Questions and Reflections

August 2015

Turned Back [Sermon Manuscript]

[Jesus said]: "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 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.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 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.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

John 6:56-71

Pastor Marc's sermon on the 13th Sunday after Pentecost (August 23, 2015) on John 6:56-71. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 


When was the last time you were introduced to someone new? What did the person doing the introducing actually say? 

My guess is they probably said your name. That’s usually a good start. They might have said how you know each other - something that you share with this new person like a mutual friend or hobby that- and they have might even pointed out some of the awesome things you’ve done. 

But what if, instead of introducing and saying what we’ve done or who we are or who we know - they instead, said, what we’re going to do - what, in the future, we’re going to be known for?

Something like “hey! in two years time, this person is going to be your best friend” or “you’ll hang out tonight but then never see each other again” or “you two are totally going to hit it off and it’s going to be amazing and then - in a year - you’re gonna break their heart?” 

Because that’s exactly how Judas is introduced to us today. He’s one of the twelve, a disciple of Jesus, someone who has been there from the beginning. Today is when Judas first shows up in the Gospel According to John - at the end of Jesus’ long talk about being the bread of life. And this is how Judas is described - as the one who’s going to betray Jesus. 

So what does it mean to betray? 

The other gospels are pretty solid and consistent when they talk about Jesus being betrayed. To betray is to simply do what Judas does: he works with the political and religious authorities, comes up with a plan, and he's there when the police and soldiers arrive. He kisses Jesus as a way to tell the authorities who Jesus is. And he's there when Jesus is arrested and dragged away to be interrogated, tortured, and killed. Judas' betrayal is doing all that he can to have his teacher and friend arrested. 

But that's not the full meaning that John tells. Sure, Judas works with the political and religious authorities. He's there when Jesus is arrested. But Jesus, in John, is always in control. He knows why he's here. He never prays in anguish in the garden, he never asks for this journey to be taken from him. When the soldiers come, Jesus turns himself over. John's Jesus is never anxious. He's knows what's coming up next. He knows that Judas is going to get him arrested. Betrayal, in John, isn’t only about the acts that Judas does against Jesus. Betrayal is bigger, deeper in John - and it has something to do with bread. 

Now, I know, I know. We've been hearing about bread for five weeks now. Even I, someone who usually likes every loaf of bread he meets - even I am kinda getting tired about hearing Jesus talking about bread. So I'm pretty sure that the crowd - the disciples - and the random folks that showed up in the synagogue at Capernaum - they probably were sick of hearing about bread too. But there’s something about bread that is bigger than just the final product. I use to live across the street from a large commercial bakery - one of those store-front kind of places that provided rolls and loaves to all the restaurants, delis, and bodegas in the area. And whenever I was up way too early - or out much too late - I’d stumble by that place when the lights were on and the morning crew was just starting their day. They were mixing and kneading and baking all these loaves that would be served later in the day. And the smell out of that place was incredible - it was just so...warm - fresh - so earthy and honest. Bread is always bigger than a loaf. It’s a process - a network - a web of human hands working in God’s creation to till and grow, grind and mill - everything that goes into that one loaf. Eating bread - like eating everything else - invites one into a relationship with the food and everything that went into creating it, nurturing it, and it puts us in relationship with everyone who brought it into being. When we eat, we live in and with the water, soil, sun, and hands that made this food for us. When we eat - we, in Jesus’ words - abide in all that it stands for and in all the relationships that brought that food into being. 

And that’s what Jesus is inviting the crowd - the disciples - the folks inside Capernaum to do - to abide - to share in that web of relationships that connects all of us to what creates, nurtures, and holds us. 

So, in the gospel according to John, betrayal is more than just turning Jesus in. Betrayal is anything - anything that breaks that promise to abide in Jesus. It’s anything big and small, anything that might separate us from Jesus and from God. Betrayal is turning away from this….God - this creator of everything - who is bigger, stronger, and more mysterious that we could ever imagine. Betrayal is turning away from this God that decided, in Jesus, to abide with us - and to keep abiding with us, even when we betray him - ignore him - forget him. This God doesn’t just love Creation - this God has chosen to live in - to abide - with creation and with us. God chose to love us - even when we share a hurtful word with a friend, even when we let our busy schedule stop us from seeing God, even when we keep creating a world with too many haves and too many have nots, and even as we build walls to keep us from being in an honest, authentic, and equal relationship with each other. Even in all of this - Jesus comes to abide with us. 

This Jesus - who knew that Judas would betray him - who knew that Peter would deny him - who knew that the disciples would run and scatter and that only a faithful few women would show up at his tomb - this Jesus - doesn’t let betrayal be the end of the story. Jesus is introducing his disciples - he’s introducing the crowd - he’s introducing the world - to just what abiding with God and abiding with each other might actually look like. He’s showing that when we abide with each other like Jesus abides with us - the hungry are fed and the resources of the world are multiplied a hundredfold so that everyone is satisfied. He’s showing us that no one is denied the opportunity to be fed - to experience the grace of God - because they are black or white - gay or straight, man or woman, disabled or abled, healthy or sick, old or young. Abiding is about living with rather than against. 

Jesus doesn’t tell the crowd that abiding is easy. He doesn’t talk about people’s struggle ending. He doesn’t say that they’ll never suffer, or that their hardship will end, or that trouble won’t come their way. Jesus doesn’t promise that our Cross won’t come if we follow him. But he does promise that our Cross isn’t what, in the end, is going to define us. Our Cross doesn’t give us value or take our value away. Our Cross doesn’t diminish who we are because our Cross can’t diminish the One who chose to live with us - the one who breaks bread with us - the one who says take and eat to us. The Cross didn’t break Jesus’ love for us and our Cross won’t break Jesus’ hold on us either - because when we’re first introduced into this world and this body of Christ and up until our final introduction when we’re on our way out - we are loved. And God will never betray that. 



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A Reflection on 1 Kings: Solomon opens the Temple

Today's first reading is from 1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43.

Last week, we were at the start of Solomon’s rule. Now, we're at the construction of the first Temple in Jerusalem. We’re skipping over how (and why) Solomon built the temple. Instead, we're watching God entering the sanctuary through through the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark is the large chest that contains the remains of the ten commandments. The commandments were broken when Moses caught the Israelites making a fake god while in the camp. The pieces were gathered up and placed in the ark. The people carried the Ark where ever they went. It went with the army, to to certain families to guard and hold. David strengthened his rule by moving the ark into his capital city. And now, Solomon blesses the Temple by moving the Ark into it. 

But moving the Ark into the Temple doesn’t guarantee God’s presence. Even though it looks like God is moving into the Temple, there's no guarantee that would happen. So Solomon says a prayer. He reminds God of the promises God made to David (see 2 Samuel 7). God promised to be present with the people and Solomon reminds God of what God said. 

Solomon, however, doesn’t limit his prayer to only the promises God made to David. He expands his prayer above, and beyond, the Jewish faith. The Temple isn’t only for Solomon and Jerusalem. The Temple is for all people, including foreigners, strangers, and people who are different. God’s house is never a house just for one kind of people. God’s house includes all people or else it cannot be called a place where God lives. God is a god for everyone, which is sometimes difficult to put into practice. But when we start limiting who God goes to, God has a habit of going where we won't go. Even this limitless God, who can't be contained by all of heaven, lived a human life with people, good and bad, poor, rich, and unwanted. The incarnation, God-with-Us, will always be ahead of us. Our job is to just catch up. 


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A reflection on 1 Kings: Solomon Begins

Today's first reading is from 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

Last week we saw David's son, Absalom, leading a revolt against his father. Absalom is killed and David mourns. David's final years as king were filled with wars, revolts, and violence against family members. But his time as king is now over. He goes to sleep with his ancestors (which is just "bible speak" to mean he died of old age or illness rather than by violence). His heir is Solomon and Solomon, in verses we don't hear, secures his control over the throne. He eliminates his political enemies (including a brother), marries a daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh, and heads to Gibeon to worship at a one of Israel's many holy places. 

It's important to remember that Solomon isn't David's first born. David had many wives and many sons so there's no straight formula for secession (though typically the eldest son is made king). But Solomon has an advantage the others don't: his mom is Bathsheba. With God's help and her own cunning, she propels Solomon to the throne. And she's why we find Solomon today meeting God in a dream.

But instead of focusing on Solomon, let's focus on God. Part of God's character is revealed in today's text. Solomon makes a grand sacrifice and, in a dream, asks God how he can lead. He's new to a secured throne and he needs helps. And God listens. Instead of demanding Solomon to fit a specific pattern or to follow a certain recipe to guarantee God's love, God does something different. God takes Solomon for who Solomon is. Solomon is new to the throne so God promises to be in relationship with Solomon throughout his journeys. As Solomon finds himself in new places, with new responsibilities, and new duties, God promises to grant him the spiritual gifts he needs to thrive. Our gifts change because we, and our situations, change. The spiritual gifts that work for us when we're 17 are not the only gifts we need when we're 67. God promises a relationship where change is part of the plan. Because love isn't afraid of change. God understands that we won't remain the same. But God's love for us will always be there, no matter where our journeys take us. 


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Meatspace [Sermon Manuscript]

[Jesus said:] "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.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “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. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 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.”

John 6:51-58

Pastor Marc's sermon on the 11th Sunday After Pentecost (August 16, 2015) on John 6:51-58. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 


So - as you can see from the art behind me and out in the narthex - we had Vacation Bible School this week. 16 kids, half a dozen adults, five youth helpers, art, crafts, songs, and snacks - we had it all. We started each morning here, up front, in the sanctuary. And after a short time of worship, we headed through that side hallway into our two classrooms. Now, those rooms are our parent and infant room and the nursery, usually ready to welcome any infant or child who needs a minute before they come back to worship. So the rooms are covered in murals, pictures, and even stickers depicting a few of our more epic bible stories. Our own Lois Hainsselin’s vision of the animals heading into Noah’s ark is awesome. We gathered in these rooms, sharing stories about Mary, Martha, and Jesus for the entire week - all while under the watchful eyes of these images. The kids couldn’t help but notice them. And then they started asking questions - like who’s that? Why is there a whale up there with a person inside? And why is their a unicorn on that ark?

But my favorite question of the whole week was one that I didn’t have an answer to at first. Some of the kids saw that big image of Noah’s ark - and they asked me: what’s Noah’s wife’s name? 

Think about it. We know about Noah. We know about his sons. But the name of Noah’s wife isn’t on the tip of our tongues. And if we turn to the story of Noah and the flood, her name isn’t recorded. Her name actually isn’t in the bible. Now, overtime, she was given a name. They’re all listed on Wikipedia. She’s known as Emzra, Hayek, Barthenos, or Naamah. She’s given many names but in the actual text, she’s nameless. She’s only know as Noah’s wife.That raises some hard questions. Why is her name not included? Why was her name not passed down? Why was her voice, her perspective, not included in Scripture? When we start to dig into God’s story, getting into meat of God’s word, we can find really beautiful things - and also discover questions that might unnerve and concern us. We’re forced to engage - fully - with the whole of God’s story - with the details that are included and the details that are left out. 

Today’s gospel reading is, again, from John chapter 6. We’re in the fourth week of our five week journey in this chapter that started with Jesus feeding 5000 people. But since then, there’s been a lot of talking. Jesus keeps spouting words about, heaven, eternity, and something about being the bread of life. Now, bread of life is a pretty good slogan. I can kind of visualize seeing that as some kind of marketing tagline - like maybe on the side of a donkey as it passes through town, with this big banner saying, JESUS: Bread of Life. There’s something reassuring about that phrase. Bread - straight out of the oven - warm - a nice crust - a loaf like that might bring back memories of amazing dinners, awesome thanksgivings, or just a vision of what an authentic home should be like. Bread, if we can eat it, just feels safe. So Jesus: the bread of life. I can believe that. 

But whenever we start feeling safe - start feeling comfortable - Jesus seems to throw some kind of wrench in there. And today, in our first verse, Jesus just has to make things awkward and starts talking about flesh. He moves from what’s safe - what’s comfortable - what can be kept clean - and moves straight into flesh. Straight into meat. Into what our bodies are made of. He’s talking about the muscle on our arms. The junk on our belly. The parts that jiggle more than we wish they did. Jesus starts talking like Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant in Venice or like one of the undead extras in a b-rated Zombie film. There’s nothing clean or gentle or safe about what Jesus is talking about here. He’s talking about what physically make us who we are - the meat, the bones, the blood, and the guts. Jesus moves from bread to flesh. 


And it gets worse. Because Jesus seems to double down on this eating flesh thing. Our translation today sort of misses that. When the crowd hears what Jesus is asking them to do, they’re kind of weirded out. They wonder how Jesus can give them flesh to eat. But that phrase “to eat,” in the biblical greek, is the polite way to say “to eat.” It’s like when I open my fridge, stare inside at the piles of food, and complain that there’s nothing to eat. Now, I’m talking about eating - but it’s almost rhetorical. Or if we’re asking someone out on a date, asking them to go grab a bite to eat, we tend to use the phrase “to eat” in a safe, comforting, clean way possible. We’re not pointing at the messiness that comes from actually eating. 

But Jesus does. In verse 53, Jesus changes the polite. The “to eat” there is all about the physical nature of eating. It’s like when we devor a watermelon at a picnic or tear into some babyback ribs or splurp an unbelievable bowl of pho - we grab onto that food. We taste it, smell it - we feel it. We’re invested into it. That’s eating. That’s connecting with what’s in front of us. That’s running the risk of doing something unsafe, something new, something we haven’t done before. Trying a new cuisine, finding some other culture’s comfort food or stew - that thing where our friends say “don’t ask what’s in it - just try it - it’s good!” The physical part of eating makes us vulnerable but it’s also what makes that connection to our food so amazing. Jesus isn’t asking us to just be polite when it comes to meeting him; Jesus is asking us to go all in, to get physical, and to not play it safe. When we encounter Jesus - we’re not getting a savior who plays it safe; who only desires what’s comfortable; and who only meets us when we’re safe. Jesus isn’t offering the crowd bread. He’s offering flesh. He’s offering an encounter with God that is so physical, so real, so human - that it can’t be anything but uncomfortable and risky. Because when God walks the earth, when Jesus decides that it’s worth living like we do, Jesus doesn’t come to play it safe. 

When we look at our stories - it’s easy to get too comfortable with them. It’s easy to settle into that safety - to see the Ark with the animals, two-by-two; to see Noah, his sons, and their wives - and not see the storm they rode through. It’s easy to remember Noah and forget his wife. It’s easy to even forget to wonder if she even had a name. 

But Jesus doesn’t ask us to play it safe. Jesus doesn’t ask us to stay in comfort. He calls us to spot the uncomfortable thing; to spot the nameless women, to hear the unheard voices. Jesus invites us to look for the flesh - for the meat, for those uncleaned places, and to get right in there. We’re to ask the uncomfortable questions, to seek the uncomfortable answers, and to bring a light to the dark places inside our lives and in our world. Jesus invites us to dig into the space we are in, to find the meat of our lives, of the lives of our neighbors, and of the lives of the strangers God has called us to love. The questions we ask might not be pleasant; the stories we hear might challenge and change who we are. We might find ourselves not believing what we’re hearing now - or what we heard before. But we don’t go into these places alone. We don’t listen to these stories by ourselves. We don’t find the people who don’t look like us, talk like us, or watch the same news shows like us expecting them to become like us. We go into different spaces because Jesus came into our space. We walk new roads because Jesus walked ours. We offer our flesh to those who hunger for justice, health, and love because Jesus gives us his flesh first. We don’t settle for comfort because Jesus isn’t here for comfort; he’s here to love. He’s here to nourish. He’s here to invites us to his table, to say “take and eat,” because as we join with him, he joins with us, just as we are, to give us, and everyone else, life.



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A reflection on 2 Samuel 18: David vs Absalom's Revolt

A reflection on 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

A month ago, I met with the Woodcliff Lake Police Department. I was doing a ride-along, touring the jail, meeting officers, and taking a ride with an officer during a patrol. When I asked my ride-along partner about challenges in the community, I heard four things. The heroin epidemic is real and police officers recently started carrying Narcan to treat Heroin overdoses. The department is struggling interacting with folks suffering mental illness. The officer was glad to share that he feels that drunk driving incidents have dropped in the 20 years he's been on the force. But he did mention one issue, off the cuff, that is always in his work. This issue has been consistent in quantity, and intensity, for 20 years, crossing all races, backgrounds, and whether someone is rich or not. He was talking about domestic violence. 

The story we read in 2 Samuel today is an attempt by the lectionary to condense 6 action-packed chapters into one short reading. Sexual and domestic violence (again) is tearing David's family apart. David's eldest son, Amnon, raped his half-sister Tamar. David refuses to punish Amnon so Absalom, another of David's sons, kills Amnon. Absalom flees but returns at David's request. Absalom, however, doesn't remain quiet. He raises an army, claiming he can be a better king than his father, and drives David out of the country. However, to cement his claim as king, Absalom commits his own sexual violence on David's concubines. David responds by sending his generals to defeat Absalom, asking them (in today's verse 5), to not kill his son. Joab doesn't take David's word seriously and, after Absalom's army is defeated, Absalom is killed. David, once again, loses a son. The cycle of violence continues devouring his family, countless soldiers, bystanders, and women. 

David's story is a difficult story because it is an honest story. Domestic and sexual violence is a reality that too many deal with everyday. The violence cycle passes from generation to generation, with children inheriting the violence of their parents. The church struggles with how to address this. Culturally, it sometimes feels like we just have to accept this reality as "the way it is." But I don't believe the story is recorded in scripture for our mere acceptance. David's story does what the gospel does: bringing light to the stories we ignore or are in darkness. This reality isn't what God wants and we're called to stop the cycle of David's violence. We're called to be like the king David - Jesus. We're invited to change our society so that the cycle of violence ends, domestic and sexual violence committed by men is stopped, and for all victims of this violence find healing, wholeness, community, and hope.


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Work, God, Work [Sermon Manuscript]

So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

John 6:24-35

Pastor Marc's sermon on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost(August 2, 2015) on John 6:24-35. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below. 


Did you notice that the disciples aren’t in today’s gospel reading? 

Now usually, the disciples are everywhere. They’re following Jesus, doing what Jesus tells them to do, and also totally not understanding what Jesus is actually saying. But they’re always there, hanging out with Jesus before the crowds arrive and after the last person leaves. Even last week, when we started our five week journey into John chapter 6, the disciples were there. They’re there when Jesus feeds the crowd. And they’re there when a wind comes up and threatens to sink their boat. But now, there’s nothing in today’s text that says the disciples were there. So let’s say, for today at least, that they’re not. They’re not with Jesus when he crosses to the other side of the sea. They’re not there when he’s teaching and preaching in the area around Capernaum. Instead, Jesus is alone - with this crowd. And, today, we’re part of that crowd. We’re part of that 5000 - those men, women, boys and girls - who crossed the sea - to chase down Jesus. 

Now, we’re an interesting bunch. We’re here because, in our towns, and villages - in the marketplaces and in the fields - we heard rumors that there was this...Jesus….doing amazing things. He’s curing the sick! Casting out demons! Preaching and teaching, like one of those holy people we’ve heard about. So we came - some on our own, others with friends, still more with their families - to see if we could find him. We all had our own reasons why we came. You might be sick and looking for a cure. Maybe you’ve been cast out from your family and friends because of who you are or what you were born with. You might have done something - or not done something - and it’s been weighing on you for years. Or maybe you hurt. Or maybe you’re just curious because, honestly, we don’t meet holy folks every day. But, did we find Jesus. 

And it was awesome.

There he was. A little shorter than we thought. Not as strong either. But we found him, surrounded by these twelve guys, some women, and this...growing crowd. As he sat and taught, talking about the kingdom of God and what God wants for the world - more and more people showed up. It’s like the more he share  - the more he loved - the more people came. Pretty soon, this picnic in the countryside grew into this outdoor festival. But no one remembered to bring any food - except for this one kid - with five barley loaves and two fishes. And I know we heard this story last week - but it’s still amazing - because he fed all of us. And even though the food came from things we don’t like to eat - it tasted really good. There were even leftovers. If we hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have believed it. Because, really, who would believe a story like that? 

Then this word got out - I don’t know who started it - but it passed from person to person. As the food kept flowing - and as people kept going up to this Jesus and getting healed - and as he kept talking about God’s kingdom - we tried to make him a king. Not since David, before he took Bathsheba, or since Moses, when he was leading the people during the Exodus, had someone - had anyone - provided like Jesus did. Jesus wasn’t taking anything from us. He wasn’t taking our land, our money, our crops to serve some Empire that lived half-a-world away. No, Jesus just gave. And he gave in abundance. So we tried to grab him. We really, really, tried. But as we tried to make him king - he ran. He slipped out. He went into the mountains. And we couldn’t find him. 

Now, we searched. All 5000 of us - we tried to find that food again; tried to find that provider again. We stumbled onto some boats in the sea but they were empty. We even lost his disciples. But finally someone heard that Jesus was on the other side of the sea. So we boarded boats, headed over, and we found him - alone; by himself. So we pressed in on him - because this is someone that can heal; someone that can cure; someone that can bring peace. And we need to be fed. 

Now, G., is a kid who likes to be fed. He’s really into cheerios, ground meat, cheese - but he’s not really feeling blueberries or other solid fruits quite yet - we’re working on it. He does love bread though. He loves to gnaw on bread, chew on bread, throw it around, and sometimes he purposefully drops it so our little dog can have a snack too. G. is, at 10 months, learning not only how to eat; he's also learning what it means to be fed.

And as he gets older, he's going to start to figure out where bread comes from. He'll visit the store, the bakery, he’ll watch the loaves bake, and come out piping hot. He’ll learn what a baker is, and watch them work - taking ingredients, kneading and mixing the dough. G. will discover that there are things called farms and tractors; places where fields are covered in miles and miles of wheat. G. will discover that bread doesn't just happen. It takes time and energy, plants and trucks, farmers and bakers and grocery store stockers- to make bread happen. And then all of this needs to happen again and again, for G. to be given his daily bread. G. is experiencing bread. He’s starting to know bread. And, through Jesus, through baptism, G. is going to start being that bread for the world.  

The crowd came looking for Jesus because they wanted a king who would fill all their needs in the way they wanted them to be filled. But Jesus is pushing them to see how they can be God's bread for the world; nourishing people, healing people, bringing people together and making sure no one is forgotten, ignored, or left to suffer alone. Jesus is telling them that God is here; that God really does love the world: and that God has the guts to live the kind of life we, as human beings, have to live. The crowd wanted a Jesus who would work their miracles on their terms. And Jesus is telling the crowd that God has more in store for them that what they can imagine. What Jesus is talking about is relationship. He’s talking about what happens when we’re living with, and in, this God who loves this world. He’s talking about bread - and all of that makes bread bread - from the grain of wheat, to the cultivated fields, to the farmers and bakers and the busboy bringing that basket of bread to the table before the main course is served. Jesus isn’t asking us to focus only on that final product but, instead, to see the relationship; to focus on the journey together that leads us to where his bread is. Because God doesn’t only care about the end. God cares about the beginning and middle too. God cares about the relationship because, in the relationship, bread is made. In the relationship, ties are formed. In the relationship, we’re able to discover our neighbors in need and feed them. And, in relationship, when we’re in need, we have people we can turn to.  When we’re in a relationship with Jesus, we get to discover just who Jesus is and Jesus gets to discover just who we are too. The real miracle - is that once Jesus discovers who we are, Jesus doesn’t run away. Jesus doesn’t reject us. Jesus doesn’t let us be lost in the crowd. Instead, no matter where we are on our journey, no matter our age, our schooling, our wealth, or our social class - instead of turning away, Jesus says take and eat. Instead of turning away, Jesus feeds. And as G. is going to discover - and as we who are older struggle with everyday - Jesus never stops feeding, even if we can’t always recognize it. Because that’s what being the bread of life means. That bread can never stop feeding. That’s Jesus’s promise to G.. That’s Jesus’s promise to us. And as Jesus promises to us - to all of us in crowd - well - that’s what we promise to those around us, too. 



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Reflection on 2 Samuel: David and Nathan

Our First Reading is from 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a.

The story of David's violence continues this week and today's last verse comes quick. Nathan, a prophet, arrives at David's house and tells a story. David, not realizing that the story is about him, believes that the villain in the story should be punished. He convicts himself. Nathan quickly condemns David for his taking of Bathsheba. David, in a moment of realization and truth, quickly confesses. And then, in just a few words, Nathan absolves him. This absolution feels a little too quick.

But maybe that quickness is part of the point. God's forgiveness can only happen quickly. It trumps our expectations or even our ability to ask for it. Just as God can create the world in an instant, so can God grant forgiveness in an instant as well. God's love comes suddenly and powerfully. 

Yet God's forgiveness doesn't mean that the consequence of David's actions are washed away. The story of David's life after this point is full of death, violence, and rebellion. More women are attacked and David's own sons turn against him. Violence, instead of life, is the hallmark of the rest of David's kingdom. 

When we forgive others, we don't invite the community or others to forget what happened. The consequences of hurtful actions still linger and these consequences need to come about. Forgiveness doesn't focus on consequences; it instead focuses on life. Forgiveness provides the space where we can embrace God's future rather than our past. Forgiveness can come quickly or take years to develop and no one is allowed to tell others how, or when, they should forgive. God forgives David quickly because God is a God of life. God refuses to be focused on death and brokenness. God, instead, embraces life and new possibilities. With God's help, and God's grace, we might be able to embrace those new possibilities too.  


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