Monday, July 29, 2013

Good Food

Seventh Sunday after Trinity, July 14th, Year of Our + Lord 2013
St. John and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Fairview and Sidney, Montana
Good Food – Genesis 2:7 – 17, Romans 6:19 - 23, Mark 8:1 - 9

     Good Food.  What comes to mind when I say, “Good Food?”  How about a yellowy-pink, just perfectly ripe peach, momentarily firm to your bite, then juicy, sweet flesh melting into your mouth, the dribble running down your chin caught with your finger or your tongue, because every taste is to be cherished. 
     How about a cool, crisp apple, just picked, crunchy and sweet in the fall morning coolness, a noisy delight that pleases your taste and cleans your teeth and promises good health? 
     Or fresh, warm bread, steaming just a little, maybe dinner rolls pulled apart to reveal the delicious, satisfying, happy interior, full of flavor and goodness?  Good Food.   
     The man, made alive by the very breath of God, was given to eat freely from the fruit of the trees of the Garden, every tree except one tree, free to take and eat, and be satisfied, he and his bride, eating Good Food for life, even free to eat the Good Food of Life, the fruit of the Tree of Life.  In those moments of biting into wonderful food, I think we taste just a hint of just how great they had it, of just how good God is, how much He wants to bless us, providing for our daily bread Good Food that gives pure joy. 

     God still desires to bless us with pure joy.  But finding and enjoying Good Food is more complicated, isn’t it?  When it comes to us, we love the sweetness, the crisp crunch, the warm wholesomeness.  But our food is not always so good.  Having tasted some good, we are by that pleasure set up for a small reliving of the Fall, tasted in the disappointment of a dry, pithy peach, good looking on the outside, but upon biting found to be displeasing, almost making us choke as we bite into the coarse, gritty, ruined flesh.  Or the apple with hidden bruises, turned to mush, rotten to the core.  Worst of all of course is biting into an apple and finding only half a worm.  Bread can be wonderful, or it can be stone-hard, or full of fungus, covered in mold, unfit to eat. 

     We know and long for the fresh, delicious and good, but we also know the dry, rotten and ruined.  And not just in our food, also in ourselves.  We know about hunger, a little.  More common for 21st century Americans is when disease or emotional trauma robs you of your appetite, the cancer or the depression turning your body’s signals against you, so that everything is tasteless, inedible.  We know thirst, and we know dry mouth that doesn’t go away even though you drink gallons, and spend half your day in the bathroom.  And there’s the thirst for alcohol that all too often takes over, a thirst you know is killing you, and yet you still long for that drink.  

     We also know fear puts knots in our stomach, driving out physical hunger.  We know physical fear, of violent men, or of heights, or of a thousand other threats, real and perceived.  We know the fear of being found out, the fear of being shamed, exposed, ridiculed.  We know fear for ourselves, and fear for others, because life is fleeting, and fragile, and our fragility frightens us, because we know something about death.  Just this past Monday, Adam Schreibeis, 28 year old son of Pastor and Jo Schreibeis at Trinity Lutheran in Miles City suddenly fell ill and died, victim of a defect, a blood disease he was born with, but never knew about, until it ended his life.  And we in Richland County are reeling from the death on Wednesday of a young woman, Janae Moore, whom many of you watched play basketball for the Lady Eagles, Janae, with whom my daughter played. 

     Indeed, because she loved playing so much, Janae would even come out early in the morning to play basketball with a bunch of old men, a joyful athlete with whom I also played basketball, just a couple Tuesdays ago.  One day, one moment, full of energy and talent and potential, the next, gone.  Adam.  Janae.  And a list of other lives cut short, a list too long for one sermon, the bread of tears all around. 

     And our daily bread of tears is even broader and deeper, is it not?  Even when our fridge is full and our lives are outside the shadow of death, still, we know. Every part of our life is tainted, prone to decay and bitterness.  
     Like Work.  Sometimes work is great, and we rejoice in our vocation.  But sometimes work is monotonous, filled with strife, slowly taking our life from us, 40 or 50 or 70 hours a week. 
     Or Family.  We love our family most of all, and suffer most of all from their sins against us, suffering the most at the hand of those we love, unless we suffer even more from our own guilt for all the wrong we do to them. 
     Marriage.  The one-flesh union of man and wife, created by God to be our closest relationship on earth, also offers the well from which we draw the deepest hurts. 
     Guilt and Shame.  Our personal failures, those known to all, and even worse, those we alone know, and can’t tell anyone.
     Our stomachs churn, not often from physical hunger, but certainly when any of the gifts from the Garden turn moldy and rotten.  And so we hunger for Good Food, for life, real, good life, like God made it.  We think we see it.  We can almost taste it, but cannot not hold onto it.  We hunger for life, for the breath of God, without which, we slowly die.  It all traces back to a piece of fruit, the one that Adam was told, thou shalt not eat.  Adam sinned, for he ate.  The woman, his wife, was deceived, and even though he wasn’t created to be a follower, she led Adam to sin, to take and eat, and so to receive hunger, decay, sadness, and death.  For the wages of sin, as God so clearly told him, is death. 

     Jesus knew you would be starving for life, for Good Food.  Indeed, He started His ministry with hunger, a hunger strike if you will, fasting in the wilderness forty days after His Baptism, fasting and  hungering to strike back at the serpent, to show that One Man would refuse temptation, fasting to join you in your hunger, which He had come to relieve.  Jesus knew you would be starving for Good Food, and so He breathed out on the crowds, speaking and teaching and having compassion.  Jesus breathed, because that’s how we human beings speak, breathing out over our vocal chords. 

     And so Jesus, God in the flesh, breathed out, speaking words of peace, speaking of the Bread of Heaven.  Breathing out, Jesus said:   “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.  And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”  And he asked the 12, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.”  … And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.   And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.  And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

     Jesus sent them away, filled with Good Food, their spirits filled with His Word of Promise, and their stomachs filled with His promise-filled bread.  For the feeding of 4,000 foreshadows the final fulfillment of all God’s promises, the final fulfillment of every hopeful meal recorded in Scripture, the final fulfillment of all of humanity’s deepest needs and hungers.  For having compassion on all people, Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, took Bread, and giving thanks, transformed it into His Supper, the food and drink of everlasting life, the Body broken on the Cross, the Blood poured out to wash away the sins of the world, every sin, from Adam’s first bite, to your latest failing.   Good Food, indeed.

     And so by God’s Spirit, we hear of this Good Food, and we hunger and thirst.  We by God’s grace hunger and thirst for righteousness and forgiveness, for life with God, at His table, forever.  We hunger and thirst for righteousness, that God would fill us with His Good Food, and overcome our sinful flesh’s ongoing desire for the empty food of sin.  We hunger and thirst for righteousness, because we know and believe that Jesus Christ lived to fulfill all righteousness on our behalf, and died to suffer all punishment, in our place.  We hunger and thirst for righteousness, and Jesus feeds us Good Food, giving Himself to us, that He might then turn and give us to His Father. 

     Brothers, what can we do, when the bread of tears enters our life, again?  What can we do, sisters, when our sins and the sins of others gives us knots in our stomachs?  What can we do when the sin that entered into this world through eating leaves us with no appetite for life, no hope for satisfaction, our souls struggling to breathe?  We, the baptized believers in Jesus Christ can come and receive His Good Food, His forgiving meal, His life giving breath, breathed out through His Holy Word.  We can come and bring our spoiled rotten sins, our bread of tears, and confess them, knowing absolutely that God will exchange them for His Good Food of forgiveness. 

     The next time you taste something really special, I pray that you are reminded of Jesus, of His eternal gift of Good Food, prepared for you on His Cross.  Even more, I pray that the Spirit of God would create in you and in me a hunger for God’s Good Food, a daily desire to take and eat of the promises that Christ has made to us, in His Word, and in His Meal.  Taste and see that the Lord is good, and you will hunger no more, nor thirst anymore, forever and ever, Amen. 

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