|15th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 21||September 25, 2011||Proper 21, Year A||Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25:1-8; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32|
|13th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A, Proper 19||September 11, 2011||Sermon, Proper 19, Year A||Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 14:1-12|
|12th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Proper 18||September 4, 2011||Sermon, Proper 18, Year A||Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20|
|10th Sunday After Pentecost – “But who do you say that I am?”||August 21, 2011||Proper 16, Year A||Isaiah 51:1-6; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20|
|9th Sunday after Pentecost Year A – Canaanite Woman||August 14, 2011||Sermon, Proper 15, Year A||Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28|
|8th Sunday after Pentecost, Year A – Peter Gets Out of the Boat||August 7, 2011||Proper 14, Year A||Matthew 14:22-33|
|Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – Feeding of the 5000||July 31, 2011||Proper 13, Year A||Matthew 14:13-21|
|Third Sunday after Pentecost||July 3, 2011||Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, Year A||Zechariah 9:9-12; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30|
|Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Proper 8||June 26, 2011||Second Sunday after Pentecost||Romans 6:12-23; Psalm 89: 1-4, 15-18|
|First Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday||June 19, 2011||First Sunday after Pentecost, Year A||Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20|
|The Day of Pentecost||June 12, 2011||Day of Pentecost||Acts 2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23|
|7th Sunday of Easter -Ascension||June 5, 2011||Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A||Acts 1:6-14; I Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11|
|Sixth Sunday After Easter||May 29, 2011||Sixth Sunday after Easter, Year A||Acts 17:22-31; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14: 15-21|
|Fifth Week in Easter||May 22, 2011||5th Sunday in Easter||Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; I Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14|
|Fourth Sunday in Easter||May 15, 2011||Fourth Sunday in Easter, Year A||John 10:1-10|
Sermon Date:November 24, 2010
Scripture: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; John 6:25-35
Liturgy Calendar: Year C, RCL Thanksgiving
My whole neighborhood is in an ongoing uproar these days.
Total strangers are stopping to talk to each other. Cars cruise slowly around the neighborhood, on the lookout.
And the cause of all this commotion?
The cause of all this commotion is an old hound dog.
You see, this dog is homeless, and he has been roaming our neighborhood for two years now, always at a trot, as if he’s on the way to somewhere else.
At first, we all thought that he was just out for a run, and we didn’t feed him, because we wanted him to go back home. He has a collar, and he looked well fed.
But now, because the pounds are melting off of his body, and his bones are showing, and his collar has rubbed his neck raw and he’s bleeding, all of us have finally figured it out.
This dog is on the go, but this dog has nowhere to go, and he’s slowly starving to death.
And he’s wary and suspicious.
In spite of the fact that he’s starving, and obviously in pain, he won’t let anyone near him.
He won’t even slow down to eat the food that people all over the neighborhood have started leaving out for him.
He just keeps moving, focused on survival, searching for the home that he clearly doesn’t have.
If so many of us feel so concerned about this creature roaming our neighborhood, imagine the compassion and worry that God felt over the cries of his people, living as aliens in the land of Egypt.
The Israelites too were on the go, focused on survival there, trying to carry out the impossible orders of the Egyptians.
Day after day, they toiled away. They didn’t bother to come up with an escape plan. They had nowhere else to go.
Even though they had homes in Egypt, they were homeless, unsettled, in pain, afflicted and oppressed.
And God heard the cries of his people.
And even though they were wary and suspicious, and they were not even sure that they wanted to leave Egypt when the time came, God took action.
God brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders.
God brought the Israelites right to the edge of the Promised Land, and now Moses is talking to them about what life will be like when they cross the Jordan, and finally enter this land that God has given to them,
a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees
a land in which the Israelites will never be hungry again—because God has brought them to the land that will provide all that they need—the Israelites will eat and be full, season after season after season.
God is establishing a covenant with these people, and this land, the earth itself, is an essential part of this covenant.
This is the land that God looks after. The writer of Deuteronomy tells us that God’s eyes are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.
This land is God’s own land, the land of God’s greatest imagination and creation.
We hear in this description of the Promised Land echoes of the Garden of Eden, the garden that God walks in and looks after and has so graciously made a dwelling place for Adam and Eve.
Just as the Garden of Eden was, the Promised Land is complete in God’s eyes, even before God gives the land to the Israelites.
And now, when the Israelites step over into this land that God has given them, they will have the opportunity to become completed, satisfied, to be filled with good things, year after year after year, if they will only live into this covenant with this generous God who loves them so deeply.
How will this story turn out?
Like Adam and Eve before them, who lose the Garden of Eden because of their disobedience to God, the Israelites wander off from God, and ignore the covenant that God has so graciously established with them.
Throughout their story in the Old Testament, we find the Israelites roaming again and again, having been taken away from the Promised Land, on the go with nowhere to go, because they have wandered away from God.
And we, too, are like the Israelites, and we are like that wary and suspicious old hound in my neighborhood.
Surrounded by plenty, we find that we are always on the go, too busy to even see how richly we are blessed, especially this time of
the year, because we have so much to do, we’re on the run, wary of being distracted from our appointed rounds.
And even though we seem well fed on the outside, we start wasting away on the inside.
And often we find ourselves in pain, but we just keep going, suspicious of anyone or anything that might slow us down, offer us help.
But we can have hope!
Because throughout human history, God has never stopped loving us, particularly when we are wasting away, and when we’ve wandered far from home.
And God has never given up on the covenant that God established with human beings—a covenant of God’s design from the beginning—a covenant in which God, God’s creation, and people all exist in a relationship of loving care with one another.
As Christians, we know that like the Israelites, we have not been able to stay in covenant with God and creation, in spite of our many blessings.
So God, who is not about to give up on us, or on the earth, decides to come to us, here on this earth, to live upon it himself, to walk upon this blessed earth as one of us.
God sends Jesus into our midst to witness through his life, death and resurrection that God longs to be in covenant with us so deeply that God would come here, into this very land, to each one of us, to search for us, to follow us, to continue to lay out the food that we need, even as we find ourselves on the run, starving.
The disciples, who have been on the run themselves, crave this food when Jesus tells them about it—the true bread from heaven.
And Jesus is that true bread of heaven, come to be here on this earth as one of us, to give renewed life to the world that God created so long ago, to give renewed life to this earth that God has never stopped loving and watching over.
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said. “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
How do we come, here and now, in this place, to Jesus?
Our lesson from Deuteronomy gives us the following helpful suggestions.
First, take time to open your eyes and see the miracle of this earth, to try to see with God’s eyes, to watch over the earth as God does, to live in relationship with it, knowing that the earth belongs to God, and that the earth itself is part of our covenant with God.
Second, share what you’ve been given by bringing your offerings—and this offering of what God has given us has to be done thoughtfully, in the context of the story of our ongoing relationship with God.
And that ongoing relationship is that God brings us out of the messes we get into, back into awareness of our places, here on this earth, secure in God’s love and care for us, because we are part of the ongoing story of God’s love for all of creation.
Third, God wants us to offer thanks. As we say in our Eucharistic Prayer each Sunday, “it is right to give God thanks and praise.”
And as Rite One so poetically puts it, “ It is right and good, and our bounden duty that we at all times and in all places give thanks to Thee, O Lord, Holy Father, almighty, everlasting God.”
And then at last, having regained our awareness and truly seeing all the blessings of this life, and bringing our offerings to God with thanks and praise,
God tells us to celebrate.
So during this Thanksgiving, slow down.
Acknowledge and celebrate this three way covenant that God has made with us by granting us the gift of life on this earth.
Take time to look around you at this good earth, to see its beauty, truly sense the earth beneath your feet, feel on your face the heat of the sun that lights our days, taste on your tongue the rain that waters the ground.
And with thanks and praise, hold this bread that you will receive tonight in your hand, the true bread from heaven, the body of the One who came to live and die on this earth as one of us, to reconcile us to God, the creator of all things.
Eat this food laid out like a banquet before us now.
Eat this food that feeds us and brings us to our true home, Jesus, the One who gives life to us, and to the world, to the earth itself, this earth, flowing with milk and honey.
And then, go home rejoicing, and celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord has given to you and to your house, season after season, after season.