SERMON 3/22/20 Lent 4A. St. Monica’s Episcopal Church, Naples, FL
Watch online: https://youtu.be/YoHjmSj8xMU
Genesis 48:8-22; John 6:27-40
New Days New Ways
We are living in new times dear friends. There are fewer cars out on the road, and Immokalee Road in the busiest part of that day, looks much like what we normally see in June, July, and August. I drove through the streets of the outdoor mall at Coconut Point the other day, and it looks like a scene from the Walking Dear television series. I was at my favorite weekly burger place (Culver’s) and you can only get food through the drive through. And the empty food aisles of Publix look like it does during the days right before a major hurricane, but much worse. We are living in much different times.
Jesus has something to say about days like these. He said, “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.” I think this scripture is sound advice for all of us when, food seems to be perishable these days, when life seems fleeting and ominous, and when fear abounds all around us. We face an unknown, unseen threat to life as we know it, but I offer you hope today.
We serve a visible, loving, grace-pouring, life sustaining Savior, Jesus Christ who offers us the promises of life and life eternal, even in the face of despair, anxiety, and uncertainty. Yes, in times like these, we have another way to live, another way to face the day, when the news seems frightening, when the streets are abandoned, and when we are home alone. We can do the work of God, even if we are social distancing.
Doing the works of God
The people to whom Jesus was addressing (disciples of old) and we today, asked him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Lately, I have seen, been a part of, and witnessed from a far, moments when people of faith were doing the work of God in times of despair. I want to offer you a different perspective on some of those scenes I described earlier. I want to show you a different view of this new life that I, and many of you have witnessed these last several weeks. I have seen people of faith take these ominous circumstances, and transform them into moments of hope, mercy, grace, and peace. Here are just a few.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday several of your sisters and brothers from St. Monica’s gathered on a Zoom call for fellowship, encouragement, and prayer. I saw faces online of people who came together initially in fear, but ended up laughing, praying for others in need, and leaving being fed by that holy bread, that true bread from heaven, Jesus Christ. Tuesday, five rectors from area churches came together on a virtual meeting to share with each our concerns, fears, our need for help and support from one another, and we all left the call,feeling strengthened, supported and not alone. We were fed by that holy bread, that true bread from heaven, Jesus Christ.
I was on a call on Wednesday morning working with our Local Mission team leaders to discuss how we as a parish can continue to feed our neighbors during this time of great need, when so many are losing employment, and the food needs are growing. We left that call encouraged, with a plan to continue to serve, and hope for the future. We were fed by that holy bread, that true bread from heaven Jesus Christ. I see more of my neighbors walking and holding hands in my community, couples riding bikes together, and the tenor of the social media posts have transformed from division and character assassinations to mutual support and encouragement. I know many of you have stories just like these, that is, if you allow the Savior of the world to transform your anxiety and fear, into hope, service, and love.
Signs of the Promises of God
The people that Jesus was speaking to in John’s gospel today, wanted a sign from God so that they might believe. We want a sign of hope right now too, don’t we? We are looking for a sign from the authorities, and we hope for a vaccine to fend off the virus, we want a cure and speedy medicine to stem the spread of the disease. So, while we wait for those in charge to bring us a sign, let us look for real hope no further, than the true sign of the promises of our faith in Christ Jesus.
Right now, more than ever, we need to trust God in all things. We need to trust that our faith will give us peace and hope, even when all seems so anxious. We must believe what Jesus said, even when the food aisles are empty and the streets are abandoned, “My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” I am not offering you sentimental and trite sayings like, “keep your chin up,” or “look for the silver lining.” I am telling you to right now, eat heartily from the peace of Christ in these times, and let your anxiety pass on. God is with us in all things. God’s love will never abandon us, not even unto death.
Bread of Life
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” When all around us, we see the thirst of anxiety and the hunger of fear, we must turn to love. Jesus said, “Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” When you feel alone, join with your sisters and brothers and be together, even if it is over a screen and microphone. When you feel helpless, practice sound social distancing, but send a text of encouragement, a call of hope, and the written letter of peace to someone who needs it right now.
Jesus has not, and will never abandon us, even in times like these. He promises, “I should lose nothing of all that he has given me but raise it up on the last day.” Nothing stands between us and the love of God; not fear, anxiety, disease, loneliness, and not even death. Trust God now. Reach out to your sisters and brothers now. Call your priest for prayer now. Better yet, take a moment, take a breath, and take a slice of the Bread of Life, and indulge in the promises that God is with you, and you can be assured that you are not alone.