9 August 2009/Proper 14B – 1 Kings 19:4-8/Psalm 34: 1-8/ John 6: 35, 41-51
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, Maryland
They Shall Be Taught By God
This is our prayer for today: “…we, who cannot exist without you.” How odd it sounds in a world in which we are expected to be responsible for ourselves. Yet, here is Jesus saying, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me…”
We do not come to faith by ourselves.
We do not come to faith by our own deduction, reasoning or insight.
According to Jesus it is not our religious experience, not our philosophical insight, not the accident of birth or economic status that places us in the realm of Light and Life that is the presence of Jesus within the community of Faith.
We are wooed, invited, even cajoled. We are saved by Grace alone. Amazing grace! Generous grace!
Conversely, we do not save anyone. God does all the saving, thank you. And those of us who have been invited to eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of salvation can only bear witness to the abundance Jesus brings to the hearts and souls and lives of believers.
It has ever been thus. Jesus knows this. Those who, as he says, are “taught by God” are those who know about being drawn, wooed, invited and even cajoled by God!
Look back at the Exodus/Wilderness journey: “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number…but it is because the Lord loves you…” Deut 7:6-8a
Those taught by God remember this: God chooses us only because God loves us.
Nor does God draw us into God’s presence because of anything we do. Just look at Elijah. Elijah has just defeated the Gods of Baal on top of Mount Carmel in a blazing display of God’s power, and yet Jezebel, instead of being impressed and cajoled herself, takes out a contract on Elijah.
Elijah sits beneath a broom tree feeling like a failure. All that he has done seems to count for nothing now that he sits alone, by himself, in hiding. “I am no better than my ancestors!” he cries out. Remember them last week? Wishing to either return to the bondage of slavery in Egypt, or to die in the wilderness? So Elijah also prays, “Lord, take my life away!”
In a culture that values extremes of success, extremes of acquisition, extremes of consumption, it is easy to feel extremes of failure. In a culture that values competition over cooperation, independence over inter-dependence, it is easy to feel utter loneliness, despair, and at the end of one’s rope as we say.
Those of us who are taught by God, however, can remember just how it is that God touches Elijah with an Angel, and gives him bread to eat and water to drink. And as if that were not enough, the Angel returns a second time – providing bread enough for the journey of the next forty days and nights to Mount Horeb, Sinai, the mountain upon which God chooses us because God loves us: the place of making a Covenant with the Lord our God.
Jesus knows that the Psalmist is speaking a life giving truth when we sing, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.”
We who have been deceived, lulled, into notions of evolutionary progress are surprised to learn that we now represent the decline of homo sapiens – a decline from the Stone Age to the present. It is estimated that Paleolithic hunters and gatherers were far more affluent than we are – affluence measured as a ratio between means and ends. Keeping their ends modest, three to five hours of “work” per day was sufficient to meet their needs, leaving the rest of the day for gossiping, entertaining, dancing and even napping - whereas we have willingly consigned ourselves to lives of hard labor. Cited by Huston Smith in Forgotten Truth [Harper One, San Francisco:1976] p.125-127
And looking at what our industry has gotten us, ironically it is an age of unprecedented Hunger. Now in the time of our great technical achievements, starvation has become an institution. The amount of hunger seems to increase relative and absolutely with the “evolution” of culture. Begging the question, is it evolution or devolution? Anthropology or Entropology? ibid
Institutional starvation is just the tip of the iceberg of our modern predicament. William Willimon observes, “Our hungers are deep. We are dying of thirst. We are bundles of seemingly insatiable need, rushing here and there in a vain attempt to assuage our emptiness Our culture is a vast supermarket of desire. Can it be that our bread, our wine, our fulfillment stands before us in the presence of this crucified, resurrected Jew? Can it be that many of our desires are, in the eternal scheme of things, pointless? Might it be true that he IS the bread we need, even though he is rarely the bread we seek? Is it true that God has come to us, miraculously with us, before us, like manna that is miraculously dropped into our wilderness?” Feasting on the Word Vol 3 [Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville: 2009] p.337
Can we adopt any measure of humility and allow God to minister to us? To allow God to draw us near to Jesus? To allow God to teach us, feed us and love us? Not because of what we do or who we are, but “it is because the Lord loves you”?
“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.”