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St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Amarillo, TX

"They were offered the Bread of Angels," Sermon for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 14, Year B

Proper 14, Year B, 2015
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

We have a wonderful story in the Old Testament reading today from First Kings...

Elijah is the prophet and the antagonists in this story are Ahab the King and Jezebel, the king’s wife

Ahab is King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel but the Southern kingdom while not actually subject to Ahab...is certainly a subordinate ally

In his marriage to Jezebel, Ahab revived an alliance with the Phoenicians who were worshippers of Baal, and Jezebel was an enthusiastic and powerful prophetess for Baal

Ahab allowed her to build an altar to Baal and Asherah and syncretism was rampant among the people of Israel...

In the third year of a severe drought, Elijah sent for Ahab and challenged him to assemble 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah at Mount Carmel...

Elijah challenged the false prophets to build an altar to their gods and to cut up one of two bulls, lay the carcass on the wood and without putting a fire to it...call upon their gods to ignite and immolate the meat of the bulls

It was a pitiful show... They called on the name of Baal from morning until noon...there was no answer and no fire.

Elijah mocked them, and the false prophets raved on all day...cutting themselves with swords and lances as was their custom in worship...but there was no voice, no response, no answer

Elijah then rebuilt the altar to God that had been destroyed and put an enormous trench around the altar

He placed wood on the altar, then the cut up carcass, and then had gallons of water poured over the entire thing until the water filled the trench around the altar

Elijah called on the name of the Lord and the fire rained down from heaven and consumed the offering

The people of Israel fell on their knees and worshipped God and Elijah disposed (that is the nice word) of all the prophets

Enter the Prophetess and Queen, Jezebel...Elijah’s life is now more than ever on the line and he is pursued by Jezebel’s men

And this is where we catch up with our reading for today from First Kings...Elijah is terrified...rightly so and he wants to die before he is caught and killed by Jezebel

Anything is better than that...so he begs God to let him die...

But God has another plan and the Angel of the Lord comes to him and he is provided the bread of angels and the water of life...

He is physically revived by the bread and water that is provided...but more than he is given life anew by eating of the bread and drinking of the water that is the food of angels

He is sustained and empowered to continue his most difficult journey...but make no mistake...he is struggling...and God completes the process of his rejuvenation by bringing Elijah to Mount Horeb

It is at Horeb that Elijah will know God in the sheer silence...It is there that the bread of life...the food of angels...that Elijah ate in the wilderness will grow and thrive in him

Giving him courage and the will to persevere and to be God’s prophet

In the lesson we heard read today from John’s Gospel, we are continuing to see the aftermath of what Claire so beautifully referred to last week as the “great picnic in the wilderness” where Jesus fed the crowd with the five barley loaves and the two fish

What we finding is that in this subsistent society, the people whose wages produce just enough to survive, want to know how to extend their food supply so that there is always enough...and leftovers to boot...

They follow Jesus and enthusiastically question Him about His work and how they too can participate in this work...still thinking that it is about daily bread...

And Jesus tells them that He is the bread of life...He is the one that will sustain them...Whoever comes to Him will neither be hungry or thirsty...

The people could not comprehend what He was saying...They were after all from Capernaum in Galilee ...They knew His father, mother, and brothers...

 

They began to murmur among themselves...reminding us of the exiles in the desert with Moses that murmured against Moses, Aaron, and God...

How in the world could either group reconcile what they wanted with what was being offered...

Moses offered them life, freedom, and an opportunity to be the people of God and they wanted food, water, tents, and animal herds

The people chasing after our Lord wanted loaves of bread and baskets of dried fish that would sustain them day after day ...not whatever it was that this man from their home region was offering...

But Jesus was offering the bread of Angels...the body of Christ - broken and given for the life of the world

The food that sustains one through all things and in all things...He was offering the food that forms community, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy and justice

He was offering the bread that gave one the desire to be the very person one was created to be...the food that compels one to love what And who God has created

The reading from Ephesians describes the results of living in the light of the Christ...It describes a community that chooses to imitate Christ...one that chooses to eat the bread of life...

A community that chooses to accept the “Christ who loved us and gave Himself up for us...a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God...” Ephesians 5:2

One of my favorite authors, John O’Donohue writes in the Book of Blessings, To Bless the Space Between Us

A beautiful and powerful blessing to be used as one in waking or in Morning Prayer

It is a powerful and meaningful way to greet the Lord each morning...A wonderful way to remind ourselves of the gift of life that we have been given by the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord

A way to remember to be thankful and to be the people of God as the letter to the Ephesians so beautifully calls us

A way to celebrate that we have the privilege of eating and drinking the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ...to eat the food of angels and to be sustained so that we might be the hands and feet of our Lord Jesus Christ

I arise today

In the name of silence Womb of the word,
In the name of stillness Home of Belonging,

In the name of solitude Of the Soul and the Earth

I arise today

Blessed by all things, Wings of breath, Delight of eyes, Wonder of whisper, Intimacy of touch, Eternity of soul, Urgency of thought, Miracle of health, Embrace of God.

May I live this day

Compassionate of heart, Clear of word,
Gracious in awareness, Courageous in thought, Generous in love

Generous, courageous, gracious compassionate...thankful; always thankful.

Amen

  1. Picnic in the Wilderness is Cynthia Kittredge’s term for what is traditionally known as the “feeding of the five thousand”, Conversations with Scripture: The Gospel of John, Morehouse:2007, chapter 3 (taken from the Rev. Claire Cowden’s sermon, August 2, 2015)

  2. John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us, Doubleday , 2008, page 7-8.

  3. The New Oxford Annotated Bible, The New Revised Standard Edition,Oxford University Press, Michael D. Coogan, Editor

  4. The Gospel of John, J. Ramsey Michaels, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 2010

 

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