Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

Sermon

The Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 2012
Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity Church, Lebanon

 

Let us pray: Blessed Lord, who hast caused the holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace , and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Anyone remember the collect I have just read? We hear it every year on the Second Sunday in Advent. The Second Sunday in Advent is often called Bible Sunday because of the emphasis in this collect on the importance of Holy Scripture. Why, then, offer this particular collect on this particular Sunday? The reason is that this Sunday has much to do with the spiritual food we take in; that food of the Scriptures that nourishes us more fully and completely than any other.

 

Maybe we need this reminder this week, especially after the latest national tragedy we are experiencing. What can Holy Scripture actually do, we must wonder. After all, at first glance, it is only words on a page; words recorded long ago in some strange language; words translated into our own language, sure, but in an unusual syntax, a ghostly rhythm. Words, certainly. But those words must be taken into our hearts and minds. They must be taken into our spiritual bodies. Those words must be, in the collect we pray today, “read, marked, learned and inwardly digested” so that they may nourish us and that we may grow strong and vital in God's world.

 

Years ago, way in the Seventies, I lived in New York City. Being very interested in the theatre, I went to a lot of plays. One particular Off Broadway play was called: “You are What you Eat.” The title said it all; this play was all about how food changes peoples' lives. It was a very broad comedy and it poked fun at various diet fads, such as the chocolate diet. I had never heard of this one, but was sorely tempted to try it. “You are What you Eat” ran for quite a long time. It was very popular among New Yorkers and, perhaps as a by product, encouraged its audience to eat healthier. But it encouraged me to find out more about the chocolate diet.

 

Interest in healthy food has grown since the Seventies. There is a good deal of information about what to eat – and what not to eat. And, what to eat in moderation. Seven years ago, a film called “Super Size Me” was released to movie theatres. It told the story of a man who ate McDonalds food three times a day for a month – and he filmed exactly what happened to him. My how he changed! My son and I decided to see this film. Webster, tough sixteen year-old that he was, decided he would see the film and then go out for a full meal at McDonalds afterwards. And so we watched a man super size himself. The star of the show was an actor, certainly, and during the film he played up the results of his experiment, emphasizing his decline into sloth, madness and bad grooming. Apparently, McDonald's food produced all this. But it was still a very persuasive film. Because afterwards, as we sat at a McDonalds restaurant, Web looked suspiciously at his Big Mac, his large fries and his Supersized Coke. He heaved a sigh, looked at me balefully and said: “Dad...?” “It's ok,” I said. “You don't have to.” And so, we left the empty calories largely uneaten and drove off into the night. When we got home, Web snacked on an apple. I was pleased. Perhaps he had learned something about good nutrition. Well, this new health food craze did not last for long and he returned to typical “teenage food” shortly thereafter.

 

Today's gospel reading concerns the feeding of the four thousand. There they were, four thousand followers and no food. They were a three day's walk from home. And the first fast food restaurant nearly two thousand years away. But Jesus had compassion on his followers. He gathered what they had, blessed it and distributed it. We know what happened. For Christians, we know this story as well as any other. We can recite it clearly and in detail. The bread and the fish were given to his followers and all were filled. ALL were filled.

 

What was it that Jesus and his followers ate on that particular day? What gave them such sustenance that they had the strength to continue to follow Jesus? What manner of health food could this have been?

 

Yes, it was the Word of God; the Word of God sustained the people of God and gave them the strength to endure. For us, it is the Holy Scripture that feeds us and sustains us, giving us the strength to endure.

 

Among the four thousand, there were no doubt those who followed Jesus because of their deep devotion to Him, because of their joy in His presence. But there were those who followed Him who had suffered great loss. Two thousand years ago, it was a very barbaric time. Perhaps some of their friends and relatives had been killed in a senseless attack by the power of the Roman Empire. Or perhaps there were those who had been gravely hurt themselves. But there they were, following Jesus, seeking the only food that could sustain them.

 

There were senseless, violent acts committed two thousand years ago. It happens in our world, too. We may wonder why they happen and what we can do to prevent them. Yes, we can pass laws, restrict this or that and be more security conscious. Maybe that will help. But evil is evil. Sadly it is here to stay.

 

But there is a way that we can help our world. The way is God's way. God offers us the life-changing way that will make us all spiritually healthy; God offers us a way to become what He wishes us to be. We do this by joining together, as God's holy family, and eating of the true spiritual food that promises eternal life in the love of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. This may not rid the world of evil, but it will help to keep us on the path to God.

 

Let us pray: O God, whose never failing providence ordereth all things in both heaven and earth; We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which are profitable to us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.