Thursday, October 8, 2009

First Sermon Back from Sabbatical! Taste and See!

Luke 24:13-35
October 4, 2009

Taste and See that God is Good!

I’m not sure if anyone knows exactly what a sabbatical is, until she gets right into the heart of it. “We make the road by walking,” is a saying that my pastor from home loves to share. Well, my sabbatical wasn’t so much about walking as it was eating. My sabbatical theme might sound a little bit more like, “we make the road by eating!”

Let me just tell you about a few of the culinary adventures I got to take part in during my sabbatical. I ate some incredible fish tacos as I sat in the mountains of North Carolina with two friends Hope and Kennedy as we talked about our love for camp. Next, the road of eating took me to Denver, CO, with my 8 months-pregnant friend Jessa and her son Eli- we shared savory Mexican food and birthday cake as we celebrated her 31st birthday. At General Assembly I sat around many tables, with many friends from all different aspects of my life- my home church, my Disciple’s college, my seminary and my Bethany Fellows friends. I ate foods like pad thai, fresh bagels and cream cheese, and baked salmon. I worshiped with 6,000 Disciples and as we gathered around the communion table it was easy to taste and see that God is good!

Next my adventures took me on the trip of a lifetime. Three generations of women headed to the Big Apple. Let me tell you something, if you have never been to New York City- you must go if only for the food! The bagels are like none other I have ever experienced- my mom says it’s the NYC tap water that makes them so good. My mom, grandma and I ate pizza so good it would make your eyes tear up a little- my favorite had great hunks of ricotta cheese. Taste and see!
Next, my stomach led me to Kansas City, my hometown. While I was there I got to spend deep, quality time with my family that was not rushed. Can you guess what we ate? That’s right a Kansas City original- BBQ. David was with me on that trip and he and I both love Zarda’s BBQ burnt end platter- oh it makes your mouth water! Taste and See! Next, I took a side trip to my college town of Springfield, MO. There I sat around a table with three dear college friends, one was my college roommate that I hadn’t seen in 11 years. We laughed together and teared up at the hard times in one another’s lives and sat there for three hours as time stood still for our friendship. Taste and see that God is good!

David and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary while I was on sabbatical and so we traveled to Longboat Key, FL to celebrate. This was the same place we honeymooned and we enjoyed so much seafood while we were there. We ate grouper, shrimp, conch fritters and I can tell you that David put a hurtin’ on some all-you-can-eat crab legs. We had time to taste and see and to remember what made us fall in love with each other in the first place. At last my travels took me to my last Bethany Fellows retreat where I ate some incredibly delicious fresh, healthy food in San Francisco. This was the last time I would gather with 30 other young pastors in their first five years of ministry. We prayed together for our lives, for our ministries and for our churches. It was bitter sweet to walk away on that last day since these retreats twice a year have truly been a lifeline to me in ministry. However, I know the practices I learned and the people I met will help sustain me for the next five years of my ministry and beyond.

I ate A LOT of amazing food on sabbatical and I probably have an extra 10 pounds to prove it. Remembering these adventures reminds me of several things about myself: 1. I love food. 2. I love traveling. 3. I deeply needed this time away- not just so I could eat great food, but so I could sit and look into the eyes of my loved ones, and hear their stories and share mine. We needed to meet each other around a table so that we could see the presence of God in one another. We needed to eat together so that I could realize that for me a sabbatical is all about nurturing the relationships in my life because it is in these relationships that God is most fully known to me. We all needed to eat together so that we could taste and see that God is good!

I am so grateful that on my first Sunday back I got to eat with almost 400 people! What a celebration we had last Sunday and what a meal. I think we could all taste and see that God is good, and God has been good to us for 100 years, and God will be good for 100 more. I encourage you that if you haven’t been around a table with those you love lately, you need to get there, and break bread together. You need to look deeply into their eyes and see just how good God is.

God has always been especially present as we humans share meals together. If you don’t believe that- take a look at how many meals Jesus ate in the Gospel accounts of his life. Jesus ate with people not just because he loved food, but because he knew that eating around a table with people was one of the best ways for his dinner companions to understand the Kingdom of God. Christ is always present when we share a meal together.

A funny thing happened after Jesus’ resurrection. His followers had a hard time recognizing him. Their eyes were clouded with grief as they mourned the loss of a man that had become so special to them. They had heard rumors that the tomb was empty but they didn’t know what it meant- they thought someone had stolen his body. On the road to Emmaus, Cleopas and another follower of Jesus were walking along when the risen Christ joined them and engaged them in conversation. They were shocked that this stranger hasn’t heard the news of what happened to Jesus (because of course they don’t recognize that it is him). They told him of all the recent events and how Jesus was killed. The unknown Jesus then begins to interpret the scriptures for them and let them known that these events had been foretold. But they still didn’t recognize that it Jesus who traveled with them

The followers offered hospitality, which Jesus tried at first to decline, according to the tradition of the time, but Jesus finally agreed to join them for a meal. Do you know how they finally recognized him? During the meal, this stranger all of the sudden becomes the host as he took bread, blessed it and broke it. All of a sudden the light bulb goes off in the minds of his followers- “this is the risen Christ! This is Jesus himself and we know that because we can see who he truly is as he takes, blesses and breaks bread with us.”

The church today shares this same shocking revelation, as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper each week, we take a tiny piece of bread, and a tiny glass of juice. When we hold these elements to our lips and partake we suddenly feel the same as those early Christians- “oh yes, Christ is present here! We can taste and see that God is good!” God is good and Christ is present each time we share in a meal that remembers Christ’s actions of taking, blessing and breaking bread. Christ is known to us in the breaking of bread and we are fully known to each other when we sit around a table, look each other in the eye and share the intimate act of eating. When we break bread we can easily see that God is good.

Today happens to be World Communion Sunday. This means that Christians all over the world will taste and see that God is good today. They will take, bless and break bread together knowing that Christ is present among them. When we are fed at Christ’s table today we realize that this meal allows the entire kingdom of God to taste and see that God is good.

Even as we participate though, we must be mindful of those who do not have physical bread to eat. Jesus came to earth as a full human being, he needed bread to sustain him. After the resurrection he broke bread with his followers, and then went on to eat fish with other disciples on the seashore- Jesus had been resurrected in body, not just in spirit and he needed nourishment for that body. Today we acknowledge that there are bodies in need that will not get the food they need to live. Some will have to break bread together only symbolically, because there is no real bread for them to eat. It is harder to taste and see that God is good when there is nothing to taste. So even as we feast with Christ this day, we remember that the simple blessing of having food on our table is not a blessing everyone is able to enjoy.

May we be mindful of our brothers and sisters who are hungry. Let us love those fellow humans not just by remembering them, but by donating food when we can, by working in a feeding program or raising hunger awareness. Let us remember the hungry by helping to create policies and practices that spread the bounty of food that God has provided and makes sure that all God’s children get something to eat. If we need to eat less so others can have some (I’m working on this part), may we make a way for that to happen.

On this day when we gather around tables to taste and see and know the presence of God, we eagerly await the day in the kingdom when all of God’s children are fed, and no one goes to bed hungry. May it be so on the earth that all of God’s people can taste and see that God is good! Amen and Amen.

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