July 30, 2018
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
The assigned lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, July 29, the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
Last week the lectionary began the reading of the sixth chapter of John's Gospel, which will continue for three more weeks. In your congregations you heard the story of the feeding of the 5,000. As a reminder, I noted in my musings last Monday that our human economics tend to believe in a God of scarcity, in contrast to Jesus believing in a God of abundance. Our economics are built on the premise that there's a scarcity. And I want to say more about that.
Scarcity of food is so uncommon for us that many of us are more concerned about eating too much. More often than not, we must be careful to avoid unhealthy foods, to guard against obesity. I would dare say that the overwhelming majority of those of you who are reading these words can only imagine what it would be like to have too little to eat.
At the same time we are well aware that in many places here in these United States and in most places in this world we inhabit, there are people who do worry about where their next meal is going to come from.
If you peruse either of these two web sites, you'll read some startling statistics. For example, the Bread for the World site states that, "Nearly 15 percent of U.S. households - approximately 49 million Americans, including 15.9 million children - struggle to put food on the table."
And according to ELCA World Hunger: "815 million people around the world - that's more than 1 in 10 - can't access the food they need to live active, healthy lives."
We live in the world's wealthiest nation. We have lots of bread. Despite the economic challenges of tariffs and trade wars that we're experiencing, our country is producing daily bread better than at any time before in its history. Our agricultural industry has become so efficient that just our country alone is able to produce enough food now to feed the entire world. These are good times. So it is rather ironic that in this age of unparalleled abundance, when we have so much, we are focused - I would even endeavor to say obsessed - on the assumption of scarcity.
In The Lord's Prayer we ask our Father in heaven to, "Give us today our daily bread."
We pray it so often that we don't even think about it. In Martin Luther's Small Catechism, found in the back of our Evangelical Lutheran Worship Hymnal beginning on page 1160, Luther explains the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer.
Luther rightly points out that the word "bread" should be expanded to include all the necessities of life - all that we need to make it through another day. And the list of necessities might be larger than we at first think, for we need many practical things each day to keep us going. Here is Luther's list:
What then does "daily bread" mean? Answer: Everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies,
such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household,
upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
But let's focus just on the bread. "God gives us our daily bread," Luther says, "without our prayer, even to all evil people, but we ask in this prayer that God cause us to recognize what our daily bread is and to receive it with thanksgiving."
I have a now dog-eared book in my study entitled, All You Really Need to Know about Prayer You Can Learn from the Poor, by an author named Louise Perrotta. I often use it to lead devotions, but I also pick it up from time to time to remind myself that I need to trust God more. This book contains a series of short interviews and biographies of religious workers and their interaction with the poor of the Caribbean. The vignettes drive home the point that those with the least trust God the most.
Those who are poor teach us to trust God because all that we have is from God. Those of us who are well off easily forget this and believe that we have worked so hard and such long hours that we deserve all the riches of the world. We think we earned our prosperity and God had nothing to do with it. That is why, despite our abundance, despite our affluence, we find that we are not very happy. We hunger for more. We never think we have enough.
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
When the Bread of life takes up residence in our hearts, then bread on earth is spread abroad too. Indeed all kinds of good things happen when Jesus dwells in the heart. Our idea of scarcity decreases, and charity, honesty, kindness and virtue increase on earth, to the benefit of us and the benefit of our neighbors.
On Saturday, August 4, at Zion Lutheran Church in Canton, I will preside at the ordination of Thomas Kratzer into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Tom has been called to be a pastor of the Wartburg Parish (Randolph County, Illinois) with lead assignment to St. John Lutheran Church, Post Oak, IL and St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Wine Hill, IL.
I am serving at this ordination on behalf of the bishop of the Central/Southern Illinois Synod, the Rev. S. John Roth. This is another example of how, in the ELCA, we are church together.
Sunday, August 5, I will be with the people of God at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Canton. It is my first visit to Good Shepherd as bishop.
This week and always, may you lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
+Bishop Abraham Allende