Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
2 Aug. 2015 Proper 13 Year B: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a; Psalm 51:1-13; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35
Impossible Pie is a dessert that might satisfy a poet.
Impossible Pie serves as an appetizer today to feed our understanding of our scriptures. I have 2 different recipes for Impossible Pie1.
Each has one common ingredient missing: the crust. As it bakes, the pie transforms & creates the crust. That's the kind of amazing fact that sounds like the creativity of a poet. Poets understand transformation.
Poets understand that “life (is) a journey to transformation – a journey of uncovering the dream that God has sown deep within us.”2 Poets understand the difference between the literal-just-the-facts edible pie & the figurative pie, the metaphor that feeds the spirit with something more, the difference between existence & life-giving living.
The people who chase after Jesus in our Gospel want the facts. They seek literal, physical food. They remind me of the cat that comes near our house. It fearfully seeks the food I set out for it. I seek a fuller relationship with the cat. This will be a process for it to grow from fear to trust & a process for me to wait patiently [for literally I don't know how long] for there to be a cat purring on my lap. The cat receives abundance yet fear remains in control: This traveler does not seek a fuller relationship.
The people traveling to seek Jesus have eaten an abundance of bread & fish that grew from meager resources. They want literal bread like their ancestors ate with Moses. They remind me of the woman in John 4:15 who asks Jesus to give her living water so that she won't have to come to the well to draw water.3
We see this kind of literal understanding in our first lesson when King David hears Nathan's story of the rich man who steals the poor man's sheep to feed the traveler who comes to his house. King David flies into a rage4 & declares the robber deserves to die, although, as the Jewish Study Bible notes, Israel's law does not impose the death penalty for robbery5.
The prophet Nathan knows how to speak truth wisely so that the king can hear anew & see with new eyes his abuse of power, his disregard of God. Nathan uses the poet's skill6 to show that life can be handled differently.7 Like the prophets Elijah & Amos,
he “(operates) on the astonishing notion
that the claims of...God who created heaven & earth
(are) not easily overcome or dismissed...[by those in power]”8
From poets we can learn to speak the truth in love to people in power, to friends, to people in our families. We hear truth & love in Paul's words to the Ephesians. To speak truth in love, we must grow up, we must see that we are part of something greater than ourselves: the Body of Christ of which each of us is an integral, vital part.
This Body of Christ is integral in the work of transformation where we live & beyond. Together & individually we have work to do to build up this body in love. Love leads us to transformation.
One important fact you must know for your part in our work of transformation: I am a sinner:
“I confess to God almighty, before the whole company of heaven,
& to you, my beloved brothers & sisters,
that I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word, & deed.”9
Now that you know this, when I talk about sin, you will know that I know what I am talking about.
What I don't always know is the why of my sin. I think that's why Dierks Bentley's song “What was I thinkin'”10 appeals to me. He sings about consequences “that crossed my mind a little too late”. He sings: “I know what I was feelin'. But what was I thinkin'?”
I used to wonder what my wonderful, saintly Sunday School teacher was thinking when she talked about the joy of our being forgiven. How could she possibly know how it feels to be forgiven? She was perfect in every way & genuinely nice, helpful, kind, gentle. That's why she always was cast to be Mary in the Christmas pageant.
I felt sorry for her about one thing: I was sure that, in her perfection, she could not fully grasp the joy & wonder a sinner like me knows of the beauty & compassion Jesus shows by dying to blot out our sins. “We all sin against God, the members of our communities, & against our better nature. Sometimes...we have a hard time believing that God’s love in Jesus...does wipe out our sins. The grace we receive is costly grace.”11
God freely offers us this costly grace.
Jesus dies for us to live fully.
Jesus dies to feed us, to encourage & nourish us at this holy table.
We come to the holy table after we acknowledge our sins in our general confession, which helps us gain comfort & strength to come & receive the Body & Blood of Jesus that nourishes us in ways we cannot understand. This grace is more nourishing than physical food. This grace is a Mystery.
We have a mystery in today's scripture. In his story to David, Nathan mentions the traveler who visits the rich man. We know the rich man is David, the poor man is the now-dead Uriah killed by David's order, the lamb is Uriah's widow, Bathsheba, who is now David's wife.
Who is the traveler?12
Is the traveler in need of food? Does the traveler know about living bread? What if the traveler carries the ingredient for Impossible Pie?
What if the traveler is the stranger we stand near in the store checkout line or as we pump gas?
Is the traveler one of our brothers or sisters who does not know fully God's love, a brother or sister stuck in literal, uncreative existence or stuck in poverty of spirit?
Is the traveler like a cat that comes fearfully near you?
Beloved Brothers & Sisters, Beloved child of God, we are blessed to know the truth: each of us is a sinner freed to be good, faithful servants of God's kingdom.
The Holy Spirit is with us to guide us to live into the fullness of life-giving living. God's grace nourishes us for love. How do you love? How do you remember to love yourself? You are God's beloved child.
God embraces you, Beloved Child, with costly grace.
Barclay, William. The Gospel of John: Volume 1. Revised Edition. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press. 1975.
Brueggemann, Walter. Journey to the Common Good. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 2010.
Gamber, Jenifer. With Bill Lewellis. Your Faith, Your Life: An Invitaton to the Episcopal Church. New York: Morehouse Publishing. 2009.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Klein, Ralph W. “Commentary on 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a”. Accessed: 1 Aug. 2015. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2529.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 3 June 2015.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Richter, The Rev. Amy E. Rector of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Annapolis, MD. Bread of Life – Proper 13(B) Accessed: 1 Aug. 2015. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2015/07/15/bread-of-life-proper-13b/.
"What Was I Thinkin'" Written by Brett Beavers, Dierks Bentley, Deric James Ruttan. Accessed: 1 Aug. 2015.
1 Flatlanders Cook Book: A Collection of Recipes from Lanier County, Georgia. Compiled & Edited by Helen L. Strickland in Cooperation with the Lakeland Jaycees. Tifton, GA: Lang Printing Co. 1976. Pp. 167-168.
2 Gamber, Jenifer. With Bill Lewellis. Your Faith, Your Life: An Invitaton to the Episcopal Church. P. 2.
3 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. P. 1057.
4 Jewish Study Bible. P. 638.
6 Brueggemann, Walter. Journey to the Common Good. P. 55-56.
9 Confession for preaching today's lesson from 2 Samuel is suggested by Ralph W. Klein, Christ Seminary-Seminex professor emeritus of Old Testament at Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, IL. Accessed: 1 Aug. 2015. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2529
10 "What Was I Thinkin'" Written by Brett Beavers, Dierks Bentley, Deric James Ruttan. Accessed: 1 Aug. 2015. http://www.metrolyrics.com/what-was-i-thinkin-lyrics-dierks-bentley.html.
12 Note: This question is inspired by footnote statement “nobody corresponds to the traveler.” Jewish Study Bible. P. 638.