Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.

8/31/2009

Danse Macabre



Not my favorite Father Matthew Presents video, but it is worth watching to hear how he does the voices from this medieval painting, and it is interesting.

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8/30/2009

Just Like Jesus

God loves you just the way you are,
but He refuses to leave you that way.
He wants you to be just like Jesus.
—Max Lucado

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8/29/2009

Making the Common Holy

In tomorrow's Gospel reading, Mark's Gospel tells us,
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.
I preached on this text nine years ago at Trinity in Statesboro by saying,
I think a sermon should relate the readings from the Bible to our lives today. A sermon should be relatively short, to the point, and give us a clear idea about how the reading should influence us all in the week ahead. Some weeks I have to really work with the scripture readings to understand what is going on and create a sermon that shows how the Bible passage is relevant to what’s going on in our lives.

This week, that task is easy enough. The reading from Mark’s Gospel is very straightforward. Jesus’ disciples are caught eating supper without washing their hands first. The Pharisees and Scribes, those rascals who always seem mad at Jesus, get mad about it. Then Jesus tells them that his disciples are right. The disciples don’t have to wash their hands before they eat if they don’t want to.

Jesus’ clarification of first century etiquette is concise and to the point. Jesus’ words are not exactly what Emily Post or Miss Manners would offer on the subject, but the Gospel is clear—you don’t have to wash your hands before you eat.

Amen.
Then I went back to my seat. Sat down and paused a moment. Then I got up and began again saying,
OK. So it’s not that simple. You knew that I couldn’t be quite right about what’s going on in our Gospel reading. If our common sense tells us that we shouldn’t eat food with dirty hands, then what is Jesus really saying this week? What did happen that day the Scribes and Pharisees saw the disciples eat without washing up?

It helps to understand that nothing in the passage exactly says the disciples’ hands were dirty.
Follow this link to the rest of that nearly decade old take on this passage: Making the Common Holy.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 8/29/2009 5:29 PM, Anonymous MKL said…

    Thank you for opening my eyes, mind and heart to the real meaning of this Gospel passage.

     

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8/28/2009

Dwell in love

Love and pity and wish well
to every soul in the world;
dwell in love,
and then you dwell in God.
William Law (1686-1761)

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8/27/2009

Something greater and more glorious

Frank's photo taken in Villecroze, France
All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired, although not in the hour or in the measure, or the very thing which they ask. Yet they will obtain something greater and more glorious than they had dared to ask.
—Martin Luther (1483-1546)

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8/26/2009

Out of Death, New Life

Church of the Intercession in New York City

Jay Hildebrand wrote a column for Episcopal Life Out of Death, New Life in which he describes being baptized 51 weeks after the death of his wife of 26 years. He writes in part talking about going to church after her death and what transpired following,
I had no idea what went on in church. In fact, I had only been to church for weddings and funerals. Having been raised Jewish, I had very little contact with Christianity. As the organ started playing, colored light streamed through the stained glass window and I felt a strange sensation. The smell of incense wafted through the air and the congregation started singing.

Things seemed to be different this time. There was no impatience, no feeling like I wanted to run out the door. It was replaced by a peaceful calm feeling. After five months of purgatory, it was almost intoxicating. I still had no idea what was going on, but I didn't care. I just closed my eyes and absorbed the feeling. Maybe it was the words being spoken, maybe it was the hymns, I didn't know. Or, as I have come to feel, maybe it was my wife's spirit. All I knew was I was supposed to be there. I just drank in the feeling.

Some members of the congregation showed me the hymnal and Book of Common Prayer. I must have looked like a fish out of water. In all of this, I realized that I had come home and found a piece of my heart in the church. Maybe it was something that was always missing. I knew I had to find that out.

I went to see Nora afterwards and we talked for about a half an hour. I started going up on Thursday mornings and going to church on Sundays. I felt connected. It was a totally new feeling, but the Sunday part was difficult. Even though I had abandoned Judaism long ago, it was still very difficult to accept that I was going to church.

Since my youth, I had always believed in God, but I always thought religion was for other people, not me. As I started reading the services, I couldn't believe how much Judaism was in them. It made me feel connected to the readings and the church. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. Nora recommended the Rev. Jerry Keucher as a tutor, to help me read and understand the Bible.

When I started reading the Bible, I began with the Old Testament and moved to the New Testament. I started to learn Judaism. In fact, I learned more Judaism than I ever knew. When I began to read the gospels, I was amazed. Jesus' teachings and philosophy were things I already knew. I had accepted these principles a long time ago. I began to feel a sense of rebirth and purpose. I wasn't happy, but I was peaceful. Whatever had directed me there had given me a purpose and I knew what it was.

I would be baptized and accept all the things I learned and realized. I knew I was changing. I could also put away the Vicodin. It no longer held any meaning.
The full text of his reflection is online here: Out of Death, New Life.

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  • At 8/27/2009 3:47 AM, Blogger Anders Branderud said…

    In the article it is written: “Life has a sacred purpose and we are here for a reason. We may not always understand why or what to do, but there is a purpose. Belief helps to be that guide. Even in death, my wife gave me a gift. It was the gift of life. It took Nora, Jerry and the church, along with my wife, to show me.”

    (le-havdil), I want to discuss the issue of purpose of life?

    The purpose of our life is outlined in Tan’’kh ; and was also taught by Ribi Yehoshua. The first century Ribi Yehoshua from Nazareth (the Mashiakh; the Messiah) taught in accordance with Tan’’kh the only way to live in the purpose of our life. This way is found both in Torah and in Ribi Yehoshuas teachings found in our website – http://www.netzarim.co.il

    Anders Branderud

     

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8/25/2009

Seven Weeks of Advent?

Liturgist Bill Peterson proposes that we expand the tradition four weeks of Advent which lead into Christmas to be a seven-week season. Click on the artwork here to read a journal article making this proposal. This is not some out-of-the-blue idea as Advent was once seven weeks long and remains so for the Orthodox Church (Russian and Greek Orthodox, etc.).

The goal is to reclaim the time for preaching and teaching about the second coming as was traditionally part of the season and remains so in truncated form now. I am intrigued by the suggestion. I know how how counter-cultural Advent already is and find the expansion back to its historic length to be something worth considering, especially as the Revised Common Lectionary readings fit this without making any change. Take a look at the article and let me know what you think.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 8/27/2009 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The Celtic tradition still has seven weeks in advent, equal to Lent. I think it is a good idea, we need more time to prepare.

     

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8/24/2009

Kids in the Kingdom & Teens in the Zoo


The picture above shows a charioit race during Kids in the Kingdom on Sunday. We followed the sermon from Paul's letter to the Ephesians with a story about Paul and Silas in jail in Philippi. Then the kids wrote notes to men in prison.


Amber get bandaged from a chariot race accident.



Then at 2 we met for a youth group trip to the Jacksonville Zoo for a photo scavenger hunt using clues from 10 Bible verses.




Thanks to Amber, Geoff and Kelly for helping!

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8/23/2009

Now for something completely different...




This CartoonChurch.com cartoon originally appeared in the Church Times and is taken from ‘The Dave Walker Guide to the Church’, published by Canterbury Press.

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8/22/2009

The Olive Branch

Click here for a PDF file of The Olive Branch


The latest issue of our newsletter, The Olive Branch is now online. It will be available as a print version tomorrow at church and will go into the mail the first of the week.

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Words of Eternal Life

In tomorrow's Gospel reading Jesus has finished with his "Bread of Life Discourse" in which he tells how those "who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them." Some who have been following him leave calling this a difficult teaching. John goes on to say,
So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
Charlene E. Fairchild considered this moment of decision at her blog Collects, Comments and Conversation in writing,
Does this offend you Charlene?

Yes, it offends me. It sounds like cannibalism. It feels bloodthirsty and unrefined. It brings things down to the level of flesh and blood, heat and flies buzzing, to reality. Yes, it offends me. It asks me to choose. It places me on a fence and says I have to jump, I cannot stay there. And I know that there will be no going back to the innocence of before.

But....
Where can I go? You have the words of eternal life! Despite my reservations, my twentieth century hang-ups, my intellectual pride, I understand this one thing, it all comes down to trust, to faith, to belief. You, Lord, are the Holy One of God. Therefore, no matter who laughs at me and my quaint beliefs, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord....

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8/21/2009

What Is Right

Faith is not the belief
that God will do what you want.
It is the belief that God
will do what is right.
—Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones

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8/20/2009

In your own image


You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
—Anne Lamott

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3 Comments:

  • At 8/20/2009 8:13 AM, Anonymous kenny said…

    Nail? Meet hammer.

     
  • At 8/23/2009 12:08 PM, Blogger November In My Soul said…

    I've looked at this post several times but I just realized the girl in the back is standing on an American flag. Who could ever teach their child such a thing. The flag she is desecrating is the very symbol of the government that guarantees her the right to spew such hatred. Unbelievable.

     
  • At 8/24/2009 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is simply disgusting to look at. I hope that these people are few and far between. This is a sad day when a person believes this is okay.

     

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8/19/2009

Is the South the Most Sinful Region?


Four Kansas State University geography researchers created what they call a not-so-serious study to correlate some data found in the census to the Seven Deadly Sins. The group found that the southern U.S. — encompassing an arc from North Carolina through Louisiana — was the region where folks were most likely to commit one of the traditional seven deadly sins.

Reseracher Thomas Vought told the Catholic News Service that the study is not an authoritative review. "I don't think we started this to send a message to anyone," he said. "It was a fun exercise."

The CNS article goes on to report:
The study revolved around the traditional seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Vought explained that the researchers wanted to use objective data to help in their analysis to avoid subjectivity and bias. So they turned to census data, FBI crime reports and Department of Health and Human Services statistics.

Plotting the data by county, the researchers were able to project where each of the seven deadly sins were more prevalent or less prevalent.

Here is how the Kansas State researchers calculated the sinfulness of any one region:

— Sloth: expenditures per capita on entertainment and recreation, such as video games and movie rentals, that tend to keep people isolated from one another as reported in the "U.S. Census Bureau 2002 Economic Census: Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Report."

— Greed: comparing total per capita income with the number of people living in poverty per capita as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

— Envy: statistics from "FBI Uniform Crime Reports" related to stealing, i.e., robbery, burglary. larceny and motor vehicle theft.

— Wrath: more statistics from the FBI, but for rape, assault and murder.

— Gluttony: comparing the total number of fast-food restaurants per capita as reported by the "U.S. Census Bureau 2002 Economic Census: Food Services and Drinking Places Report."

— Lust: the number of sexually transmitted diseases per capita from data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

— Pride: With no data that could be related, the researchers calculated pride as the aggregation of the other six sins.

Vought said the researchers found that the sins of gluttony and sloth were minor compared with greed, lust, envy, wrath and pride. The most gluttonous area, so to speak, encompassed southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Pockets of gluttony also were found in central Appalachia and western Texas.

Slothful pursuits also were few and far between. The data showed sloth most common in southern Montana, south-central Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles and surrounding communities.

Greed was more widespread with large pockets in southern Florida, much of California, southern Nevada, western Arizona, and the Atlantic Coast from northern Virginia through southern New England. No surprise there. But, surprisingly, significant pockets of greed showed up in Seattle and western Washington, Denver and northern Colorado, the Houston and Dallas areas, an arc around the southern tip of Lake Michigan, and the area around the western basin of Lake Erie.

The least greedy areas proved to be the Southern states in an arc extending from Georgia through Arkansas and northeastward into West Virginia, north-central Texas, and the upper Midwest from Kansas to North Dakota.

When it came to envy, wrath and lust, data pointed to the South as being the most sinful area. A swath from western Appalachia to the upper Midwest proved to be the least sinful.

Pride, the aggregate of all the other sins, largely matched the patterns for envy, wrath and lust....

Vought admitted that questions abound when it comes to mapping an abstract concept like sin. He acknowledged that the analysis, while based on official statistics, is not perfect.

"People will read into it what they will," he said. "That's all my colleagues and I really want."
The full text of the article is online here: Sin in America.

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8/18/2009

6th-12th Graders Belong in the Zoo - THIS SUNDAY

King of Peace will have its first Youth Group trip of the school year this coming Sunday, August 23, at 2 p.m. We will meet at King of Peace and travel to the Jacksonville Zoo. We'll split into teams for a photo scavenger hunt. We will also talk about what's coming up for the year, particularly with events at Honey Creek.

What we need is any 6th-12th grader and their friends to come attend, bringing enough money for the entrance fee (12 and under is $8, others are $13) and some money for snacks at the Zoo snack bar. We also must have some transportation and chaperones. So please RSVP (call the church office at 912-510-8958) if you are attending and let me know if you are bringing any friends. Also RSVP if you are an adult that can drive and attend along with the youth (we can arrange for you to be in a group without your kids if that is better for all).

This will be a great way to connect to one another and to plan for upcoming events. Please come if you can. After all, you belong in the Zoo!

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The Mystery of Grace

Frank's photo in LeBaux, France
I do not at all understand the mystery of grace
- only that it meets us where we are
but does not leave us where it found us.
—Anne Lamott

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  • At 8/20/2009 10:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you for this beautiful quote. We are so blessed to have been given the gift of grace....
    MKL

     

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8/17/2009

The Gospel of Getting Rich


Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him,
"One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
—Mark 10:21

A recent New York Times article Believers Invest in the Gospel of Getting Rich caught up with prosperity gospel preachers and their followers at Southwest Believers’ Convention in Fort Worth, Texas. One story from the article is:
Stephen Biellier, a long-distance trucker from Mount Vernon, Mo., said he and his wife, Millie, came to the convention praying that this would be “the overcoming year.” They are $102,000 in debt, and the bank has cut off their credit line, Mrs. Biellier said.

They say the Copelands rescued them from financial failure 23 years ago, when they bought their first truck at 22 percent interest and had to rebuild the engine twice in a year.

Around that time, Mrs. Biellier first saw Mr. Copeland on television and began sending him 50 cents a week.

Others who bought trucks from the same dealer in Joplin that year went under, the Bielliers said, but they did not.

“We would have failed if Copeland hadn’t been praying for us every day,” Mrs. Biellier said.

The Bielliers are now among 386,000 people worldwide whom the Copelands call their “partners,” most of whom send regular contributions and merit special prayers from the Copelands.
I read the Gospels every day and find them full of sayings from Jesus like, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" and "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:34-35).

Now I am aware of passages like Malachi 3:10 which is a key tithe passage:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."
And yet, I find the prosperity gospel to be so out of touch with the Good News of Jesus Christ that I am amazed that it finds followers who know their money is going to a luxury jet and yet feel inspired to give. The article ends,
But mostly the preachers were working mightily to remind the crowd that they are God’s elect. “While everybody else is having a famine,” said Mr. Savelle, a Texas televangelist, “his covenant people will be having the best of times.”

“Any time a worried thought about money pops up in your mind,” Mr. Savelle continued, “the next thing you do is sow”: drop money, like seeds, in “good ground” like the preachers’ ministries. “Stop worrying, start sowing,” he added, his voice rising. “That’s God’s stimulus package for you.”

At that, hundreds streamed down the aisles to the stage, laying envelopes, cash and coins on the carpeted steps.
As a pastor of a church, my salary is paid for by offerings and so perhaps I should have no cause to feel the sadness I feel in reading the Times article. And yet I find Jesus' own life better lived out by the poor man of Assisi, Francis, than by the prosperity gospel preachers and so I find their gospel rings untrue to me. I do believe that God blesses us, but not with jets and yachts. Daily reading of the Gospels just doesn't support that belief as far as I can see. What do you think?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev, Frank Logue, Pastor

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8/16/2009

Faith, Hope, Love, Forgiveness

Frank's photo of Griffin on the coast of France
Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime, Therefore, we are saved by hope.

Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; Therefore, we are saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone. Therefore, we are saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own; Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

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8/15/2009

You Are What You Eat

In tomorrow's Gospel reading, Jesus continues drawing out the image of Himself as the Bread of Life saying, "This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever."

The Rev. Ken Kesselus has written on this passage and it connection to communion saying in part,
Jesus could well have said, “You are what you eat.” He could have said, “If you don't eat that which is Christ, you have no life – no real life – no life that is of lasting and true value. If you do not eat of what I am, you will become malnourished and get sick and die, spiritually.”

This is not unfamiliar territory in a denomination that values the Holy Communion. It might be instructive, however, to remember that the gospel reading we are considering comes from John and his version does not contain an account of the Last Supper, unlike Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul, who relate the story of Jesus taking bread and wine and telling his disciples to eat and drink of it to re-call him to presence.

In that portion of the passion story that John recounts, he gives us the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. And so, it is in the passage of today’s gospel – John’s version – that we don’t hear about Jesus acting out the sacrament but we hear instead of Jesus teaching about its meaning. Jesus helps us understand what we know as an outward sign of a profound spiritual truth. Bread and wine, through the power and spirit of God, become for us what Jesus really is. And if we are faithful and committed, we can become what we eat.

In regard to the Holy Communion as we experience it in the twenty-first century, what do we know and how much do we know about this eating that Jesus gives us to do? What do we understand about it? How much do we have to know to get it right? How old do we have to be to know enough?

Some parents and clergy puzzle over when the right time is to bring children to eat the food that Jesus bids us eat. This is based on the question of not cheapening the sacrament by feeding Jesus food to someone who doesn’t know what it is. So, what is the proper age? When is the time of maturity, the moment when it can all make sense?

For generations, the time was set at confirmation. This would mean that individuals were well prepared and old enough to claim the faith for themselves, ready to discern the meaning of eating Jesus’ holy meal. Others settled on a Roman Catholic-like “first communion” at age seven or eight. This view is based on the belief that children of such an age can understand enough about the Lord’s Supper for it to have true meaning for them. Where does one draw the line? When is old enough really old enough?

Perhaps a story from some years ago can be instructive. A priest abided by his bishop’s directive to give communion to children only after they reached first grade and after both they and their parents had received adequate instruction. Sunday after Sunday his 4-year-old son came to the alter rail and lifted his little hands for the bread, but the priest smiled and reached down to touch his head in blessing. One day, as the priest reached down for the blessing, the son pushed his hands in defiance, and after his father continued to withhold the bread, the child shook his fist at him in anger. The boy was gesturing what he could not fully articulate: “You are giving out bread to everyone but me, and something is wrong about that.”

The lesson taught by this preschooler is helpful. If he was able to understand being excluded, he was old enough to sense the importance of being included with those experiencing the feeding Jesus insisted will give spiritual heath. This gives credence to those who desire to open the table to all baptized, to anyone able to take the bread and wine that is the Body of Christ. It is the same theological perspective as baptizing infants. It’s not about us – not about what we initiate but what God does for us.

Feeding children the bread of heaven at an early age is like feeding them mother’s milk or pouring out parental love on them. Isn’t it powerful to think that children can grow up not having remembered a time when they did not eat at the table of the Lord? It would be like the reality of a good parent’s love – the absence of which they never experienced.

As to what they understand or when they are able to understand it, who knows? But one thing is for sure, if we communicate children early, whenever the time comes for them to understand, they will be receiving the same sacrament of love as the rest of us. And who’s to say that any of us understands everything about what Jesus meant when he said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life.”

Don’t we all continue to grow in our understanding of what this means? Why shouldn’t we begin the learning at the earliest age? What’s wrong with mothers and fathers guiding children at the altar rail, helping them learn to eat and drink the food that can help them learn to recognize themselves as part of the very body of Christ? What’s wrong with parents whispering to children at the altar rail, “Remember, you are what you eat”?

We want children to eat of this special food because that is how they learn; that’s how all of us learn. That is how we grow, through this feeding. And since we become what we eat, we need this food always.

We are what we eat; therefore, we must mind carefully what we eat and digest spiritually, for the health of our souls. The world offers us a lot of unhealthy diets – diets of materialism and greed and selfishness. Feeding on the word of God and partaking of the body and blood of Christ ensures life-sustaining nutrition for the spirit – food for the soul. By faith, eating the bread and wine of Holy Communion, we can enable the process by which Christ penetrates our beings and nourishes our lives. In this sacrament, God's very life comes to us through the elements of bread and wine so that we can have union with God. We are re-called to the truth that this union with God through Jesus, the Christ, is the connecting link for us with all that is good and true and holy.
The full text of his reflection is online here: You Are What You Eat.

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  • At 8/17/2009 10:04 PM, Anonymous MKL said…

    I didn't come from a tradition of communing children at an early age as we do at KOP. Every Sunday as I see the children come forward and as I have the joy of communing them myself as an LEM I regret that my sons did not have this same opportunity as children.

     

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8/14/2009

More Real and Relevant than Cleverly Devised Myths

The Bible as The Bread of Life
The following is my religion column for today's issue of the Tribune & Georgian. The topic is familiar to regular readers as I try to have a column a year promoting daily scripture reading. I just try to find new ways to put out that old idea as it is the most life-changing practice I can recommend:

The Bible is a very awkward book. I know that is hard to admit for a book that many of us in Camden County consider our favorite book of all time. In fact, we do more than like it, we read and re-read the Bible and pattern our very lives on its words. But being this familiar with the text can blind us to how the Bible seems to those diving between its covers for the first time.

The Bible is far more than A book. The Bible is a collection of sixty-six texts including such diverse types of writing as history, hymns and letters. The individual texts are not presented in a strict historical order and so one has to become quite familiar with the Bible to know, for example, which books were written at the same time as others.

This is just the structure of the Bible itself. Beyond issues of various types of literature found within the collection and the way the books are ordered, there is the content itself. As an Old Testament professor of mine once proclaimed during a lecture on Israel’s great king David, “The Bible is not for children. I’m sorry. It’s just not.”

That sounds a bit blasphemous. But it is true. While we do want children to grow up knowing the stories of scripture, there is good cause for leaving David and Bathsheba out of children’s story books. Children should wait to learn of David’s adultery and a cover-up that was nothing short of murder plotted by the man we like to consider the hero of the story. They probably should hold off on the full story of Samson and Delilah as well. These stories are awkward to say the least, at least when it comes to sharing them with children.

But it is these awkward stories which make the Holy Bible the life-changing Word of God that it is. For the Bible is nothing if not realistic. In its pages we read of real people. People who do not live perfect lives and who do not always do all the right things. We read of these fallible humans and how God loves them and wants something more for them than to leave them in their sorry state of affairs.

The Bible does not read like a cleverly devised myth. There is too much truth and too much tragedy. All of our scripture’s heroes are flawed, except for Jesus. And yet in Jesus, we find the ultimate tragedy as the sinless one is put to death. Humans see the way he is turning the world upside down and they want Jesus dead. And it is in this greatest tragedy in human history that we discover how deep and how broad is God’s love for us.

The crucifixion is humanity’s answer to God and yet that is not the end of the story. The resurrection is God’s reply. The power of God’s love is so strong that death can not defeat it. God loves us to much to leave us in our sin and through Jesus offers a way to redemption.

This is why the Bible tells all its awkward tales of the people who got it wrong. The folks who had every chance to live as God wanted them to live and went their own way. The Bible does not shrink back from telling the story of God’s love in such a way that we discover how flawed all the people who came before us really were. This is where we find ourselves in scripture—in the mistakes of others and God’s redemption of those flawed folks.

I read in the Gospels how the impetuous Peter was always going off half cocked. I find his betrayal of Jesus revealed in heartbreaking detail. And I also get to read how he not only denied Jesus three times, but how Jesus gave him the opportunity to say “I love you” three times after the resurrection. In this I find the life-giving Word of God showing me how I can change the way I live and find life and love, meaning and purpose.

So while the Bible may be awkward in parts and reading it through may be daunting, there is no replacement for reading and inwardly digesting its words. As one who loves the Bible deeply, I do want to offer a couple of pieces of advice to those who wish they could read and understand the Bible better: 1) read the Bible through daily and systematically, 2) do so with others.

Too often I find that people hit a bump in life and they want to run to the Bible to find the answers. Its not that the answers are not in scripture. The problem is that the text is not created to work in quite that way. There is no section with explicit advice for parents of teenagers. There is no book in the collection that tells step by step how to fix a marriage going through a rocky stretch.

The better way to encounter scripture is to read a bit each day. Doing so with a study Bible will help, as it will answer some of the questions that will naturally arise. Just keep reading it. And whenever possible, read with your spouse or with a friend. Attend a Bible study at your church or create one at your work. You will be amazed at how much more will stand out in the text when you encounter it with others.

By doing this faithfully, you will marinate yourself in God’s Word. The end result I find is that people who do this are better prepared to conform their lives to God’s will and to face whatever life throws at them.

In the past few months, I have known well two people who were faithful daily readers of scripture who learned they had terminal cancer. Both people were late in life and in each case the cancer was all through their bodies by the time they learned of it. I can’t imagine what it would be like to get that news and then to go running to the Bible to find comfort. I hope the Holy Spirit would guide someone in that case to the many verses that would provide comfort.

But I am writing of believers who well knew God’s Word. Each not only bravely faced their own death without fear, but they comforted others as their bodies wasted away. Both have gone on now to be with the Lord they met in prayer and worship and came to know better though their daily reading of scripture. In their lives and witness at the hour of their deaths, these two showed that while it may be awkward to one first encountering it, the Bible is a life-giving text.

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8/13/2009

Does God Tweet?

Over at the OnFaith Forum at The Washington Post and Newsweek the panelists are discussing electronic prayer requests. They are responding to the following:
Thanks to new digital technologies, you can 'tweet' prayers via Twitter to the Western Wall or prayer requests to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. You can pray the rosary or pray the hours from your laptop. You can participate in worship services and discuss holy texts via Facebook. You can create and join faith communities on Second Life. Are social media tools a blessing or a curse for people of faith? Should we use digital technology to commune with the divine? Does God tweet?
Episcopal priest Randall Balmer wrote against this use of technology saying in part,
At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, I take a dim view of such technological "advances," and I do so for theological reasons. As a Christian, I believe that the doctrine of the incarnation - God took human form - is a central tenet. God chose to become incarnate in the person of Jesus. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us - not a text message or a "tweet."
Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld thinks that if God is God, then God tweets. He wrote,
To the extent that there is a personal God who receives our prayers, and I believe that there is (mostly), then tweeting those prayers to Jerusalem, Rome, Mecca or any other holy place is entirely reasonable and appropriate. In fact, it's pretty strange to imagine a God big enough to pray to, who is not big enough to understand our prayers in whatever language or mode they are offered.
I agree with Rabbi Hirschfeld in thinking that God can and therefore does see and know what we send via email and tweets. Of course that is so. Yet I also sympathize with Balmer in that the Incarnation is not virtual reality and our faith should always involve real people getting together in real time to be together for worship, for prayer, for hugs. This is how we go about making real the love of God as we bear one anothers burders and share one anothers joys. That's my take. What do you think about God, Facebook, Twitter and the like?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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2 Comments:

  • At 8/13/2009 11:18 AM, Blogger Leeann said…

    Well, it certainly lends to praying without ceasing!

    Some more thoughts and information on technology and prayer can be found at the "The Dude Abides" blog by my friend, religion columnist Cathleen Falsani: http://falsani.blogspot.com/2009/07/godstuff-tweets-of-people-online-prayer.html

     
  • At 8/13/2009 3:07 PM, Blogger Tom Sramek, Jr. said…

    I think part of the point of prayer is that the act of praying is as much (or more!) for out benefit as it is for God's. It is that personal relationship that matters, and while such relationships can be supported by technology (witness FaceBook) they cannot be replaced by technology. In this case it isn't location, location, location (wailing wall, etc..) but relationship, relationship, relationship.

     

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8/12/2009

If you keep thinking...

Frank's photo of a felucca on the Nile in Egypt


If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen, you don't do it, and it won't happen.
—Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536)

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8/11/2009

Clare of Assisi


Saint Clare's Basilica in Assisi, Italy

Today is the feast day for Saint Clare, the woman who lived in Assisi and began a convent, The Poor Clares, that kept a rule of life similar to Saint Francis. She often gets lost in the lore of Francis, but is a saint in her own right, and worthy of that recognition through her life, spiritual direction and writings. Here are a few quotes together with photos we took in Assisi a couple of years ago.
"Love God, serve God; everything is in that."

Frank's photo in Clare's monastery"Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance! And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation! So that you too may feel what His friends feel as they taste the hidden sweetness which God himself has reserved from the beginning for those who love Him."

"O blessed poverty, who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her! O holy poverty, to those who possess and desire you God promises the Kingdom of Heaven and offers, indeed, eternal glory and blessed life! O God-centered poverty, whom the Lord Jesus Christ who ruled and now rules heaven and earth, who spoke and things were made, condescended to embrace before all else!"

Assisi, Italy"If you suffer with Him, you shall reign with Him, if you weep with Him, you shall rejoice with Him; if you die with Him on the cross of tribulation, you shall posses heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints and, in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among men."

"Our labor here is brief, but the reward is eternal. Do not be disturbed by the clamor of the world which passes like a shadow. Do not let the false delights of a deceptive world deceive you."
Assisi seen from San Damiano

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8/10/2009

My Hands, God's Hands

Frank's photo of a statue in Rome, Italy
I have held many things in my hands,
and I have lost them all;

but whatever I have placed in God's hands,
that I still possess.
—Martin Luther (1483-1546)

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8/09/2009

A Vast Operation

Last night, I was honored to preach on the occassion of the ordination of Ira Jackson to the sacred order of priests. In so doing I wondered aloud about why it is that we speak of all baptized Christians as ministers. saying in part,
Why in the world would Jesus need such a vast operation—every single baptized Christian working in ministry while deacons serve as icons of service to others, taking the church to the world and bringing back the needs of the world to the church; while being built up, encouraged, equipped and so on by priests who are serving in the ministry of Word and Sacrament; and all of this taking place under the oversight of bishops, the chief pastors of a diocese—isn’t that a little much?

Well, it would be, if Jesus was concerned about the people who gather each week to worship at Grace Church in Sandersville. And this kingdom of priests who are made up of all Christians would even be far too much if Jesus only concern was those who are in all the Christian churches in the world each Sunday, or even each Christmas and Easter. But this would be a very narrow view of Jesus’ compassion for each and every person on this planet.

Jesus’ vision for the kingdom of God is bigger, grander, more all encompassing than something like the present state of affairs. Jesus’ vision is that all of the harassed and helpless find green pastures. Jesus teaches clearly that there are folks wandering around aimlessly like sheep without a shepherd. These poor people are trying to find peace in their lives through alcohol abuse, and abusing drugs both legal and illegal, as well as through unhealthy relationships, and lots of other things that will never bring rest to their weary souls. Jesus’ vision is that every one of these lost sheep is brought to still waters.
It was an honor and I am thankful to Ira for asking me to serve in this way at the ordination service. The full text of the sermon is online here: When the Spirit Rested on Them—An Ordination Sermon for Ira Jackson.

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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8/08/2009

Nothing Is Ordinary

In tomorrow's Gospel reading, Jesus says,
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 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.
As the Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton notes, this is our third in a row reading from John's Gospel with Jesus talking about bread. She writes,
This is a good week for preachers to share a little good-natured griping about the seemingly endless stream of bread-centered (panecentric?) gospel readings. Ask them to stop you if they’ve heard this one before. Ask them if it’s just you, or if there's an echo in the room. Or just point it out wonderingly: tell them that today’s is the third bread reading they’ve heard in a row, with two more to come. Did the lectionary compilers reason that lots of people are away in August, so no one person in the pews will hear all five of them? Or was it because Mark, the shortest of the Gospels, needed a little padding, so they borrowed some from John and tucked it away here in August where no one will see?

It's not that there aren’t lots of good and interesting things to say about bread. You can preach about the Eucharist, drawing from a writer in one of the first communities that celebrated it, one who seeks to communicate the transformative presence of Christ in the sacrament: the Christians who receive him in the bread have eternal life already, he says, not just an endless timeline of life after they die, but a way of living the timelessness of eternal life now.

Whoever eats of this bread will live forever, says Jesus, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. Death—Jesus’ death, our death—is not the end of much, in this view; it is a moment in the midst of a much larger life. Eternal life consists of grasping this fact and living in it, living as if we were already there, in heaven itself at the moment we take the bread. No wonder the gnostics found John so appealing.

Yet the very bread-ness of bread, the simple physicality of eating it, prevents us from imagining ourselves out of this world altogether, as some early Christians longed to do. At my church we used to take turns buying pita bread for the Eucharist. One Sunday someone failed to look carefully at the package before buying it. As the plate made the rounds, person after person began to smile: it was garlic pita. That particular Eucharistic meal probably tasted more like the Last Supper than most of our Eucharist meals.

Garlicky or otherwise, we eat bread every day. It's nothing remarkable. Like all food, it ties us firmly to life. Look at the people Jesus heals who immediately reconnect with food: Peter’s mother-in-law, Jairus’s daughter. Look at Jesus on the shore, cooking a fish for his friends’ breakfast. Look at the two on the Emmaus road, inviting their mysterious new friend to eat supper with them.

Take and eat, Jesus says, and let your simple bread become me. Don’t let a single thing in your life, however ordinary a thing it may be, remain untouched by your new life in me. Don’t think for a moment that it is an ordinary thing; there are no ordinary things. Allow your eternal life to transform this life, so that the two are one thing, a seamless garment.
Here full reflection is above, but she adds a recipe in the original post which is here: Nothing is Ordinary.

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8/07/2009

The edge of all the light you have

When you walk to the edge of all the light you have
and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown,
you must believe that one of two things will happen:

There will be something solid for you to stand upon,
or, you will be taught how to fly.
—Patrick Overton, The Leaning Tree, 1975

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8/06/2009

The Case for Early Marriage

Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post called Say Yes. What are you waiting for? in which he advocated for what he called early marriage. Not exactly teen marriage, he was speaking in favor of 20-22 year olds marrying. He reports that it has become inc reasingly common for marriage to be delayed until a couple is in their 30s.
How did we get here? The fault lies less with indecisive young people than it does with us, their parents. Our own ideas about marriage changed as we climbed toward career success. Many of us got our MBAs, JDs, MDs and PhDs. Now we advise our children to complete their education before even contemplating marriage, to launch their careers and become financially independent. We caution that depending on another person is weak and fragile. We don't want them to rush into a relationship. We won't help you with college tuition anymore, we threaten. Don't repeat our mistakes, we warn.
His idea not only fell flat, but the paper got a host of negative reactions. Now Regnerus, the author of both the opinion piece and Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers is making the case anew in a Christianity Today article The Case for Early Marriage. In this new article, Regnerus claims that evangelical Christian discourse on teen sexuality is as conservative as ever without seeming to have any effect on the lives of teenage Christians. Chastity balls and virginity pledges have made no discernable impact on whether teens do or do not have sex before marriage. He writes in part,
Indeed, over 90 percent of American adults experience sexual intercourse before marrying. The percentage of evangelicals who do so is not much lower. In a nationally representative study of young adults, just under 80 percent of unmarried, church- going, conservative Protestants who are currently dating someone are having sex of some sort. I'm certainly not suggesting that they cannot abstain. I'm suggesting that in the domain of sex, most of them don't and won't.

What to do? Intensify the abstinence message even more? No. It won't work. The message must change, because our preoccupation with sex has unwittingly turned our attention away from the damage that Americans—including evangelicals—are doing to the institution of marriage by discouraging it and delaying it.
To show the change, the author cites the following,
Another indicator of our shifting sentiment about the institution is the median age at first marriage, which has risen from 21 for women and 23 for men in 1970 to where it stands today: 26 for women and 28 for men, the highest figures since the Census Bureau started collecting data about it.
The full text of his latest article is online here: The Case for Early Marriage.

Frank and Victoria on their wedding day in 1985I married at 22 mostly because I had met the person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life and not because of some desire just to be married to someone. Our 24th anniversary is just over a month away, so it seems to have worked for us. I have never regretted the decision to marry in my early twenties and have in fact felt quite good about it. On the other hand, I wouldn't want anyone to rush the move to marriage for the sake of early marriage. In fact, I end up trying to give him a fair hearing. And when he ends by writing,
If a young couple displays maturity, faith, fidelity, a commitment to understanding marriage as a covenant, and a sense of realism about marriage, then it's our duty—indeed, our pleasure—to help them expedite the part of marriage that involves public recognition and celebration of what God is already knitting together.
I am sympathetic. But wouldn't the end result of any sort of push for early marriage more likely drive up the divorce rate rather than have any discernable effect on sexual activity among teens? As with chastity balls and virginity pledges, I think a push for early marriage would have little to no positive effect in lowering the rates of pre-marital sex. That's my take. What do y'all think?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 8/06/2009 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Okay, well my first marriage(what a way to start this huh) was over within a year. Truthfully we married because I became pregnant. BUT the marriage fell apart because my husband was unfaithful twice. I did my best to make it work and he was not willing. So it ended and I found the true path God had for me. That was my second husband just months after my divorce was final. And now it has been over ten years and we feel we are just as strong and stronger actually. I feel the problem with divorce rates being so high is that couples just give up. I tried my best to make it work in the first marriage but both parties have to be willing. I do believe everyone is waiting too late to get married and start their families. Most I see are just too into buying stuff and having a "good time". I think all these people are missing out on the family life and find out too late and it has just become so common that everyone does not want to settle down and start a family, which I feel is just sad. I married first at 18 and then again at 20. And I am very happy that I did so I can enjoy my family for as long as I possibly can. I hope someday others come to see this way and realize that family is SO VERY important. But I do believe you should be ready for the responsibility and not say well if it doesn't work out we can just divorce. As far as trying to stop sex before marriage, like I said before it has become so common everyone feels it is okay and acceptable which it should not be I agree. But I would hope that an early marriage would shorten the number of partners and find out that a marriage is SO MUCH more that just sexual. Well those are my thoughts.

     
  • At 8/06/2009 9:46 AM, Blogger contact said…

    Anonymous,
    You bring up a good point about working on a marriage. There is an interesting article on this that recently ran in The New York Times:

    Modern Love: Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear.

    peace,
    Frank+

     
  • At 8/06/2009 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My husband and I married almost 20 years ago. I was 23 and he 22. We waited 5 years before having children. We knew we were in love and I won't lie and say that the whole 20 year road has been a piece of cake. The road has been gravel and the road has been paved.
    We spend most of our time now raising and running the kids. Sometimes this is hard on a marriage but yes, believe it or not I think at times it takes work. On the same wave length though, sometimes it is just a smooth sail where we work in sync. Love, Trust, Honor and Commitment: Big words, Big Meaning.

     
  • At 10/19/2010 1:05 AM, Blogger ankita said…

    i thnk that k early marriag is not gud for health since it al has face a girl.She got many problems and also died after delivery many times so i think k it is not gud on the part of a girl

     
  • At 11/24/2010 5:10 AM, Anonymous generic cialis 20mg said…

    Interesting article, added his blog to Favorites

     

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8/05/2009

Fear and Faith

Fear knocked at the door.
Faith answered.
No one was there.
—An English Proverb

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8/04/2009

Dying with less expense and more dignity

I ran across an interesting article at Salon.com, Harry and Louis Must Die, by Anne Moore who notes that next year we will spend 135 billion dollars on end of life care. She writes in part,
In a study of terminally ill patients, one group received preventive care until death. The other group chose to be treated for pain with drugs, typically morphine, in a hospice setting. Which group lived longer? Patients treated only for pain lived 29 days more.

Hospice focuses on comforting the terminally ill patient and family, at a health facility or at home, the last six months of life. If a terminally ill person in hospice stops breathing, they die. If their heart stops, they die. If they stop eating, they'll die within weeks.

If a terminally ill person who's hospitalized stops breathing, they're intubated. If their heart stops, they're resuscitated. If they stop eating, a feeding tube is implanted. Death is prevented, life is extended — but the person is still terminally ill with cancer, or kidney disease, or heart disease or diseases of the brain.
She writes of the high cost of end of life care, but ranges farther in ending by writing,
We can change. We can die with dignity and love, less expensively. We can put our fears to rest. Fill out a living will; say no to excessive care. Own the way you die. And die as you lived, surrounded by family and friends.
I have written on this in a religion column Belief and Practice at the End of Our Lives. The basic point is that returning someone to health is always the right option. But when a return to health is not possible, it is a moral choice to treat pain and stop fighting its source. As the article quoted above points out, this can even extend ones life. Not surprising. This choice does after all place the end of our life in God's hands rather than merely in the hands of healthcare professionals, who are required to do as much as we request. That's my take. What's yours?

peace,
Frank+
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor

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  • At 8/04/2009 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Amen! Just because doctors "can" doesn't mean they "should". Dying with dignity, the least invasive the better, seems less stressful and more peaceful for the survivors too.

     

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8/03/2009

Wake Me Up

Frank's photo taken while camping in the Ramone Crater in Israel

We need passion in our faith! Instead of praying, 'If I should die before I wake', we should pray, 'Lord wake me up before I die!'
—Tony Campolo

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  • At 8/06/2009 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Maybe this is a little off of the point being made but we used to teach our children the Now I lay me down to sleep prayer and it went "if I should die before I wake" One of my children asked why are we praying about dying before I wake up in the morning. I want to be forgiven and wake up tomorrow and try again. So now we pray, " Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, Watch and Guard me through the night, until the early light.
    AMEN

     

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8/02/2009

A Great Desire

Frank's photo from Italy

It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.
—Hellen Keller

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8/01/2009

The Gastronomical Jesus



In tomorrow's Gospel reading, we get the follow to Jesus feeding the multitudes. Jesus says, "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life" and so connects the physical feeding he has done to a spiritual lesson. Jan Richardson has written about this at her art-based reflection blog Painted Prayerbook. Her work of art for this week is above. Her reflection says in part,
Following up on last week’s reading, the gospel lection for this Sunday offers us another image of provision and plenitude that come through Christ. Last week we saw him turn a couple of fish and five loaves of bread into a feast for the masses; this week he talks about his own being as bread: bread of God, bread of heaven, bread of life.

In the wake of last week’s stunning feeding, John tells us that the crowd dogs Jesus’ trail, with the air of people looking for seconds. When they catch up with him, Jesus tells them they are looking for him “not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes,” he cautions them, “but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

Jesus is clear in calling them to discern the difference between what fills the belly and what fills the soul. At the same time, he well understands the ways that the hungers of the body and the hungers of the soul intertwine, and how both are at play when it comes to food. This is, after all, the man who so loved to share a meal—with all sorts of companions—that his critics called him “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7.34). When he wants to convey the essence of who he really is, in word and in action, it is to food, to the gifts of the earth, that Jesus turns. Wheat. Bread. Wine. In his hands, food is more than food; it is an enduring symbol of, and gift from, the one who offers his very being to meet our deepest hunger and our keenest thirst. Yet it is food nonetheless....

I find myself thinking, too, of Simone Weil, who wrote, in her book Waiting for God, “The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry.”

What are you hungry for these days? What does your relationship with food have to say about your relationship with God—and vice versa? Are there meals that hold memories of connection and communion? Do you have habits of eating, or not eating, that reveal a soul-hunger that needs God’s healing?
The full text of her reflection is online here: The Gastronomical Jesus.

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