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Proper 10: 07/16/2017

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Sermon, Proper 10A                                                                     Jeffrey B. MacKnight
16 July 2017                                                                              St. Dunstan’s, Bethesda


Last week I went to get blood drawn for routine tests for a physical exam.  It had to be fasting since the night before, and my appointment wasn’t until 1:30 p.m.  I was famished!  I went to the lab at the doctor’s office and had 3 tubes of blood drawn.  My daughter Maggie went with me. 

Next thing – Maggie heard an announcement on the P.A. system: “Code blue in the lab!”  I woke up flat on my back in the hallway while 6 staff people looked down at me, took my blood pressure, and raised my feet.  My doctor was there, smiling when I asked him, “Who are you?” 

This mildly embarrassing, but rather hilarious, incident points to a simple truth:  we all need sustenance, nourishment, to survive and thrive….  While a few people fast voluntarily for spiritual reasons, in general, hunger is not a helpful state to be in: when we are really hungry, we can’t learn, we can’t grow, we can’t communicate or function very well.  In extreme cases, we pass out.  I have a new respect for people who suffer from hunger.  We need to do all we can to stop it – especially in East Africa where famine looms yet again. 

Jesus tells a parable about seed sown, by God presumably.  Lots of seed is sown, but it needs nourishment, water or it won’t grow.  Jesus tells us it can fall:

  • On the Path – birds come and ate them up
  • On the Rocks – no depth, scorched by the sun
  • Among Thorns – it is choked
  • On Good soil – it takes root, grows, and bears fruit – a hundredfold!

We as God’s people need to be fed, or we’ll “pass out” before we can do God’s work in this world, before we can help someone who is struggling, feed someone who’s hungry, or speak out when somebody is getting a raw deal….  So, how do we get fed spiritually in this crazy world?  What keeps us going?  What inspires us and gives us strength? 

Spiritual food doesn’t come from the grocery store…it comes in other ways. Traditionally, we think of studying scripture, meditation, communion with nature, inspiring sermons (like this one!), and of course bread and wine, humbly received at the altar, through which Christ himself feeds us.  These are solid, time-honored sources of nourishment for our souls. 

But there are other sources of nourishment that are more active and outward-looking….we can be fed spiritually not just saying our prayers, but out in the world, in action, seeing and doing God’s work in a variety of ways. 

This last week at St. Dunstan’s, I’ve been fed as I have tried to feed others at special moments in life: a burial, and a wedding.  As the church we have much to say, much to offer at these moments of inflection in life.  At weddings and funerals, the church is filled with people who may not know God very much, and we have an opportunity to share what we know and believe. 

I’m also thrilled to report the success of our community-wide meeting on refugee policy and prospects last Thursday night.  Kelly Gauger of the State Department Refugee office gave a riveting account of the fast-changing administration policies and court decisions, as her office tries to help as many people as possible.   All 44 of us in the room on a hot July night were energized to find ways to support refugees desperate to find a safe place to live and work.  Two-thirds of the group were from outside St. Dunstan’s: churches, synagogues, and civic groups.  This shows that St. Dunstan’s can make a real impact in our neighborhood, in Bethesda, and in Washington.  I felt fed, renewed, and energized at the end of the evening. 

Back to Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seeds: it’s humbling, but in this parable, we are the dirt…the soil in which God plants.  We need to be the best soil we can be for God to plant God’s word…

We need to bring our best selves to church to hear and receive that word…our most open, expectant selves, our most hopeful selves, ready to be fed, enlightened, inspired, and challenged by that word.  Then we also need to be alert to see God at work in the world, and hear God’s call to us to take action when things aren’t right.  That might mean calling a Senator to advocate for poor people, working at a soup kitchen, raising money for transitional housing, standing with a disabled person or a transgender person, or finding a refugee a home.  We need to be the fertile soil in which God can sow the seeds of life. 

We don’t control God’s planting….  The good news is that God scatters seed widely, profligately, prodigiously, lavishly, even wastefully.  There is plenty!  We just need to be open, receptive, fertile, and ready…and we need to get the food we need, spiritual food as well as physical food, so that we are strong and ready to be God’s hands and feet and voice in the world.  We need to get fed ourselves, so that nobody will have to announce, “Code blue in the lab!” for us.  AMEN.  


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