Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 3 Aug. 2014, Proper 13
Year A RCL: Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:-7, 16; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21
Happy New Year! Happy New School Year! & Welcome to School Sunday rather than Sunday School.
|Rosemary & Holy Water to bless students, backpacks & educators|
Today we celebrate the new school year, praying it will be a happy new year. The phrase “happy new year” may bring to mind a year free of challenges.
Yet challenges are part of life & challenges can build our character, stamina, wisdom.
Facing some challenges, we may feel as if we are struggling alone – like Jacob in our lesson from Genesis as he struggles against the angel,1 who refuses to tell Jacob his name.
In the Bible's perspective, knowing someone's name gives some control over that person. We say: If you can name it, you can claim it! No wonder the angel withholds his name! Think of all you know about Jacob – that trickster, that deceiver – who has struggled against people since before he was born.
He grabs his brother Esau's heel
as the twins are being born,
striving to be the first-born.
Now we find Jacob alone, empty handed, without resources, struggling against the angel, who gives Jacob a new name, Israel: one who strives with God & people & prevails as several sources define it.
How many of you have had a name change?
Perhaps from marriage or at school when the teacher calls you by your first name even though all your life your family has called you by your middle name or a nickname.
A new name feels different.
Even though we are the same person,
something has changed.
Like Jacob, we are somehow different, somehow stronger. Even if the change leaves us limping, we are stronger inside.
Think of all that hurting crowd of 5,000+ individuals who go to find Jesus in today's Gospel.
Sick & hungry for Good News,
they want something to change.
Something has changed for Jesus....
His relative John the Baptist has been beheaded.
Jesus goes to this deserted place just to be alone.
Notice: Jesus needs a break, a quiet place.
There are times WE have to give ourselves a break.
Give yourself permission to do that.
When the crowd comes, Jesus gets to work healing them. He works to make life better. This compassion we see in Jesus is like a compass to guide us in our work, our vocation as Jesus' disciples.2
Notice how the disciples are worried about this hungry crowd. They tell Jesus their concern & their logical solution to send the people to go get food. Jesus sees differently.
Jesus sees the resources at hand: 5 loaves, 2 fish AND the disciples, who can share in the work to relieve suffering.
Jesus could handle this himself, yet he honors the disciples, giving them work to do.
Jesus respects the dignity of every person.
Jesus respects the resources he has &
does not do everything himself.
Jesus gives you & me this respect,
entrusting us with his work now.
Among the resources Jesus gives us for our work are the gifts of his Body & Blood – the Bread & Wine – we share at this table. This holy meal strengthens us for life's challenges:
for new relationships that feel different,
new work, jobs, classes in school
that feel different,
a new school year that feels different.
We share this meal so we can remember (as I read on the website about Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church in Sandy Springs, GA): God is with us – with you – every day, everywhere; & each day you can serve God with your heart, your spirit, your mind...Students, you can serve God with the stuff in your (book-bag)!”3
We share this meal to gain strength & courage to do the work God calls us to do. As another website says about blessing book bags:4
“God gives all of us jobs...to do that help us to serve God in the world. This is called our vocation.
(Students,) you have a vocation, &
one of your vocations right now is to go to school.
“You can serve God by going to school &
learning about God's world, by being with other people,
by being loving toward others
(& by learning) things you need to know for whatever other vocation you may have later...
“(Students) are more than learners. You are teachers. Students have lots of stuff to teach...about God...about faith & love...”5
Beloved Sisters & Brothers, notice this:
what we do here affects our lives in this place &
when we go out those big red doors.
Whether it is a specific blessing such as we will have for students, book bags & educators after the prayers, a seasonal event, or sharing the blessed Bread & Wine, remember: God’s involvement in our lives does not stop here.6
God’s involvement in our lives
does not stop here.
Barrie, Wendy Claire. “Blessing of Backpacks”. Skiturgies: Pageants, Plays, Rites and Rituals for the Church Year. Denver: Morehouse Education Resources, a division of Church Publishing Inc. 2011. www.churchpublishing.org.
“Blessing-of-the-backpacks”. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/24/blessing-of-the-backpacks_n_1827606.html. Accessed: 1 Aug. 2014.
“Blessing of Book Bags”. http://www.oursaviour.net/BlessingBookBags.html. Accessed: 1 Aug. 2014.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. 2nd Edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2001.
The Four Translation New Testament. Minneapolis: World Wide Publications. New York: The Iversen Assocs. 1966.
Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Ed.: Merrill C. Tenney. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
http://stthomaswhitemarsh.com/blessing-of-the-backpacks-book-bags-briefcases-september-1/ & http://stthomaswhitemarsh.org. Accessed: 1 Aug. 2014. St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Whitemarsh, Fort Washington, PA.
http://synodresourcecenter.org/wma/worship/occasional/dedications/0006/backpack_blessings.html. Accessed 1 Aug. 2014.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 29 June 2014.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
1 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 39 notes: the prophet Hosea in Ch. 12:5 specifies that Jacob’s struggles with an angel.
2 Note: influenced by Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. P. 88.
3 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/24/blessing-of-the-backpacks_n_1827606.html. Accessed: 1 Aug. 2014.
4 http://synodresourcecenter.org/wma/worship/occasional/dedications/0006/backpack_blessings.html. Accessed 1 Aug. 2014.