Thirst, A Sermon for Pentecost 14B

Scripture appointed for today can be found here

Thirst

Today we speak of dignity, of seeking and serving Christ in all persons.  Today we speak of putting aside the work of evil in the world.  Today we give thanks for the waters which have opened up to us a new way of life.

Today we covenant, with God, with each other, with an infant who has yet to crawl--that we are working for something beyond ourselves.  Today we will break bread and drink from a common cup--and in that partaking we will be reminded that each relies on each.  We will be reminded that in the ritual of body broken and consumed we are partakers of the resurrection.  

But, today is not easy.

Today is not complete.

Today, we remember the hungry, the oppressed, the imprisoned, the impoverished and those who thirst for the waters of righteousness.

Today we speak of those myriad throngs clammering for the dignity we proclaim and the beauty we extoll.  

Seek and serve Christ in all persons.

This is a heavy work, a hard work.

A work that extends beyond Minnesota “Nice” with all of its passive aggressive glory and into the true kindness extolled in the baptismal instruction proffered by the letter to the Ephesians.

“be kind to one another, tenderhearted...”

Nice is not kind. Kind is not easy. And as we consider the command, be tenderhearted, let us consider the Pharaoh whose hardness of heart was the breaking of so many. As we consider tenderhearts, let us consider the parents who mourn their children and the children who cry out for love.  As we consider tenderhearted, let us be with each other in grief and in anger, in rage and in rejoicing.

Let us forgive. And out of that forgiveness, out of the peace which is proferred, let us eat and drink to fulfill the world’s hunger for justice.

“forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you”

Forgiven through the knowledge of our suffering. Forgiven through the knowledge of our wickedness. Forgiven through the stones which we would throw. 

Forgiven with a forgiveness hard won.  

Nice is not kind. Kind is not easy.

Will you strive for justice and peace amongst all peoples?

Will you?

It won’t be easy, this striving. And, these are hard and heavy words for any of us.  

Are we striving for justice and peace amongst all peoples?

Or is nice being quiet? Is nice complicit? Is nice watching as yet another child of God is destroyed by the powers that take our “niceness” as permission. 

We have only to look to scripture to see that 

Nice is not kind. Kind is not easy.

Last week I touched on the idea that David’s brokenness, is in the exploitation of those with less power than he. His, “sin” altho’ not framed with that language is that of putting one of his men, Uriah, on the front line in order that Uriah’s death might open the door for David to take Uriah’s wife.

Sit with that for a minute, the heralded king of Israel has, in truth and practice, put a man to death in order to take that man’s wife.

How does one speak truth to power, when the power holds your life in its hands?

How?

Who holds the powers that be accountable? 

Who?

This week David’s son Absalom falls. Poetic justice perhaps. David destroyed a family with his machinations and now it is his beloved Absalom who falls.  

And, he cries out "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"

And scripture holds David accountable. And through the millenia, scripture has held us to account for our abuses of power and our exploitation of others.

Today is not easy.
Today is not nice.

And, yet there is comfort, as scripture brings us to that moment when David's own heart becomes tender.  In this loss, David becomes as the least powerful of his people--tenderhearted, vulnerable to grief and sorrow. And, out of that place of tenderness comes new knowledge of himself and his subjects. Comfort found in tenderhearts.

Today is also a day when we are reminded of our covenant--a covenant which declares that in our life of faith we will be transformed. And this transformation,

It is not easy and it is not nice.

This transformation takes our mourning and our crying out and asks us to trust in the bread that has been given.

The Israelites journeyed through the wilderness fed on manna, manna we call bread.  In their affliction, they cried out to God and in their hunger they were fed.

Comfort in the midst of the journey.

We hunger and thirst, and the only bread that can fill us, who have all to much in the way of bread, is the bread that can live forever.

Comfort in the midst of our journey.

And that bread is here and the bread is now and that bread calls us to hunger and thirst for the world which longs for the dignity and the peace and the justice we strive for.

And, in this, there is comfort.  As the scattered body is united in the one bread and together we take on true kindness and open our tenderhearts to the needs of our hungry world.

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I had originally intended to close with the Mary Oliver poem "Thirst" from her collection "Thirst". I did not end up using it in the sermon but wish to include it here for your reflection.

"Thirst"

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the hour
and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,
a little more time. Love for the earth
and love for you are having such a long
conversation in my heart. Who knows what
will finally happen or where I will be sent,
yet already I have given a great many things
away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,
except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowly learning.


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