Welcome to worship for this 12th Sunday after Pentecost, August 15, 2021! It is good that you are here!
The worship bulletin for this service can be found here.
The bulletin will have the order of worship, all the words of the liturgy including the sermon, and the hymn and page numbers corresponding with the ELW. Alternatively, the words will also be on your screen and the sermon manuscript can be found under the video on this page.
For an enhanced worship experience at home, you may have some elements in your space. For the Thanksgiving for Baptism, you may have a small bowl of water to interact with. For communion you may have something small to eat and drink during the singing of the Lamb of God. And for the whole service you may have a lit candle in your space and can extinguish it with the altar candles during the sending hymn.
May God’s blessing be upon you!
Almighty God, through your divine discernment you feed us with your living Word. Nourish our souls with your truth, that we be filled with the Spirit, guiding us on the path of eternal life, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Again, I’d like to welcome myself back from holidays, which in a lot of ways felt like the first real holiday I’ve had since this pandemic started. I know, I did take some time off last year, but for various reasons, it didn’t really feel like time off. Maybe because the time away was split up more so they were smaller chunks of time and felt too short. Maybe it was because that time off was when the pandemic was still kind of fresh and the stress of it all was still all around me. Or maybe (or probably, actually), it was because I, by my own volition, decided to work about 60-70% of the time I was away.
But this time was different. While I did work a little bit through my time away (less than 20%), it was still a longer chunk of time off and this time around the stress around the pandemic really wasn’t that bad thanks to the vaccinations we’ve been getting. But I think the main reason why it felt like holidays this time is because my goodness did it go by fast. I guess that means that I was actually able to rest and unwind because I just blinked my eyes and it was time to go back to work.
Time works funny that way, doesn’t it? When you want it to slow down, it speeds up and when you want it to speed up, it’s like it’s standing still. Think about how fast these two months of summer break would go by when we were kids, and then think about how that one month that leads to summer would take forever. Or how parents of adult children tell me how quickly they grow up but then I go home and see my kids being kids and I’m like, “Still?!?” Or just how any time of your life that is good, pleasant, or happy seems to go by so quickly but when things aren’t going your way? Well that just seems to drag on and on and on.
Time sure is a funny thing.
Our second reading for today starts with a somewhat confusing line, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Suddenly time isn’t so funny anymore, is it? Sure, maybe not funny per se, but can we really say that it’s evil? Seems a bit harsh.
It has been said that time is one of the most precious gifts of all, and that there is no greater gift to give someone than your time. But Paul tells us through his letter to the church in Ephesus that the days are evil? It doesn’t exactly seem to make sense.
But then when we read further in Paul’s words, we see that he is talking more about wasting time, in that we use the time that we’ve been given solely for our own pleasure, our own selfishness, and our own gratification instead of considering the needs or feelings of others. Essentially, Paul is talking about the time that isn’t spent in being a good person and helping others. Time is wasted when you aren’t using it in building up relationship and community. Time is evil when it hasn’t been recognized as a gift.
At this point, all the introverts out there just shuddered and cringed, like “I don’t want to spend all my free time with others, that would literally kill me.” And to be honest, I don’t think that is what is being asked of us here. I don’t think that to satisfy what Paul is saying in our second reading, we have to party and be around people all the time (or dry party at least, as Paul speaks against drunkenness too). But rather, I think Paul is just talking about living selfishly versus living selflessly.
Now you might be thinking, I was just talking about actually having taken some time off, able to relax and unwind, and just catch my breath in the midst of it all. Isn’t that selfish? I’m doing it for myself, after all.
And then now some of you might be thinking, no no no that’s not selfish at all, we need to fill our own cup before we can fill others. And I get it, and I agree. I just want to clear up any confusion that might be happening here.
What I think Paul is actually getting at is talked about in the gospel lesson. Jesus is calling himself the living bread from heaven, or more famously translated, the bread of life from heaven. We have heard about Jesus being called this a lot in the past. We’ve sung about it even. And if all things go as planned, we will sing about it again later in this service. So it isn’t an unfamiliar term for us, although the concept might be.
This particular passage is a bit more graphic than we are perhaps used to. Although we do get it every few years, it always seems to get me a little when I hear Jesus talking about us gnawing and chewing on his flesh and guzzling up his blood. I’m not adverse to the horror movie genre at all, but there is just something about eating human flesh that gives me the chills.
But of course, Jesus isn’t speaking literally. He doesn’t actually want people to eat him. Although, he might have been thinking “bite me” when being hassled by some of the religious leaders at the time, but that would have been figurative too. But Jesus was describing how his way of life, his teachings of grace and mercy and community, how God’s love for him and us all is reflected through his actions, is the staple of our very lives.
Just as bread would be the staple of their diet, the first thing they would ask for when hungry, the very source of sustenance for all the people of the area and time, so is Jesus’ teaching, God’s very Word, the source of all that is good and just, a staple for all of us throughout history.
I just wish Jesus wasn’t so graphic. I also wish he didn’t use bread as I think potatoes are much more of a staple around the world. However, I did do some research and apparently Jesus didn’t have access to any potatoes whatsoever.
Whatever the case, this is what Paul was talking about in regards of our time. That while we might think that living for ourselves is just the bee’s knees, Paul is trying to warn us that it actually isn’t. It isn’t as fulfilling as we think, it isn’t as joyous, it isn’t really life. Instead, the life that truly is life that is promised to us by God through Christ is found in these exact teachings of grace and peace. It is found in this way of living for each other in community. It is found in this bread of life from heaven.
But it isn’t some sort of magic spell or something that will somehow allow us to just be happy all the time, but a process for us to see and understand that we actually aren’t alone in this world, but surrounded by God’s people and all the saints, where we can learn to live in harmony with each other, selflessly serving and lifting each other up. And it isn’t a one-time thing either, but a fundamental shift in who we are, how we see the world, and of course how we treat each other.
And this is the bread of life from heaven. But just as some workout advice I read once said, “Eating one bad meal doesn’t make you unhealthy, just like how eating one good meal doesn’t make you healthy”, so are we to continually partake in this bread of life, chew on its truths, wrestle with its teachings, and digest its promises. And just as food does to our bodies, this heavenly food will begin to be reflected in our lives, in our relationships, and in how we spend our time in community with God and each other.
So come, all of you who are weary and thirst. The table of the universe has been set and you are all invited to sit, stay, and be part of the larger body of Christ in the world, filled with the Spirit to do good, and live among and spend time with all of God’s beloved children.
As we continue in this season after Pentecost, may we continually hunger and yearn for the bread of life from heaven, that we might partake in the body and community of Christ, granting us the life that truly is life. Thanks be to God. Amen.