The 10th Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 13B (August 5, 2012)

Lessons:Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 Psalm 78:23-29 (24, 25) Ephesians 4:1-16 St John 6:24-35 Semicontinuous Series: 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a Psalm 51:1-12

Prayer of the Day: O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love, you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied. Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:24So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”26Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”30So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ “32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35Jesus 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.”

St. John 6:24-35 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

This week, as we consider the words of Jesus, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you,” we are drawn into matters eternal. I have not made any public comments regarding the violence that our neighbors in Aurora experienced two Fridays ago, since many others have done so quite eloquently (for instance, Pastor Meghan Johnston Aelabouni. But this evening, I’d like to share with you some words from Professor David Lose of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He posts daily on a remarkable website entitled “ the Meantime”. If you haven’t yet done so, you should visit his site, and sign up to receive his daily messages via e-mail.

Here, then, from David’s July 28 offering:

Do Not Go Gently

As I’ve said before, I struggle with poetry. I am, I think, an impatient reader. I value clarity of thought and precision of expression. Poetry, though, doesn’t walk in straight lines. It makes you think. There is an elegance as well as precision in poetry, but it is hard won.

But precisely because poetry takes the circuitous route, because it makes you slow down — sometimes to understand what you’ve just read, or to re-read it a time or two, or to keep moving forward even if you can’t pin down what “it really means” — for just these reasons poetry makes it possible to give voice to some thoughts and emotions that resist easy or simple or precise expression.

Poetry, T.S. Eliot once said, is rendering blood into ink. Not just thoughts, but blood, real, honest-to-goodness struggle and hope, ecstasy and disappointment. Poetry

Dylan Thomas, 1914-1953lends itself, that is, to bringing from the depths of our being our deepest emotions so that even though we may not fully comprehend them, yet we can acknowledge and sometimes even embrace them.

This past week I have found myself often stumbling in those depths of emotions in reaction to the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. Experiencing grief for those who were killed and their loved ones; despair at the rampant violence permitted, even cultivated, in our culture; anger over the meaningless of it all. And helplessness, perhaps worst of all, after one more outburst of senseless gun violence.

Which is what brought to mind, I think, Dylan Thomas’ most famous poem. Written as his father was dying, it is easily read as something of both elegy to honor his father and plea that his father hold on, fighting to the end. Or one might read it as the poet’s words to himself, confronted in the death of his father with his own mortality. But one might also read it more broadly as encouragement to all of us — men and women, young and old, wise and good, wild and grave — to resist unwelcome and untimely death.

For all these reasons and more (must a poem have just one meaning?), I find myself recalling Thomas’ words and wanting all of us to rage against not just death but the inclination to death and violence that permeates our land and the hopeless acceptance of gun violence as part of the American way of life.

This has been a dark and difficult week, yet we are called as people of faith to care for those who are wounded, to kindle hope in those who are near despair, and to rage against the dying of the light in whatever shape or form we encounter it. For one day this night shall pass, death will die, and we all — all — will arise in the light of a new day.

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning, they Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

[Dylan Thomas, 1939]

Thank you, David Lose. Thank you, Dylan Thomas. And thanks be to Christ, whose victory over death announces God’s deep preference for life. May we be life-giving in the choices we make, the habits we form, the issues we pursue, and the legacy we leave.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What was it that initially attracted first-century followers to Jesus?
  2. How did their initial desire differ from what Jesus wanted for them?
  3. What was Jesus’ primary reason for providing bread in the wilderness?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Where do I see the difference between “food that perishes” and “food that endures for eternal life” in my daily experience?
  2. What signs have I noticed, that indicate God’s presence in this world?
  3. How might our faith speak words of hope into situations like the one in Aurora, two Fridays ago?