Last week after our worship service we went into our fellowship hall for a pot-luck luncheon. I was tending to the various tasks I had to complete and then took my place in line to see what had been prepared. What a feast it was, so many choices of good things to eat, salads and veggies, pototoes, beans, homemade meatballs and chili, so many good tastes and textures to delight the taste buds. And then if that was not enough, there was dessert! Cake and pie and cookies, oh my! When I sat down with my first plate full, the Bishop’s husband commented on how good everything was, the rest of the table chimed in, yes, what a marvelous pot-luck!
We all gave thanks for those who had prepared such a good feast, and how much the food added to the celebration of the day.
As we come together this day around the table, to celebrate this holy meal, we bring not food, but ourselves. We bring a potluck of skills gifts talents and life experiences. We bring our prayers, our hopes and our dreams, our joys and concerns. We bring the experiences of all our life long, we have taken different paths to this place and time. And as we bring this diversity we are grounded by the one Lord, the One God who unites us all in common mission and ministry to the world. Because we are diverse, in cultural background, in the languages we speak, the experiences in life , what we offer to one another and the world is a banquet of blessing. We give in different ways, but we are united in this service by the Holy Spirit which directs us to feed the world with spiritual and physical food.
This week I went to dinner with a group of clergy, and we were talking about how to reach out to college aged young adults and Karen who served in a church a block away from Ohio State told the story of how her church began a new ministry. She said the congregation was really wrestling with how to be a churh home for the thousand of college students who attended Ohio State. Then one Friday night as she was trying to go to sleep, she was awakened by shouts. She got up and looked out and saw college students walking down the street in groups of 20-30. They were walking from the frat houses and the dorms down past the church and the parsonage, to the bars in town. This gave her an idea, if they are all walking right past us what could we do to bring them in to the church, cause if we could get them in the door, then perhaps they would see how much we have to offer. So she did some research, and found that the students would often go out to breakfast after the bars closed. So she talked to the church, and they started to offer breakfast at 1-3 in the morning on Saturday. The church volunteers found the money for food, and it started with only 8, two cooking, two cleaning, two sitting with the students and talking with them. About 40 showed up that first night, but soon the numbers swelled to 120, and there was a buzz started on campus, have you been to the church breakfast? It is great, a safe place. And then the students began to see the church with new eyes, and so did the church members. Soon Christian music, live became a part of the outreach. Soon a bible study for college kids was started and soon a whole worship service was started. Recently Karen heard from one of the young men who had worked as a volunteer cooking eggs and pancakes. He is in seminary, and hoping to serve in the ministry.
Food is such a part of our lives. Super bowl parties and peace pole plantings, birthday parties and holidays. As a church we offer both physical food , and spiritual food to those who are hungry.
In our Old Testament lesson, God promises a special provider of this spiritual food, a prophet, one who“ I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.” The word of God is what our souls are hungry for. Psalm 111 proclaims: God provides food for those who fear him”. God provides us food for our journeys as we walk down the path with Jesus.
However, there are false prophets those who speak in the names of other gods, which is to say those who do not heed to the laws of Moses, those who tempt followers to follow a false god, one who provides junk food for our souls.
The point is that true knowledge and wisdom, that what our souls hunger for in grounded in God.
We are invited to gather around the table and to embrace God’s gift. We gather to eat God’s word, as Eugene Peterson says in his book we recently used as a bible study: “Lectio Divina... is a spiritual reading, reading that enters our souls as food enters our stomachs, spreads through our blood, and becomes holiness and love and wisdom” (p.4 Eat this Book by Eugene Peterson).
When we embrace God we chose to follow a path of peace. And we chose to follow the prince of Peace, Jesus our messiah.
Already we have started the second month of our new year, it seems just a moment ago I was watching the Rose Parade, we were just getting our new Air Conditioning and Heat pumps installed, we were just starting the peace pole garden. But here we are February 1, 2009! Jesus has grown up in one month. We have gone from celebrating his birth, and growing up years to today’s scripture where he is healing a man with unclean spirits.
What struck me about this passage was the movement of Jesus. They traveled to Capernaum, when Sabbath came they entered the synagogue and Jesus taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Jesus travels from the sea of Galilee where he has called his diciples to the Capernaum. He goes from calling to teaching to healing.
It is for us the same movement as we follow Jesus on our journey. We are called, we are fed by the teachings, and then we heal. We are called as a pot luck people to heal a hurting world, to feed those who hunger for the truth, hunger for love, hunger for peace. We are called by Jesus to bless the world with the love we receive from God, we are called to go out into the world, and find those who hurt, find those who are starving. We might think we do not have much to offer, but just as we all bring our gifts of food to form a banquet, God provides us with all we need to offer food to the world. We are not alone, we are a part of the great pot luck of believers who work for the same God as we do, a God that never gives up, and always works for healing.
Last week was a great week for our church, the peace pole planting was a great moment in our history, and as someone said, it is the best service we will have all year. Well, I am not sure what God has in store for us, but we cannot not rest, the world is calling and it will take the best we have to offer which we receive from God around this table to meet the needs of a hurting world. Amen