June 14, 2020

Pentecost 2 - Year A

 

You'll find a video of the entire service at

https://www.facebook.com/StStephensSLO/videos/1090928357971673/

 

Click here for the Worship Booklet  and Hymnal & Psalter for June Sundays after Pentecost.

 

 2020 June14_FrIan

Proper 6 - Year A

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

Today’s OT Lesson and the Gospel both have strong themes about hospitality. In Genesis, Abraham and Sarah offer hospitality to the 3 Visitors; in the Matthew, Jesus provides guidance to the Disciples on how to receive hospitality. Hospitality is fundamental to how we express our faith as Christians, and how we practice our faith in Eucharistic hospitality, and we are living through a time in which opportunities to offer and receive hospitality are all but non-existent. In that respect, the reading from Romans can be read as a prayer for us during Shelter-at-Home as we anticipate being able to gather and share hospitality with friends and family and as the St Stephen’s Family.

 

Christians, unlike our Jewish forebearers, have only one sacred meal: Holy Communion, the Sacrament of Bread and Wine, received as the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by faith. The barriers to receiving Communion are quite high in the Church, which makes it difficult to offer hospitality around our sacred meal to anyone and everyone. So, we offer hospitality in other ways – at church and in our homes – and it usually involves food. So, I want to explore how Christians could and should utilize food when entertaining angels unaware, like Abraham and Sarah did, and when accepting the kindness of others, whether friend or foe, like Jesus instructs the Disciples to.

 

Though not the main thrust of either story, both stories illustrate a few things about how Christians DO use food:

  • Christians use food to draw people in and to help form community.
  • Christians use food to illustrate “plenty” and to celebrate God’s abundance.
  • Christians use food to remind us of Divinity and to foster faith.

Most people probably believe that food is a tool utilized to draw people together.

 

“My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant…Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves.”

 

And Abraham and Sarah brought much more than that!

 

Christians from the early days gathered around a meal. The regular meal was part of their worship, during which they would engage in the Sacramental elements that we now know as The Eucharist, Holy Communion or The Lord’s Supper. Since some people would walk for miles to gather for their fellowship, food and faith practice, these were also forms of refreshment. The commissioning of the Disciples in the Gospel was the beginning of that. I’m not sure how long after Jesus’ Ascension this practice of gathering around meals to remember Jesus started, but what we read today in the Gospel would have been part of the origins of that practice.

 

Nowadays, the Eucharist, our holiest practice, our engagement with the Risen Lord, has been streamlined into somewhere between 55-75min and culminates in a manufactured wafer and a tiny sip of industrially-produced wine. This is really interesting at our Principal Feasts and Holy Days. We have great music, a wonderful and rousing sermon, maybe a visiting preacher. And just as your enthusiasm for God’s greatness in your life and in the world pique and the pinnacle of the service is approaching...you are invited forward…for a piece of “bread” that is 1” in diameter and 1mm thick, and a sip of wine. So much for The Heavenly Banquet! As you know, I’m an advocate for Holy Communion around a shared meal.

 

These stories also point to our use of food to illustrate plenty or abundance. Abraham said he would bring some bread, but Sarah also made cakes, the slave prepared the calf and Abraham brought all that and some curds and milk to the 3 Visitors.

 

In the Gospel, Jesus says, “laborers deserve their food”, which is an indication that the Disciples in their mission would get what they needed to be sustained. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” or, as A New Zealand Prayer Book writes it, “With the bread we need for today, feed us.” But Jesus also illustrates abundance with the Feeding of the 4,000, the Feeding of the 5,000 and the post-Resurrection appearance when the Disciples bring in more fish than they can handle such that they fear that their boat might sink.

 

When we have dinner parties, celebrations at church or celebrations anywhere, there is always plenty of food. Several of you, including Liz, Chris, Gail and Sophia, have cleared out the refrigerator and the freezer in Ramsden Hall Kitchen. That always involves throwing away food that has been in there too long. I recently cleared out the Pantry and donated several thousand packets of sugar, sweetener and creamer to 40 Prado. Why do we have this excess of food? Because we value abundance. Christians use food to illustrate “plenty” and to celebrate God’s abundance.

 

The Collect for Thanksgiving Day underscores our “plenty” and God’s abundance:

 

…we give You thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of Your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need…

 

And in the form of Holy Communion, Christians use food to remind us of Divinity and to foster faith. Of course, times are different, and we haven’t shared in the Eucharist for 3 months. Many of you are longing for that engagement with Jesus in the wafer and sip of wine. I get that, I really do. And when we are back together, not only will we share in the Sacrament, but we will also have a feast! Why? Because Christians use food to draw people in and to form community. Both the Sacrament and a shared meal accomplish that.

 

Genesis and Matthew also teach us how Christians SHOULD use food.

  • First and foremost, I believe that we have a moral imperative to not waste food.
  • Secondly, Christians have a Gospel mandate to share food and do it to give of self.
  • Then, Christians should use food to work toward peace & reconciliation.
  • And last but not least, the use of food within Christianity should be humbling.

I am going to focus on two of those points. The Gospel imperative to share food should be obvious. Using food to promote peace is a separate sermon. The sharing of food as humbling is also something that is clear in today’s readings. Abraham and Sarah didn’t bring the food to the 3 Visitors to show their wealth and status; they shared the food as humble servants of the 3 Visitors. “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.” The Disciples are to receive food as one of the outcomes of their mission and ministry in spreading the Good News of Jesus, not out of their importance or status. It would have been the ultimate humbling to receive food or not in the work they were undertaking.

 

So, with those explained, I want to express my concern for wasting food and to emphasize how Christians are called to share food to give of self.

 

Whether it is the state-subsidized grain stores that are left to rot or the 35¢/$1 that households waste, it is immoral and unethical to waste food. As Christians, we should not waste food for 2 reasons: It is disrespectful as Stewards of the Earth and to those who produce it; and it is disrespectful to those who have none. Even in the Gospel stories about the Feeding of the 4,000 and 5,000, there were leftovers, and they were collected. They were not left to rot or be thrown away. The collection in the baskets is an indication that these were later shared out.

 

From our Jewish history, we have the concept of Tithes – setting aside a tenth of crops and produce for the Levites, the widows, the orphans and the resident aliens. The produce that falls on the ground or is left from the harvester, it is not to be wasted; it is gleaned for the needy and the poor. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to give us what we need. We know that God can provide in abundance. We need to be participants in distributing God’s Abundance, not in hindering its distribution.

 

This is also tied to our Gospel Imperative to share food. Obviously, we share food with friends and family. But it’s more than that. We must share food with the poor, the marginalized and the less fortunate. In Genesis, Abraham and Sarah are feeding the 3 Visitors, whom Christians now believe to have been the Holy Trinity. But in the Gospels, the situation is very different. The Disciples are embarking on their mission with very few personal effects; they will be relying on the good nature of those they meet to provide sustenance. They weren’t beggars, but they were certainly penniless. What is implicit in this story is that Jesus expects those who have plenty to feed those who have none.

 

In both stories, the characters were giving of themselves. Giving of oneself is a noble aim. There are many scriptural lessons on this subject, and many historical and fictional ones. For us as Christians, when Christ gave His life, He did so with food – the basic staples of daily life: Bread and Wine.

 

The harmonious amalgamation of all of this is our Sacred Meal of the Eucharist. It is the central act that Jesus commanded us to do in remembrance of Him,and is now the central act of worship for most Christians. The Eucharist is for rich and poor alike. It is the call of every Christian in the world to be the Stewards of Creation. This food-based event is our commission to go forth, spreading the Gospel and drawing people into this Paschal Mystery.

 

The Eucharist enables, empowers and expects Christians to do all of those things I’ve been talking about:

  • To draw people in and to help form community.
  • To illustrate “plenty” and to celebrate God’s abundance.
  • To remind us of Divinity and to foster faith.
  •  To actively combat waste.
  • To share food, which means to also give of self.
  • To work toward peace and reconciliation.
  • To be humbled.

Through sharing food, Christians are called to share themselves, like Christ shared Himself with us, like Abraham and Sarah shared themselves with the 3 Visitors, and like the Disciples shared themselves as they shared the Good News of Jesus. We are called to break bread and we are called to share ourselves with everyone we meet. When we do, let us know that our food is:

 

A gift of God for the People of God.
[let us] Take and share them in remembrance that Christ died for us,
and [let us] feed on Him in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.

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