Sunday, August 26, 2012

Guest Moodler: Sermon on the Bread of Life

My friend Cathy, the parish nurse for her United Church community, gave the reflection at her church again last Sunday. I liked it so much, I asked her if I could share it with you. A little background information: being a prairie girl, Cathy is thrilled to have a producing peach tree in her yard (on Vancouver Island) for the first time this year. Hence the peach references. Happy Sunday!

Reflection on Bread of Life
August 19, 2012

I told a few people I was going to talk about food today. I’ve been itching to talk about food and when I saw that the reading for today was about eating and drinking flesh and blood, I thought, “Close enough!” Then I had the idea of sharing one of my miraculous peaches with the children and my thoughts turned to miracles.
          “Wine from water is not so small,
but an even better magic trick is that anything is here at all.
          So the challenging thing becomes, not to look for miracles,
 but finding where there isn’t one.”
That’s from a song by Peter Mayer talking about everything being holy and seeing miracles every day.
          Thinking about miracles reminded me of when I was 21. I was desperately seeking to relate to God in a way that made sense to me, to live a faith that made sense to me. And I found help in a book I was reading at the time called “The Colour Purple” by Alice Walker. One character explains to another what God is like and then says this line that I’ll never forget. It goes like this: “It pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.” The other woman asks her “Are you saying God is vain?” and the first woman says, “No, God just wants to be loved.”  When I read that, I thought “That is something I can do.” I was able to let go of a lot of the confusion I felt about religion and just get on with the business of loving God. It was a transformative moment for me and from time to time I like to remind myself that God doesn’t like it if I walk by the colour purple in a field and don’t notice it.
          When we notice the miracles right in front of us…the colour purple, a ripe peach, the children… that is a moment when we notice God, and in that moment transformation happens. That’s why all the great spiritual teachers encourage us to live in the present moment, to notice the now. That’s where God is and that’s where God works. As much as we fool ourselves that we can control things and self-improve ourselves, real and lasting transformation is God’s work, moment by moment by moment.
          And so what about my food sermon?  My big chance to lay down my manifesto about healthy eating? I have lots of opinions about what we should eat and not eat. The thing is, so does everybody else. There was a patient where I work in my other job. She was 109 years old. She ate mostly white bread, arrowroot cookies and tea. Well, I say if you’re in your tenth or eleventh decade, keep on doing what you’re doing! Who am I to mess with success?
I will try to sneak some healthy eating awareness into the Health Corner in the church newsletter, and maybe some other initiatives. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That’s a pretty good place to start a discussion.  And we can fuss about the specifics but I suspect that healthy eating has as much to do with how we eat as what we eat.
          How we eat, how we do anything, is an indication of how we live. Do we eat, and live, with a sense of gratitude or a sense of entitlement? Do we eat, and live, noticing the miracles…the colour purple, the taste of peach…or with a distracted mind and heart, focusing on our worries, our plans, our frustrations, our past or our future, but not the present moment? Do we eat, and live, aware of abundance or taking it all for granted?
          Two years ago I became a vegetarian. I’d been thinking about it for a long time.  I was worried (I am worried) about the environment and wanted to do something personally significant, even if the impact was small. I came across a book on cd in the library, one of those books that talks about where our food comes from and the impact of the food industry on animals and the environment. I listened to it as I drove back and forth to work in Victoria. None of the information should have been surprising but at that time I heard it with a new awareness. This book talked about those mega factory farms in the USA, the conditions under which chickens are raised with the space of a size of a piece of paper per chicken, beaks being cut short, and desensitized workers in the slaughter house treating the live chickens horrifically. Pigs living in a cage or box without enough space to even stand up, absolutely imprisoned. Those are the stories that touched something deep in me. I had never been a particularly strong animal advocate. I grew up on a farm and knew where food came from. But that book made me feel terrible, and guilty, not so much as an individual, but as a people.
          I’m not against meat, or farmers. I don’t need anyone else to become a vegetarian. I think my point is that we are guilty as a people of taking our food for granted. Roast chicken used to be a special treat. I have a friend whose family still has chicken for Christmas dinner. I used to think, “How ordinary!” until I realized that it wasn’t always ordinary. Now we eat chicken every day. That huge amount of chicken has to come from somewhere and the factory farms supply the demand. And creatures suffer to supply it. Same with other foods and creatures when as a society we just want more, more, more.
          My point is to be aware. Be grateful. If you have the ability and means to choose food from environmentally and ethically sound options, it’s soul satisfying to do so.  If you’re in a situation where you have less choice, bless the MacDonald’s burger or whatever it is that’s nourishing you and bless and give thanks to the creature or part of creation that it came from. And enjoy it!
          Jesus calls himself the bread of life. He goes further to say we must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have life. What does this mean? Well, I’m not sure.  But I wonder if it has something to do with opening our awareness to the miracle of the moment that allows Jesus some space in our hearts and souls and minds to do his transforming, life giving work in us and ultimately through us. We become aware that we are part of this miracle, part of creation, connected to all that is and then we want to treat all that is with reverence. That is healing. That is health. That is the life that lives fully in the now and eternally.
          So go forth and look for miracles, “God’s footprints” a friend of mine calls them. And miracles will be sure to find you.
          Let us pray.
          Loving God,
Thank you for the miracle of this day, for the colour purple, the taste of a peach, the face of a child, the love of a friend. Help us to notice creation, to love and care for creation, to love and care for ourselves and each other and in so doing, love you.      

(If by chance you've missed the Peter Mayer song the other two times I've posted it, here it is again, for your enjoyment.)

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