A meditation inspired by the prayer posted earlier this morning.(for additional ideas for sermon material please check out the comments in the Preacher Party Martha held yesterday I especially like the YouTube video of the kids in New Zealand and Esperanza's story about the teacher using her groupon ticket to pay for a bus to take school kids out to do good deads).
There is an old story about bread and a simple act of compassion.
Once there was a man who lived next door to a church. Despite this fact he spent every Sunday sleeping through the worship service. One morning he awoke early, just in time to hear, through the open window, some verses of scripture being read. In the passage God instructs the children of Israel to place twelve loaves of bread on the holy table.
The man, in his half-awake bewildered state, believed that God had spoken to him directly, instructing him to place twelve loaves of bread on the altar in the church. The man felt somewhat honored at the thought that God needed him. But, given that he was wealthy enough to do anything, he also felt somewhat foolish that all God wanted was bread. Giving bread did not seem very important. Nonetheless the man got up and made twelve loaves of bread.
Later, the man entered the church with his bundle of bread and wondered how he could possibly leave it without being seen. Finally the room was empty and he was able to place the bread on the table, as he did so he said, “Thank you, God for guiding me in your desire. Pleasing you, God, fills me with delight.” And then the wealthy man left.
No sooner had the wealthy man gone than a poor man came into the church and knelt in a pew to pray. All alone he poured out his heart and told God how he had nothing, not even enough food to feed his family for the week. Then the man saw the twelve loaves of bread on the altar and exclaimed, “It’s a miracle! Blessed are you, O God, who answers prayers.” He collected the bread and ran home to share it with his family and neighbors.
Minutes later the wealthy man returned, curious to know what God had done with the bread. Slowly he climbed the stairs to the holy table where he saw that the bread was gone. “Oh my God,” he whispered, “You really ate the loaves! I thought you were just kidding. This is wonderful. You can bet that next week I will bring twelve more loaves!”
The following week the rich man returned with twelve loaves of bread. He placed them on the holy table and left. Shortly there after the poor man returned and once again began his litany of woes. Then, again, he saw the bread on the holy table and felt that his prayers had been answered.
And so began a weekly ritual that lasted twenty years. The rich man baked twelve loaves of bread and placed them, once a week, on the holy table. And once a week the poor man came, said a prayer, and found the bread. It became such a routine that neither man gave it much thought.
Then one day the priest, detained in the sanctuary longer than usual, witnessed this amazing and odd ritual. First she saw the richest man in town place on the holy table twelve loaves of bread. Then she saw the poorest man in town come and take those loaves of bread.
The priest summoned both men to come and meet her. Then the priest questioned the men about their actions. The men were ashamed, one thinking he had given bread to God and the other thinking the bread was from God. They vowed to never to do this again. But the priest said, “Each of you look at your hands. Yours,” she said to the rich man, “Are the hands of God giving food to the poor. And yours,” she said to the poor man, “are the hands of God receiving gifts from the rich. In this way, God is present in your lives. Go and continue baking and continue taking. Your hands are the hands of God.”
Over and over God acts in and through the lives of human beings. God acted through Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel. From these ancient women and men God builds a nation of people who listen and follow God’s desire. Later, as we hear in Luke, God acted through Mary and Joseph. God calls them to bear forth into this world, the very life of God. The mystery of Christmas is revealed in the reality of God choosing to act in and through human life.
The incarnation, the birth of God's love in human form, makes everything else possible. It is the birth of God in human flesh that assures us of God’s presence with us. God chose to manifest God’s love in human flesh. God chose to work in and through human lives. It is the birth that shows us, as Christians, how to live as faithful people in the Paschal Mystery. For it is the birth that eventually directs us to the brokenness in human life, to recognize all the ways we reject God’s love. It is the birth that leads to the life and the crucifixion - a sad and tragic death that leads to new life again – all with the assurance that God’s love is given over and over, given to us exactly as we are, in all our brokenness.
In this Christmas season, still raw from the tragedies of this year, of lives taken too soon, too young, let us embrace anew the birth of God’s love in the Christ child. For life is full of tragedy, even the life of Jesus, God’s child contained pain and suffering.
But God is always present. God is present at our birth. God is present in our lives. God is present and caring in our suffering. God is with the dying. And God is working through the pain and brokenness of this world to bring forth new life.
When the world was dark, Christ crept in beside us, to love us. Born in and through the darkness, God’s love comes into the world to tend to our brokenness. Birthed from the darkness of Mary’s womb like the darkness of our lives, the light of Christ is born. In darkness life begins and brings forth hope, love, peace, and joy.
As Christians we are called, through baptism, to be the Body of Christ, which means we are called to bring forth God’s love in and through our lives – as a church, as a community, and as individuals.
The bread of Holy Communion is one of the primary ways we know the presence of the living God.
Give us this day our daily bread.
I am the bread of life, which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
The bread that Christ gives us is the food of love, nourishing our hearts and souls. Fed by the love of God in Christ we are called to heal the sick, called to care for the poor, called to reconcile the broken- hearted.
Come, Lord Jesus, be with us in the bread;
Come, let us share in the one bread, that we may be a source of hope for others.
Let us become the food of love that will heal this broken world.
Let us be Christ’s hands and heart in the world, may all our actions and words bring forth peace.
God was born into the world a small vulnerable baby, trusting human hands to hold their maker. May we hold that trust tenderly and through it bring forth peace, hope, and love. May the joy of our lives bring joy to the world.
The source of the story used at the beginning of this meditation is unknown to me. The rest of the meditation is my Christmas homily this year. May this day be rich and full of God's grace and mercy. May you find rest even as you move from preparation to serving, offering up your Christmas sustenance in food and word.
Merry Christmas one and all.
Part three will be posted in a few hours.
Merry Christmas one and all.
Part three will be posted in a few hours.