Bread – Responsibility

November 16, 2016


Psalm 41

“Blessed is the one who considers the poor!”  Ps. 41:1

In my political circles, liberty is quite often spoken about, as well as individual responsibility.  And, yet, how many of us who claim to be Christian actually considers the poor?

What I mean by this is not promotion of social programs which create so-called “safety nets” or which provide “sustenance” living to the poor, whether that living be by way of food, transportation, shelter, or cell phones.  It is very easy to be righteous with someone else’s money.  I can be gracious and spend tons of money through hundreds of “programs” designed to “take care of” the poor, if it is your money I am spending.  The fact is, our “Christian” endeavors often find their way to influencing our government to do for others (and therefore for us) what we should be doing ourselves.

When I vote for a government program to feed the poor, I can say with a straight face (at least to myself and others, but probably not to God) that I “considered the poor,” while not having spent either time or treasure in doing so.

What is the chicken and what is the egg?  Do we have government programs because Christians have not exercised their responsibility to consider the poor, even within their own congregations?  Or have Christians become weak in their consideration of the poor because it is so easy to say, “Oh, they’ll handle it,” or “Oh, we have a government program for that.”

Perhaps worse, I have focused this discussion so far on things, on money and financial support.  But what about love, the kind of love which causes us to depart from our agenda and listen to someone else?  What do we do to put ourselves in the place of the poor where we can engage them as brothers and sisters, either in Christ or needing Christ?

Well, we all sin and fall short and I definitely come within the category of “all” on this one.  If you do a self-assessment, you probably do too.

Why are those who consider the poor blessed?  Is it because they have obeyed and are therefore rewarded?  I think not.  I think it has more to do with baskets.  If I take what is in my basket and give it to someone else, I now have an empty basket for the Lord to fill – and we call that filling a blessing.  If my basket is already full with stuff which I claim is mine, then where is the room for the blessing?

We are coming upon times of the year when we are acutely aware of our blessings.  Let’s give them away to someone else so that we will become even more acutely aware of how truly dependent we are upon Him Who creates, Who reigns, Who saves, and Who supplies our every need.  Let us make room to receive our blessing by being a blessing to others who need it more.

Let us consider the poor.

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© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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Bread – Lunch

March 26, 2013


Readings for Tuesday, March 26, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 15:10-21; Phil. 3:15-21; John 12:20-26; Psalms 6,12,94

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Today “Bread” lives up to its name because we are going to talk about lunch.

From our reading today in the prophecy of Jeremiah: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Jer. 15:16

Jeremiah “found” God’s word written (Scripture) and he “ate them” for lunch. (The lunch part I added).

I am reminded of a commercial a long time ago where the worker in his hard hat opens his lunch box, takes out his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and gets this smile on his face as he tastes the goodness and appreciates the person at home who packed his lunch for him. Inside the lunch box of course was some treasure, like a yellow cream-filled cake wrapped in cellophane. Satisfied, the man went back to work after gulping something like a soft drink, juice, or milk. Not sure what they were advertising, but it sure made me want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or go get one of those yellow things.

Let’s break this commercial into its elements. First, someone had to package the lunch box and put food in it. Luckily for us, God has already done that with the Bible. The Bible is a container which holds God’s written revelation to us, His words He would have us eat, savor, digest, and use to our good health. The food was put into the lunchbox with loving hands, hands which would have us live freely and victoriously in Christ.

Second, the worker has to take the lunch box with him to work.

Third, the worker has to stop for lunch.

Fourth, the worker has to take the time to open the lunchbox and remove its contents.

Finally, the worker has to take enough time with lunch to enjoy the food.

The questions are obvious. Do you have your lunchbox with you today? Are you going to take the time to have lunch? If you are going to take the time to have lunch, are you eating the food of the world or God’s words, His food? If you are taking the time to open Scripture for lunch, are you taking the time to savor and digest it? Are you slamming down the feast which God has prepared, or are you savoring each morsel, dwelling over each word and phrase, giving time to you and to the Holy Spirit to open your mind and heart to the message which God has for you at that moment?

Jeremiah says “…and Your words became to me a joy…” Notice that Jeremiah does not say “were” a joy, but “became” a joy. We know that the words of God can sometimes comfort, but oftentimes also convict. Sometimes the words of God take us to the mountain and other times they take us to the valley. The words of God become a joy because, while eating lunch with God we are in communion with Him. While we read and think upon what God has to say to us, we are saying something to Him – we trust You, we love You, we worship You, we bow down before You, we listen to You, we follow You, we give thanks to You, we acknowledge Your presence, we recognize Your grace and providence in our lives, … We become joyful as we eat our lunch because one of God’s gifts to us through His Word, His Son, His redemption, His power, and His grace is joy. We become healthier as we eat God’s lunch.

We Christians often seem to be lacking in basic joy. Maybe it is because we do not find God’s words and eat them. Maybe it is because we don’t take time for lunch.

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Ingratitude

March 2, 2012


Readings for Friday, March 2, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 40:1-23; 1 Cor. 3:16-23; Mark 2:13-22; Psalms 40, 51, 54, 95

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In our reading from Genesis today, we have the familiar history lesson of the king’s cupbearer and baker thrown into prison by an irritated king, only to meet Joseph who is assigned to their care and who interprets their dreams for them. He interprets the cupbearer’s dream to mean that in the three days the cupbearer will be free; therefore, Joseph asks the cupbearer, when he is free, to speak kindly of Joseph to the king so that the king will remember Joseph and let him, Joseph, out of jail too. Our reading concludes “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” Gen. 40:23

There are at least three instances of ingratitude in this lesson. The first is that the king was ungrateful for the service his cupbearer and baker had given him. We don’t know why, but somehow they “offended their master” and were whisked off to prison for the offense. The second is that both the cupbearer and the baker were ungrateful to Joseph for the care they were going to receive from him. Sort of lost in the shuffle of the story is this line – “The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.” Gen. 40:4. Joseph acted as their servant in prison, taking care of them. Nowhere in the rendition is there a “thank you” for this service. It may have just been left out, but given the history of these people, chances are it never occurred so there was nothing to report. The third instance, of course, is that the cupbearer ignored Joseph once the cupbearer had achieved his freedom.

The only person who appears to not be ungrateful (or, to state it more positively, the only person who appears to be grateful) is Joseph, and he was on the bottom of the stack. He was neither the king nor the king’s officers (the cupbearer and the baker) nor the jailer, but from the bottom of life, from the role of the imprisoned servant, he served them all. And yet he was grateful, and everyone else (except maybe the jailer, we don’t know anything about him from this reading today) is ungrateful. Just from this observation alone, it would appear that gratitude is associated with imprisonment and poverty and ingratitude is associated with wealth and power.

This observation actually lines up with our own. We who are among the wealthiest and most powerful in the world are the most ungrateful and demanding. Anyone who has been anywhere there is abject poverty experiences unvarnished gratitude for the littlest things. In a moment I will never forget, I saw a Peruvian eight year old child take a single cookie given to him by the bishop and break it up into pieces to share with four other children and me, before he ate anything. You and I both know that the average American child of the same age would swallow the cookie whole and then ask where the other ones were.

Folks, we are in the season of preparation for the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Some of us call that season “Lent.” We need every day of that season to even begin to strip away our shell of superiority, of self-reliance, of selfishness, of pride, of ingratitude. We have been given the greatest gift of all, the give of life forever, and we are ungrateful.

We are all the cupbearer in this story. We have had our ups and downs. Sometimes we have been the king’s officer and sometimes we have been banished. Sometimes we have been in the prison of bad health, bad economics, bad thinking, or bad something else and we have found our way out of that prison back to health, back to wealth, back to power, back to life as we want it. Wherever we are, do we forget what got us there, do we forget what service or grace was given us by those who have helped us, by those who have saved us? Are we ungrateful?

So where do we begin? How do we learn to give thanks for what we have been given?

Well, in today’s other lesson from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we may have a starting point. The first sentence of that reading is “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16

Are we grateful for the body God has given us, which His Spirit now occupies? How do we show it in what we take through our eyes, our ears, and our mouth? By the radio station I listen to, am I showing gratitude to God or not? By the books I read, am I showing gratitude to God or not? By the quality of food that I eat, am I showing gratitude or not?

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Bread – Peace

December 20, 2010


Readings for Monday, December 20, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 11:1-9; Rev. 20:1-10; John 5:30-47; Psalms 61, 62, 112, 115

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Many Christmas cards are being and have been mailed which contain the word “Peace.” Indeed, “peace” is something we so much strive for and wish for that we stretch mightily toward living at peace, only to crash and burn when someone irritates us, like the shopper who gets to the last popcorn popper before we do.

We laugh at that image, but we should cry because we have turned the time of focus on the eternal blessing of God’s mercy in His son Jesus Christ, a time of eternal peace, into a time of striving, of jostling for position, of one-upsmanship, of war. We have done and are doing what the world always does – we take God’s Word, His Son, His love, His opportunity for victory, His life, His peace – and turn it upside down.

Today’s reading from Isaiah says in part: “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Isa. 11:9

Do you want peace in this season of anxiety? The solution to your want is contained in Isaiah’s prophecy.

If you want to be in the position mentally, emotionally, and soulfully where peace is actually obtainable, where you “neither harm nor destroy,” three things are essential according to this sentence from Isaiah. The first is to be in the right place – on God’s holy mountain. The second is to be well fed – full of the knowledge of the Lord. The third is to have the right clothes, as the waters cover the sea.

Regarding the place, one might be inclined to say that God’s holy mountain is just that, the mountain where the Ten Commandments was given. Perhaps it means the tabernacle, where God was present to meet with His people, represented today by our modern churches and sanctuaries. We understand, though, as Christians that we walk around with God’s holy mountain inside of us, because the temple of the Holy Spirit is within us, is our body. However, although God may be always present, whether He is accessible by us today is, to a large extent, whether we are willing to recognize that we are always in the presence of the Almighty in His holy temple, on His holy mountain, and that our only proper place before God is on our knees and our face. Peace begins when we realize that, when we are on God’s holy mountain, we do not need to be trying to share the throne, but we need to be living “in the delight in the fear of the Lord.” Isa. 11:3a.

The second element of living in peace is to be content, being well fed. For folks like me, I immediately jump to the conclusion that being well fed means living with the Scriptures, for “man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matt. 4:4 However, Jesus has a warning to us about that in today’s readings, saying “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.” John 5:39-40. It is not enough to know God’s Word through the mind; one must know God’s Living Word in Jesus Christ to have life, to be full, to have peace.

The third element of living in peace is to be dressed properly. We know how to dress to go out on a date in the evening. We know how to dress to go hunting. We know how to dress to play basketball. We know how to dress to go swimming. We know how to dress if we live in North Dakota in the winter. How come we don’t know how to dress to live in peace? The “How” is contained in Isaiah when he says “full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Isa. 11:9b. There are two points here. The first is that the “full of knowledge” is to cover us like clothing (“as the waters cover”). The second and more important part, however, is to realize that the waters not only cover the “sea,” but the “sea” is known by its waters. The concept of “sea” and the concept of “waters” are so intertwined as to be inseparable. There is no sea which is not defined by the waters which cover it. Just like we say that the clothes “make the man,” so wearing the clothes of God, putting on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit as His and our helper, makes us so intertwined with Him that His righteousness, His peace, His love, His power is carried over to us.

Shelter, clothes, food – the three essentials to survival. All of which are available from God, all of which are necessary to have eternal peace, as well as peace on earth. These are not things however made or imagined by us, but they are made by God and made available to us by His goodness, not our effort. Shelter – what better place than God’s holy mountain? Clothes – what better clothes than the armor of God? Food – what better food than God’s own self, His Word in writing, creation, and in Jesus Christ?

Are you missing the peace which your Christmas card offers? Where are you? What are you eating? Whose clothes are you wearing?

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