In times like these, who feels like giving thanks? Showing grief, yes; expressing anger, yes; being afraid, yes;
but being grateful, no, or at the lest, probably not! These are not days for a National Day of Thanksgiving, and yet, when we listen to the Scriptures for this last Sunday in the year of the church, we hear reasons for being thankful for three kinds of bread, three reasons that push through and win out over grief and anger and fear.
Listen again to the words of the Praise Psalm that the Hebrew people sang on their way to worship in the temple in Jerusalem:
Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
The song Jews chant to this day and we Christians join them in singing, even though the temple was reduced to rubble in 70 AD, and to this day there is no temple to process to and enter.
Yet we know the earth itself yields reasons to be grateful.
The British actor, playwright, and humorist, Douglas William Jerrold, is known for saying:
“Tickle the earth with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.”
A blog (desperatelyseekingseersucker) that posts the writer’s photo but not her name tells about her buying a seed pack promising to yield all the garden ingredients for salsa. After a week sprouts began to appear in the container placed on her kitchen windowsill, later transferred to pots, and then the ground, where they produced with an abundance that prompts the whimsical question:
“Why lock your car door in a parking lot in the summer?”
“So you won’t come out and find it filled with
Seriously, we who are created by God to be God’s people are like sheep grazing in lush pastures that give us the reason to sing out with a joyful noise at the time of the harvest,
“The earth has yielded its increase, God, our God, has blessed
us! (Psalm 67: 6); blessed us with the foods we commonly call bread:
the BREAD OF THE HARVEST.
In the fall of each year the American Bible Society reminds us to give thanks for a second kind of bread:
the “bread” of the Bible.
The “bread” that’s needed now to feed the grieving and the angry, the searchers and the scoffers;
the Bread of the Bible that’s not a scissors-and-paste version trimmed to suit a reader’s tastes,
nor a come-on to twist its words into a calendar to predict a day of destruction and use that fear to call people to faith,
but the whole Bread of the Bible that is God’s gift meant to be opened and tasted and savored as food for our soul’s needs.
A wife returned home from a church meeting and her husband from a class he was teaching to feel that something tragic had happened and it had. (www.gideons.org/ChangedLives/ChangedLives)
They found that their son had taken his life, leaving them with an emptiness they could not find words to describe nor could
well-meaning friends fill.
A little New Testament given out on a cold winter night to students walking across campus 23 years ago was what spoke to them.
In its pages they found the words of hope that sustained them,
words like the ones we heard today:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
The “bread” of the Bible than never turns stale;
the “bread” that prompts a “Prayer before the Scripture” so that when we open its pages to read the lessons for the day we are reminded of the reasons we have to give thanks for this second kind of bread: the BREAD OF THE BIBLE.
On this Last Sunday in the year of the Church we reach a crescendo of thanks for the third kind of bread:
the “Bread” of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of appeals to shop in a time when the economy needs profits,
nd buying promises the hype to give a lift to these dark, fear-filled days,
we listen in on a conversation between a first century Roman official
who had the power to pronounce the sentence of death on anyone who
intended to bring down the emperor who was hailed as god on earth,
thus, Pilate interrogating question, “So you are a king?”
to which Jesus responded:
“You say that I am a king.
For this I was born, and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
The TRUTH that Christ is the embodiment of a servant-king whose kingdom is not of this world, but of God - Who is already working to make all things new, a God whose ultimate, universal, and eternal rule is already happening in what Paul called the “little colony of heaven on earh” – the church –
those in whom Christ, the Living Bread, nourishing them to grow into His likeness.
Facebook has been showing how this “Bread” called Christ nurtures a Christ-like , God-already-present life in a husband’s message after his wife’s death in Paris’ Isis attacks: (Antoine Leiris)
“On Friday night you stole away the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred…
If the God for whom you killed so blindly made us in his image, each bullet in my wife’s body would have been a wound in (God’s) heart.
Therefore, I will not give you the gift of hating you…
responding to you with anger would be to give in to the same
ignorance that has made you what you are…
Now I am devastated with grief, I will give you that victory.
But this will be a short time grief…I know that we will find each other again in the paradise of free souls.
Every day my little boy will insult you with happiness and
freedom, because you do not have his hatred either.”
The faith of a father who is feeding his grieving soul on the “TRUTH”
Martin Luther put into words when wars were raging within him and around him:
“And though this world with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.” –
The Truth that Christ is the “bread” that nurtures His servant-life in all who receive Him,
God’s “little colony of heaven on earth,”
a long procession of individuals who are His already-present kingdom seen moving through Christian history,
into our time.
Look around and see celebrated individuals and countless ordinary women and men, yes, and you and me,
who are testifying to the truth that “has come into the world” in Christ, the Servant King,
Who is nurturing His followers and His
enemies, and all who have not yet heard His name,
into His Christ-like life that is not of this world.
On this Christ the King Sunday we give thanks for this third kind of bread: the BREAD of CHRIST,
and we shout in joy: “Thanks be to God!” Amen!