

Needs vs Wants: it seems basic enough, but just so we’re all on the same page—a need is something that is required in order to survive whereas a want is something we do not need, but desire. A few examples:

  • I want to look like brad Pitt in Fight Club, but I need chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.
  • I want to read more books, but I need to get through all 147 episodes of The Walking Dead.
  • I want to go to bed at a decent hour, but I need to scroll through social media until 2:00 a.m.

Maybe I’m missing the point. Let’s try a couple more:

  • I want a fancy car, but I need reliable transportation to and from work.
  • I want to be popular, but what I need are strong stable relationships.

You see the difference. And this is where we left off last week in our discussion on the Bread of Life. Our wants (we talked about cravings last week) are not always what we need, because what we need more than anything else and the only thing that will satisfy and fulfill our physical and spiritual hearts is this Bread of Life. If that is true, what purpose does it serve? What does this Bread of Life do for us?

Today in our lesson from 1 Kings, we read about the Prophet Elijah, but it is one of those lessons that drops us down in the middle of a story without much explanation on either end. It began, “Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree.” That’s nice, but why did he go off into the wilderness and why did he say to the Lord, “I’m done, just kill me now?”

At the time, Ahab was king over Israel and his wife was Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel did evil in the eyes of the Lord by worshiping the gods Baal and Asherah. Unable to tolerate this, Elijah said to King Ahab, “summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” Ahab did and it was on Mount Carmel that we have the episode of the dueling prophets.

Elijah challenged the prophets: he and they would both have the opportunity to sacrifice a bull, but then—and this is where it gets interesting—each was to call down fire from their god/God to consume the sacrifice. So the prophets of Baal did just that. They set up the altar, sacrificed the bull, and started calling out to Baal. Nothing happened. Elijah taunted them, “Shout louder! Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” Still nothing. After awhile, Elijah said, “Step aside, boys.” He set up the Lord’s altar, placed the sacrificed bull upon it, drowned it in water, then called on God, and “the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” The people were amazed and feared the Lord and when Elijah called on them to kill the false prophets, all four hundred and fifty of them, they did. Yet, all this mighty display of power did nothing to turn the hearts of Ahab and Jezebel. She called for the death of Elijah and Elijah ran… now we are at our reading today.

Elijah ran for a day into the wilderness, fell down under a tree, and asked the Lord to kill him. He had done all he knew to do, had demonstrated the power of God, yet the people did not turn, but instead sought his life. He was done and could not go on, yet the Lord was not done with him. The Lord wanted to see him on Mount Horeb, the mountain of the Lord.

Mount Horeb is also known as Mount Sinai, the mountain where Moses encountered God in the burning bush and where he also received the Ten Commandments, but in order to travel for forty days in the wilderness, Elijah needed food for the journey, so twice an angel of the Lord brought him bread and water. When he arrived at Mount Horeb, he went into a cave and rested for the night, but the following day, the Lord called to him: “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then there was a great wind, followed by an earthquake, followed by a fire, but the Lord was not in any of those. Then “came a gentle whisper” and Elijah encountered God.

What purpose does the Bread of Life serve? What does it do for us? Just as the Lord fed the bread to Elijah to sustain and prepare him for the journey, the Lord feeds us with the Bread of Life. It is food for the journey to sustain us in the wilderness while we seek to encounter our God on the mountain. It is what provides us with a supernatural spiritual strength in the face of the enemy that seeks to destroy us. And this Bread is Jesus.

“I am the bread of life…. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

I want to stay home in bed, drawing the sheets up over me because I just can’t go back out into the wilderness of a world that seems to care so little… I want to hide, but what I need is the Bread of Life that will nourish my soul and my body, giving me strength and courage in knowing that my God allows me to truly make Him a part of myself. It’s not just me against the Jezebel’s and forces of evil of the wilderness. It is the power of God working in me.

I want to close my eyes to the injustices I see around me because there is nothing I can do about it, but I need to be an instrument of transformation in my world, my community, my family, my own life, but to do this, I need the Bread of Life to fortify my resolve and provide the daily sustenance I so desperately need.

I want to climb under a broom tree and just have it all go away, but my God needs me to go further than I ever thought I could and to be renewed into the image of His Son, so God gives me himself and makes it possible.

Sir, give us this Bread. Give us this food for the journey. Give us yourself that we may have abundant life in this world and eternal life in the world to come. And God does give us all this and more. When we hold out our hands to receive him in the Eucharist, God speaks to our soul and says, “Take, eat: This is my Bod, which is given for you… given that you may have food for the journey. Given that you may have abundant life. Given that you may have life eternal.”

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you are the bread of life, the manna which sustains us in the wilderness of our daily lives. Without you, we hunger for righteousness but will forever be found wanting. Sustain us, O Lord, and keep us in your graces through the vessel of your most holy body and blood. Amen.

Journal: August 5, 2021

It is out of control! It is growing! It must be remedied! What pray tell is he going on about this evening? The stack of unread books upon my desk! I am well into In this House of Brede, but my glasses are fogging up from the other unread volumes, and this says nothing about the number of Audible credits that are itching to be plundered (although, I confess, I’m really saving them up for books along the Camino.) So, where to go next? Constant Reader, we all know the answer to that one. Who is this Billy Summers? I have forbidden my curiosity from even reading the cover until I have finished Brede. Read on… read on! How wonderful to have all these words strung together and opening the imagination to other lives. I do love a good book.

I’ve been on vacation this week, but it has turned into about as much work as a normal work week. Is OK, because I love what I do and I got to sleep in a bit most days. Did I accomplish everything I wanted to do? Absolutely not. Hardly even scratched the surface, but… I have a good life whether on vacation or not, so I can’t really complain (not to mention I have a 13 week sabbatical next year! Did anyone else just hear the angel choirs singing, “Hallelujah!”) Of the work, the week was filled with plentiful meetings and more than a few emails and then there was the Sunday sermon for the 8th. I wrestled with that one ALL day yesterday. Called it quits about 9 p.m., watched a few episodes of the Tudors (season 2), sat back down with it at about 1:30 a.m. and the entire thing unfolded in front of me. After hearing it on Sunday, there may be some who would have preferred I folded it back up and put it back on whatever shelf I found it, but… I actually kind of like it. Speaking of which….

My sermons and sermon writing seem to be evolving these days. There is something different about the way they are forming up and the way they are preaching. I feel more of an urgency when writing them. Being a people pleaser is difficult work, but it seems that in my sermonating that I’ve been able to set that aside more. Yes… I’ve always sought to please God, but there’s always been this twitch that says, “Maybe you shouldn’t say that.” Well, that twitch called me up short on my silly story last week, but I feel much more free in the preaching. This week was the same if not more so. What’s that all about? I suppose it is good that we all grow (as long as we are growing in the right direction.)

The next two days will be truly vacation days where I may go blind from watching too many movies… the FLY Film Festival is tomorrow and Saturday and I’ve got my two day pass. Bring on the popcorn. Hmmm…. should I write my own movie reviews? (Enquiring minds would prefer I didn’t, but that’s never stopped me before!) Primarily short films with a few feature films thrown in for good measure. Very much looking forward to it. Please lead me to the nearest pub (Callahans… across the street from the Gaslight Theater), should you see me afterwards stumbling around in the bright sunshine.

I was just staring at a recipe for Salmon Cakes, which I will be making for hors d’oeuvres Monday night… yeah… you’re going to want to try those.

The Queen says, “Why you wake me?”

Please forgive, Your Majesty!

What I learned today: It is important to drink a margarita while cooking Mexican food. No… I did not cook Mexican food today, nor did I have a margarita, but I heard this from a reliable source. We should all cook more Mexican food. Carnitas anyone?

Thought for the day: “Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum? Dad-a-cham? Ded-a-chek?” (Stephen King, The Drawing of the Three) The Lobstrosities sometimes make sense, but mostly it is just nonsense.

Pax

Sermon: Proper 13 RCL B – “Bread of Heaven, Part I”

Photo by Nadya Spetnitskaya on Unsplash

While visiting a big city, Betsy, who suspected her husband of cheating on her snuck off to visit a fortune teller of some local repute.

In a dark and hazy room, peering into a crystal ball, the mystic delivered grave news. “There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just be blunt: Prepare yourself to be a widow. Your husband will die a violent and horrible death this year.”

Visibly shaken, Betsy stared at the woman’s lined face, then at the single flickering candle, then down at her hands. She took a few deep breaths to compose herself. She simply had to know. She met the fortune teller’s gaze, steadied her voice, and asked her question. “Will I be acquitted?

When it came time to preach this sermon, I just couldn’t tell that joke: adultery, murder, divination… no. Not good sermon material.

Jesus had been teaching and performing miracles in Jerusalem at the Temple and from there he made his way north to the lands surrounding the sea of Galilee. If he went all the way up to Capernaum on the north shore, he would have travelled about eighty miles. After some time, he crossed over the sea and it is there that we have the feeding of the 5,000. Following this, the disciples—without Jesus—take a boat back to Capernaum, but on the way they encounter a storm and it is then they see Jesus walking on the water.

The following day, the people wake up and look for Jesus, thinking that he should still be nearby, but when they can’t find him, they also cross over to Capernaum where they do find him. This is where our Gospel reading begins today with the people saying to Jesus, “Umm… you were over there with no way of getting over here. How’d you do that?” Jesus doesn’t answer that question, but only tells them why it is they were looking for him: “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”

These words are the beginning of what is known as the Bread of Life Discourse, consisting of thirty-seven verses. It is such an important teaching, that we will hear from these verses for three more Sundays.

It begins with the people asking Jesus a series of questions: how did you get here? What is the work of God? What sign will you give us? What work are you performing? And then someone says, “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” In saying this, they are throwing down the gauntlet on Jesus. If you want us to believe you, why don’t you pull this particular rabbit out of the hat. To that challenge, Jesus said, “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.” And the people are like, “Yeah, yeah…give us that bread.”

The people are still thinking about their empty stomachs and Jesus could have given them what they wanted, but Jesus did not need a crystal ball to tell them what would happen if he did. He only needed to look at their history.

The Israelites had made the exodus out of Egypt and were wandering in the desert. They grew hungry and complained against God, so the Lord said, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.” And he did. He gave them manna to eat.

Our Psalm today speaks of all of this and concluded with:

They ate and were well filled,
for he gave them what they craved.
(Psalm 78:29)

God gave them everything they craved, but they weren’t ever happy. They weren’t ever satisfied.

“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.  But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’” (Numbers 11:4-6)

Yes, Jesus says to those listening. Moses did feed them with the bread from heaven, but after awhile, they weren’t satisfied. So he gave them quail, but guess what? They eventually weren’t satisfied with that either. Moses could have gone on and given them cucumbers, melons, Kobe beef, and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, but in the end they would still be grumbling and would always want more.

No. Jesus did not need a crystal ball to know how it would all play out. So, he says, instead of seeking after something that you will later be dissatisfied with, why not seek after that which will satisfy you now and for all eternity. Seek after the bread which will give you life eternal. And what is this bread? Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus said, I—God—am the one thing that will satisfy you completely. Follow me and believe in me.

Like the Israelites in the wilderness, God can give and fulfill our every craving, but like the Israelites, we will grow tired of it, because what we crave is not what we need. It is not what will sustain or fulfill us. If you think about it, you know it’s true. We may occasionally find some peace, but there is a restlessness within us. An itch. A craving. However you want to refer to it, and it is really never satisfied. What is the remedy for such cravings? In the first paragraph of his Confessions, St. Augustine of Hippo, speaking to God, wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

When he says that our heart is restless, I believe he is referring to both our physical and spiritual heart, our entire being which will remain restless until it rests in God alone. And it is a restlessness, a craving, that can only be satisfied and nourished with the true Bread of Heaven. Our response in hearing this can be the same response as those who were listening to Jesus: “Sir, give us this bread always.”

And Jesus does. “I am the bread of life.” We receive this bread of life physically in the Eucharist and spiritually through our faith. If we can truly receive this bread then we are truly free. Free from the empty cravings that draw us away from God.

I would like to tell you that I have reached such a level of perfection, but I think we all know that would be a lie. It is not easy and it is always a struggle. It is God’s grace alone that fills in the gap, but that does not mean that we don’t work to lessen that gap. Strive, body and soul, to be satisfied with God alone. Seek to find peace in him. Yes, Lord, give us this bread always that we might find rest in you.

Let us pray: Father in heaven, you have made us for yourself; our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Fulfill this longing through Jesus, the bread of life, so that we may witness to him who alone satisfies the hungers of the human family. By the power of your Spirit lead us to the heavenly table where we may feast on the vision of your glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Camino: Back on…

The sabbatical is back on and so is The Way: The Camino de Santiago. As some of you may recall, this was to happen in 2020, but 2020 happened and the world came to a screeching halt. My prayer is that the delta variant won’t cause the same, because on the Wednesday after Easter next year the sabbatical begins and I leave for Rome the following week where I’ll spend ten days, followed by a trip to St. Jean Pied de Port to begin the great pilgrimage of 500 miles across Spain (and more, because I’m still planning to continue on to Muxía. An additional 50 miles.)

“Captain! We have a problem.” I have grown again (it is always an issue) and I’ve fallen out of shape, so yesterday I joined the YMCA. I will now begin the process of paying the piper for my gluttony, and with only seven months to go, I can’t wait any longer. Why the Y? Because day after day we have had heat advisories and it just isn’t possible to do the amount of necessary exercise outdoors… at least not for me. I would like to live long enough to actually make the journey.

The scales this morning say I have thirty-five pounds to lose in order to be at the goal weight. That’s five pounds a month and very doable. Should you see me with any non-healthy foods in my hands, feel free to slap them out and then to slap me on the back of the head. For those stopping by for supper… think salmon, salads, rabbit food.

Game on…