08 August 2009

RIP Marion Hatchett

Marion Josiah Hatchett
1927 - 2009

TTLS is saddened to learn of the death of Marion Hatchett last night, 7 August.

Anyone who has attended seminary during the past thirty-five years is well acquainted with his work. He and Massey Shepherd were the foremost liturgical scholars of our age.

He was a member of the
  • Standing Commission on Church Music, 1974-1985
  • Standing Liturgical Commission, 1977-1982
  • General Board of Examining Chaplains, 1988-1994
  • Chair of the Text Committee for The Hymnal 1982
  • Chair of the Committee for the Book of Occasional Services
Among his many publications are
  • Sanctifying Life, Time and Space: An Introduction to Liturgical Study (1976)
  • A Manual for Clergy and Church Musicians (1980)
  • Commentary on the American Prayer Book (1981), and
  • The Making of the First American Book of Common Prayer (1982).
He received his B.D. in 1951 from the School of Theology, University of the South. He was ordained deacon on 13 June 1951, and priest on 25 June 1952.

He received his S.T.M. from General Seminary in 1967 and his Th.D. in 1972. Hatchett taught liturgics and church music at the School of Theology from 1 Feb. 1969, until his retirement on 16 May 1999. On 15 Jan. 1991, he was named the Cleveland Keith Benedict Professor of Pastoral Theology.

But, more important than all of the above, he was a gentleman. It was an honour to know him.

I am positive the liturgy in Heaven will improve now that he's there to see it's done correctly.

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him, O Lord.
And Light Perpetual Shine Upon Him.

How will the story be told?

As a "lurker" on the House of Deputies/Bishops list I read many excellent comments. Occasionally I write the author and ask permission to quote from the post. I feel fortunate that permission has always been given.

A recent post by L. Zoe Cole, a lay delegate from Colorado, needs a wider readership. Her comments are a response to a delegate who said TEC has a golden opportunity to reach out and tell the story of Jesus and his love -- if we seize the opportunity presented to us, now. He asks "How will the story be told."

Here is Zoe's response.
    I am always reminded of what Gamaliel said (or at least what the Book of Acts says he said to the rest of his Pharisaical brethren) about the early Christians: if this is not of God, it will pass away more quickly the less we oppose it; if this is of God, woe to us if we oppose it; so why not just chill and see what happens?

    We seem to forget that this faith we follow and sometimes so jealously guard from further spiritual growth is itself a growth of the Jewish faith of Jesus' first followers. That never means we throw out what we have received.

    However, our brothers at the council in Jerusalem relied as fully on their experience as on their Scriptures to discern how the Holy Spirit was leading them to find a way to live with each other. Why are we so determined not to follow their example?

    Jew/Gentile, Slave/Free, Male/Female represent the essential, immutable human differences for Paul's world view. And yet, he says these disappear in Christ; they have no bearing on our life as the Body of Christ. Our own experience of essential, immutable human differences has changed some 2,000 years later, but the crux of Paul's argument remains the same: whatever we think makes us irreducibly different as humans is of absolutely no importance to God - it can not prevent God's action in Christ from making us One: One with God and with each other, whether we like it or not. That is the inescapable reality that we live in as Christians.

    Given that reality:
    • What if all those who believe that Scripture says that God unequivocally and categorically opposes same-sex sexual relations, and that the "theology hasn't been done" to show otherwise acknowledged to all who asked, that Christians of good will, holiness of life and prodigious study of Scripture and tradition disagree about that understanding of Scripture?
    • What if everyone, instead of simply saying, "this is what I believe" added, "but others have come to different conclusions" and then identified some sources for further review and reflection, trusting that the lifelong faith formation which we do as the People of God gives everyone the ability to discern God's will, in community for their life and their relationships?

    Is it possible that God is so powerful that we do not risk our own salvation - or that of those we love or feel we're responsible for - by continuing to live as sisters and brothers with other Christians/Episcopalians and doing the Gospel work together that we have been given to do together? If not, why do we follow such a puny God? If so, why do we refuse to live and work together as the Body of Christ?

    Frankly, I've read LOTS (I admit it hasn't been every word) of the theology that says God doesn't accept same-sex sexual activity and I find it totally unpersuasive. I keep praying and studying and asking God if maybe I've missed something and reading more theological arguments, but to no avail. I just can't shake the sense I get from taking the Bible as a whole that its trajectory is in favor of inclusion - that God really has no standards, but simply loves every human ever made and wants to be in relationship with us - that in every age and place, those who love God and seek to be in deeper relationship with God and to treat their fellow humans as beloved children of God are indeed acceptable to God.

    Is there sin? Of course! Are there right and wrong absolutes? Of course! Do these correspond to what affirms my understanding of reality? Occasionally.

    Will God reject us because we get the sex piece wrong? The Bible itself seems to say no. Will unGodly chaos ensue because we admit we don't have all the answers and allow people to be who God made them even though Scripture doesn't clearly state that's ok (or maybe even says that something that might be close is "an abomination" like sowing two kinds of grain in the same field or cloth woven from both wool and linen)? Well, there is a certain amount of chaos in the world. However, that seems to be less the result of variations on Biblical sexual practices (although that really rules nothing out) than of economic injustice, which tends to result in oppression and poverty and corruption and violence and the disintegration of social structures.

    In the end, I find I'm not so concerned about what you (my sister or brother in Christ) BELIEVE - even if you sincerely believe it - but about whether you will serve God with me. Will you join me, will you help me to proclaim in all that I do and say and am that the Kingdom of God is right here with us as near as our own breath and that it is always the Year of the Lords Favor? Will you help me release the captives and provide justice for the widow and the orphan and feed the poor and seek and serve God in everyone I meet - including you?

    This, I think, is where the road is. And we need to be walking this road together. Are you coming?
Thanks you, Zoe for an excellent commentary and allowing me to post it.

07 August 2009

What book worship leads to

One of the problems with fundamentalism is it leads to book worship. Not reverence for what humans perceive as the word of God, but the actual worship of that book.

There are many problems with that. First. it fences God in. God cannot act in any way except as described in that book. Fundamentalists cannot respond to modern life because modern life was not envisioned in that book.

Second, book worship is the chief manner of subjugation of other people. In Christianity we saw this with the African population, the American Indian population, women, and the GLBT community. The bible is used to justify all sorts of horrible crimes against them.

Another aspect is the worship of the book itself. The words become more sacred than the truths they expound. The words become more sacred than deity. The words themselves become deity.

This has reared it's satanic head once again, and in Pakistan. According to the Catholic Herald a mob angered by rumors that Christian children had cut up pages containing text from the Koran.

How did the book worshipers respond? They killed eight Pakistani Christians, burning some of them alive including at least two young children. This attack has been proclaimed among the bloodiest attacks on Christians in the country's history.

This, folks, is what Fundamentalism and book worship leads to. We've seen it repeated throughout Christian history. In the Roman Church it lead to the Inquisition (an office still round in the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which the present pope headed). It is rearing its head in Anglicism, too, in the form of "the Covenant."

ADDENDUM: I've just discovered a post complimentary to this post over at OCICBW

06 August 2009

Schism comes to the Church of Scotland

Well, it was bound to happen when the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) allowed a homosexual male to be a minister in the Kirk. The Rev'd Scott Rennie was ordained and approved by the General Synod last May.

In an article in the Herald today, it is reported that thirty-five kirks are rebelling against the ordination of gay ministers.
Now 35 churches have publicly said they will not accept gay ordination under any circumstances, putting them on collision course with the Kirk ahead of the critical 2011 General Assembly when the special commission reports back, and more are to follow.
It gets much better than this. They have decided that a covenant is the way to go. I wonder where they got that idea. And, the group they've formed is the Fellowship of Confessing Churches. Imagine that! Just one word removed from the Church of England schismatic group. And, their first statement is:
"We acknowledge the great harm that has come from our failures to maintain this standard, and we repent and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married."
Where have we heard all of this before.

The group says they are not in existence just to fight homosexuality - and here is the best part of the article
The Rev William Philip, of St George's Tron [in Glasgow], said: "I'm very glad that the fellowship gives our congregation an opportunity to publicly make a stand for the orthodox Christian Gospel, so that anyone who comes to out church knows this is what we believe in."
The "Fellowship's" web page contains this statement.
We therefore believe it is necessary at this time to publicly mark the boundary between orthodox Christianity and spurious forms that claim the same name, and make clear and public our rejection of new teachings and practices which depart from the historic Christian faith, turn away from the orthodox gospel of repentance and faith, and publicly sanctify what the Bible proclaims as sin. [emphasis theirs]
I find that really hypocritically funny considering the founder of their faith, John Knox, didn't care one hoot about the orthodox Christian gospel. He rejected the orthodox Christian gospel and replaced it with a spurious gospel that claimed the same name but was completely revisionist. At least that is how orthodox Christianity saw his revisionist theology. I wonder if this group would have rejected the new teachings had they been there for John Knox "revision."

Ah, hypocrisy has no shame - or memory. Where is Henry when we need him.

Transfiguration Day and Hiroshima

As we celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord, let us pause to pray for those who died in Hiroshima on this date.
O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of your children who were transfigured on this day in Hiroshima and later in Nagasaki, and grant them an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of your presence where they may obtain complete enlightenment. Amen.
As Episcopalians will notice, I've adapted the BCP prayer - virtually all of the victims of the two cities were undoubtedly Buddhist or Shinto. If you don't like the adaptation, too bad - God loves them as much as he loves those who follow the path of Jesus. Get over it.

05 August 2009

Vivat Iakavos!

While I was out having a day-late birthday dinner with friends in a loud restaurant called "The Cracked Crab" where the waiters were quite easy on the eyes, something wonderful happened and I missed it.

For a year I've been praying that Fr. Jake would start blogging again. The problem was, I wasn't specific in my prayers! I should have been praying, "Dear God, please bring Jake back to us, but let him keep his job!"

I've known the real Fr. Jake for about fifteen years or so and I consider him not just a priest, but someone I am honoured to call friend. I know that if I needed him, truly needed him, he'd be at my door as soon as he could get here.

And we, TEC, need him now. We are moving into a new era for our church and no one can bring Fr. Jake's unique understanding and clarity to the blogosphere.

So, TTLS and James, personally, welcomes the return of The Blog Father.

Vivat Iakavos. Vivat!

02 August 2009

The Church - more than entertainment

One of the illnesses sweeping the Christian denominations for the the past twenty years is the "teaching' that what has worked in the past will not work in the modern age.

The translation of that is: the way that has worked for at least 1500 yeas just does not work, anymore. We must be "with it" and make sure to put on a good show to attract the masses.
    "If only the "right" music is used, in just a few weeks our attendance will be in the thousands of people."

The worship of God has transmogrificated into slick rock/country music shows built around well polished "worship teams" who have the music down pat and have the choreography as perfect as classical ballet. They even work out how may times the "spirit" will lead them to repeat a "song." Eradicated is the worship aspect and it is replaced with pure entertainment and showmanship.

The focus is on a "feel good" experience and there is no dedication to the communal life of the Christian community.

Please do not think that I am against "modern" music in church. I started the folk mass in my parish back in the early 1970s and played in the group. I like "guitar songs" but I don't like mindless, bad, music that is meant as entertainment. Singing "He is Lord" sixty times is "spiritual self gratification," not worship.

One of the outgrowths of that type of worship experience is the death of real community. Attendees leave the building as soon as the show is over. In fact, in most of these type of churches, the attendee has no contact with the community outside the sixty minutes or so on Sunday morning.

That is a death knell to a congregation.

I was recently sent remarks by Francis Chen the senior pastor Cornerstone, a 4,000 member congregation in Southern California. I found his remarks to in tune with mine, that I wish to post his comments.

Please continue reading through to the end - don't let the middle part turn you off. I believe you'll see an evangelism tool that will work if we implement it.

    Is there any logic in believing that God started His church as a Spirit-filled, loving body with the intention that it would evolve into entertaining hour-long services? Was He hoping that one day people would be attracted to the church not because they care for one another, not because they are devoted to God, not because the supernatural occurs in their midst, but because of good music and entertainment?

    As elders at Cornerstone Church, we're constantly asking: Does this make sense biblically? We try to imagine what conclusions we would come to if we had no prior church experience. We've been discovering that some of the things we do make sense to the American church-attender, but they don't make sense biblically.

    Try it. Picture yourself on an island with only a Bible. You've never been to a church-you've never even heard of one. The only ideas you have about church are what you've read in your Bible. Then you enter a building labeled "church" for the first time. What would you expect to experience as you entered that building? Really take some time to think this through. Now compare that to what you actually experience when you attend "church."

    A while back, an ex-gang member got baptized at Cornerstone. He fell in love with Jesus and turned from his old lifestyle. After several months at the church, he stopped attending. When we asked him why he stopped attending, he answered:

    I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren't just nice to each other once a week-we were family.

    That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church was intended to be. It saddened me because I realized that the gangs paint a better picture of loyalty and family than the local church body does.

    But what if the church looked like this?

    They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. The Acts 2:42-47

    That describes what the ex-gang member was looking for. It describes what the world is waiting for. I wish I could have been a part of that first church. Don't you? I used to look at this passage as something that was wonderful but could never happen in Southern California in the 21st century. There are just too many cultural obstacles for the Holy Spirit to overcome. He is powerful enough to raise the dead, but not powerful enough to form a sharing and loving body in our individualistic society. I doubted God's ability to stir a body of believers to love tirelessly and give without restraint. I reasoned that this type of fellowship was probably not intended for our time. Besides, we don't have time to love like this.

    Looking back, I wonder if I came to those conclusions because there was a part of me that wasn't sure I wanted it. It's interesting how much our theology is driven by desire.

    There came a point when the elders at Cornerstone concluded that there was no reason why God wouldn't want the church to look like it did in the beginning. From there we reasoned that if God wants that, then we want it too. But the exciting part came when we resolved not to settle for anything less. We would pursue this for His church regardless of how many would be turned off and move to other churches. If this is God's standard, then we will one day give an account for how we led His people toward the biblical model.

    But where do we go from here? Now comes the hard part: answering the question of how. There are probably many who want our churches to function like the early church, but how do we get there?

    Start with what you can control.

    In other words, start with yourself. It's wrong to blame others for the condition of the church. And it's silly for leaders to blame followers. God wasn't satisfied when Adam blamed Eve or when Eve blamed the serpent.

    The elders at Cornerstone started with what we could control. We can't control other people. We can't make the people at Cornerstone "break bread in their homes" or "sell their possessions." We also can't control God. We can't make Him do "wonders and miraculous signs" through us. I can't conjure up miracles just because I want to. I can, however, sell my possessions as people have needs. I do have control over that, so that became the logical first step. As we do our part, we trust God to bring about the "awe" and "wonders" in His time.

    It was a beautiful time of sharing as our elders laid "everything" at each other's feet. We surrendered the keys to our cars, homes, and bank accounts. I actually believed the elders who looked me in the eyes and said, "What's mine is yours. If anything ever happens to you, I will support and care for your kids as much as I would care for my own. I will be your life insurance." And because they had a history of genuine sacrifice for the sake of the gospel, I trusted what they said. From there, we began going to some of our friends in the congregation and expressing our commitment to them (something anyone can do).

    And now this mentality is spreading. New life is permeating the church as individuals are backing up their words with sacrifice. Cars and homes are being sold or given away. Expensive vacations are joyfully replaced with spending on others. People are being taken into homes-not only for meals, but to live. It's still the beginning of the process, and most people probably still come for the teaching or music, but there's a growing number at Cornerstone who are coming to be with their church family and don't care about who's teaching or leading music.

    Why are you telling me this? I'm just a worship leader.

    I'm assuming you believe that part of your job is to lead the congregation into a time of corporate worship. I'm guessing your desire is that God would see a group that is "like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose," passionately worshiping Him. Services are not about individuals worshiping the Lord, but about a body coming together to do so. If our gatherings are no different than our personal devotional time, then there's no reason to gather. Your job is to help them understand that they have come together as a body, as a people, as something greater than themselves. This is no small task: most people come only as individuals in search of personal enrichment. That's why you need to be a part of developing a family mindset throughout the week.

    It is your responsibility to remind them they are "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9). God is looking for a "people," a "priesthood," a "nation" to declare his praises. His agenda was to display His glory through "Israel," not "Israelites." He wants the church to come together-not as individuals, but as members of one "body" committed to the "common good" (1 Corinthians 12).

    As a worship leader, you want people to encounter God. This can't be accomplished just by good music and well-timed key changes. It's the by-product of witnessing a group of people deeply committed to one another in love. First John 4:12 puts it plainly, "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." No one has physically seen God, but we can give people a glimpse of Him when we love. And that's what we want to see as the church gathers: a glimpse of God.

    For unbelievers, it's this glimpse of God displayed through unity that will bring them to faith. That's why Jesus prayed, "I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:23).

    Back to the point: There must be more.

    Something real was happening in the early church. It was something of the Spirit too powerful to be replicated by human effort. Imagine taking a friend to one of their church gatherings. Your friend might not experience a smoothly run, professional service. But one thing he would experience: GOD. Do we even need to ask which is better? So much of church growth today has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. The right team of talented people can make any church grow. When people sit through creative services, is it really God they're experiencing?

    Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that we shouldn't give our best to God. If you're a musician, work diligently at your music. If you're a teacher, labor intensely over your messages. I'm just asking you to be willing to rethink what you're doing and ask: How can we create a more biblical environment where people see and experience God?

    I'm reminded of the story of Gideon in Judges 7. He tells Gideon

    "‘You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, "Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead."' So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained."

    If you remember the story, God then reduced the army to 300 soldiers. God did not just defeat the Midianites-He was careful to do it in a way that gave Him all the glory. He did not want to allow Israel to boast "that her own strength has saved her."

    May people see our churches and know that mere human beings could not have created what they experienced. May we seek the priorities of the early church and trust God to once again produce the fruit of the early church.

This is powerful stuff, folk. And it will work.

I recently read that on the day of Pentecost the ratio of Christians was about 1 to 300,000 in the Roman world. Look what happened because of the message and the commitment they had to one another!

I do not suggest that we sell all our possessions to give to those in need, but we can do much more than we are doing now. We must start caring for our own - now. We must become a caring, loving community. When we do that, God's love will spill out from us to the world. That's true evangelism evangelism.

A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another,
even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
John 13.34

Trinity VIII - Pentecost IX

The Eighth Sunday after Trinity
Proper 13 - Year B
Ecce Deus

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a; Psalm 51:1-13; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35

    Introit: Behold God is my helper, and the Lord is the protector of my soul: turn back the evils upon my enemies, and cut them off in Thy truth, O Lord my protector. (Ps. 53. 3). Save me, O God, by Thy Name, and deliver me in Thy strength.

    O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succor, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
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.”

A widower had some raspberry bushes. The first summer after his wife died, a woman from his church asked if she could come over and pick raspberries. She knew he and his wife had grown the bushes from the spindly young canes that came from the mail-order catalogue into thick healthy shrubs laden with fruit. “They have to be picked if you want them to keep producing,” she explained. “And I want to make you a pie. You don’t get raspberry often because it takes a whole lot of berries and you have a whole bunch of berries just waiting to be made into pie.”

She picked the berries in the morning and returned in the afternoon with the pie: homemade crust, red raspberries and filling peeking through the golden brown lattice crisscrossing the top, and still warm.

“Enjoy a piece with me?” he asked. “I can’t eat an entire pie by myself.” He poured them each a glass of 2% milk and cut two pieces of the pie. It was marvelous – sweet, tart, gooey delicious fruit; flaky, tender, slightly salty crust. Perfect, especially with the milk to wash it down and clear the palate for the next bite. He thanked her for the pie.

Although the pie would have been a luxurious treat – he could certainly have enjoyed it piece by piece by himself – he got an idea. He packed up the pie and went to visit a friend. “Here, have a piece of pie,” he said. He sliced a piece and dished it onto one of the paper plates he had brought along. “I won’t stay long, but I think you will enjoy this.” They visited while the friend ate the pie, a small piece, enough to taste, but the richness of the sweet and tart and tender pie made a small piece just the right amount.

He thought next of who might actually not just enjoy a piece of the pie, but need the pie; who might need some simple pleasure, some tangible reminder that unassuming things like berries and sugar, flour and salt can be transformed into something that lets you actually taste summer in a mouthful; who might be served by this undemanding manifestation of care and love in edible form.

The pie was too good not to share. He spent the rest of the day sharing the pie, slice by modest slice. He and those with whom he shared it found that even a small piece could convey the essence of it: sunshine, earth, abundance, creativity, compassion.

He came to think of it as communion by pie.

It was a kind of grace that conveyed the knowledge that he was part of a larger community and that connection was part of what he hungered for. The pie did not cause the connection, of course. But the pie was the means for it, a way to say: “I see you. I want you to join me in enjoyment, in nourishment, in a moment set aside. Take off your work gloves, turn off your computer, set down your cell phone, check book, dish towel. Sit down for a moment and do nothing more than enjoy a piece of pie.”

Pie is not bread. A good homemade pie says indulgence in a way that most common loaves of bread do not unless one is truly hungry. But a good homemade loaf can also remind us of humble elements transformed: flour, salt, yeast, maybe some egg to glaze the crust. The tangible and instantaneous connection with foundational processes of life: sun ripening grain, earth and rain feeding growth, human labor and creativity transforming raw materials into life-sustaining nourishment.

Attention to the ingredients connects us to a web of labor and laborers whose efforts make this food possible. We may even catch a glimpse of generations past whose ingenuity and fortitude laid the foundation for the bread before us.

We could go all the way back to ancient times, but we don’t have to in order to show the preciousness and perseverance of people dependent upon bread for their daily sustenance. Immigrants packed their trunks with wheat seeds when they journeyed to the great plains of North America. Refugees sewed seeds into the hems of their skirts and their children’s shirts for the voyage so the new life they longed for would be sustainable in a new home. They knew that with even a bit of bread, they could be nourished. They knew they could sustain life – planting, tending, harvesting, milling, mixing, kneading, waiting, shaping, baking, taking, giving thanks, breaking, sharing.

We meet Jesus in today’s gospel just after he has fed the multitudes. After everyone has had their fill of bread. They have had the pleasure of eating enough. We know that people have pushed away from the table Jesus set for them in the wilderness feeling sated, satisfied, because according to the story, there are even leftovers.

They ate until they were satisfied. They had enough.

Funny thing about “enough.” Just what is “enough”?

The people Jesus had fed wanted a guarantee that they would always have enough. Jesus’ provision of plentiful bread seemed to them something they wanted more of. So they pursued him. They thought if they could have him, they could have bread – limitless, wonderful, unending bread. Enough.

Jesus fed hungry people. He knew people need to eat. He told his followers to feed people, real, physical, tangible, nutritious food. But he also promised that he himself would be enough.

He didn’t want to be just a provider of physical bread. He wants to be our bread – our sustenance, our nourishment, our daily strength, our source of satisfaction.

Jesus is bread, but he wants to fill the hunger of our hearts and not just our stomachs. He wants to fill the gnawing, aching emptiness that we try to fill with lesser things, to satisfy the longing or the boredom that we use substances of all sorts to quiet, to put an end to the grasping, fretting, worrying about having enough of anything that will in the end possess us, rather than allowing ourselves to fall into the hands of the one for whom we were made.

Jesus is daily sustenance. He is bread to be savored, gathered around. Bread to inspire thanksgiving, to remind us of the wonder of life, to strengthen us. We can contemplate him thoughtfully, chewing slowly, pondering, but we will gain more if we come to him as hungry beggars, open to whatever he places in our outstretched hands.

He was taken, blessed, and broken. He is to be shared. The sharing of his life invites us to exercise the creativity of an artisan bread-baker and the compassion of a mother sewing seeds into the clothing of her children so they will always have sustenance for the journey.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.”

-- The Rev. Amy E. Richter is rector of St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis, MD. E-mail: amyrichter@verizon.net.