Good News, Even in the Wilderness

Grace and Peace to you

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Finding our very beings weakened because of the toxic in this world

We cry out O Lord Hear My Prayer

And the Good News is

That God reaches out and feeds our starving spirit

With the Bread and Wine,

The Body and Blood

Of Jesus Christ

Amen.

(pause)

What nourishes us

As we travel along this sacred journey-

And who are the angels in our lives

That call us back from those places of distress

Telling us to “Get Up and eat!”

(pause)

I would like to share a story

Every Christmas season

There was this sense of excitement that ruminated within me

Because beyond the presents or the snow or the no school

The Christmas season held for me a sense of belonging

Our entire family, my Mother’s tribe

Would gather over my Grandmother’s house

And that meant that my Granny Hazel would fix gumbo

And I mean the authentic stuff

Flavorful rue,

Celery, onions, garlic,

Andouille sausage and shrimp

These ancestral roots buried deep in Louisiana and Mississippi

Spilled out all over that pot of Gumbo,

(pause)

Being in my Grandmother’s presence

And having a bowl or two or three of Gumbo filled me

Energized me

Hearing her voice,

Watching her in the kitchen

Inhaling all of her wisdom and love-

She was my angel

In the midst of an unforgiving wilderness

(pause)

Whenever any of our lives were particularly hectic or chaotic

We, her grandchildren would find ourselves over her house

She’d know when something was wrong in our lives

Especially since rooted in her stature as Elder

This world was completely upside down

She was in tune to it all

So for me,

Being in her presence

Filled my Soul

Temporarily soothing this hunger

This hunger for comfort, of a needing to belong

That we all carry with us

(pause)

Even when she could not physically cook or bake anymore

Her witness,

Her living testimony of how God had moved in her life

Called me back from those places of doubt and of sorrow

Her voice

Those voices

Are encompassed in the echoes

That reach out across the ages

Across these sacred words

In the voice of the Angel to Elijah

“Get Up and Eat!”

“Don’t let nothing get you down.

Always Pray!”

(pause)

I am sure many of us have those stories

Of those in our lives

Whose cooking and care, whose love through baking

Through teaching, shining their light

Revitalizes us

Gives us Hope

Tells us to never give up

Because of who they are,

It’s enough

A light snack, if you will

To get us through that tough day

Until we are once again before The Table

To be fed whole

(pause)

I confess that this particular week writing sermons

Has been one of struggles

Not because these texts are difficult or swathed in parables

But what else is there to say

Jesus is the Bread of Life

We are reminded yet again in our Gospel texts this week

Who can compare?

Only Jesus can fill those places within our very being

Where our souls cry out

O Lord Hear My Prayer

When I call

Answer me

Come and listen…to me!

(pause)

Could we stand up in this place and be that exposed

And sing that song,

O Lord hear my Prayer?

Could we confess that we are broken

Because this world is broken

Unbecoming

Unpleasant

When we unashamedly sing about God’s Love

That the Kingdom of God is right here

That Jesus is the Way, the Truth, The Light

The I AM

This broken word recoils and reacts almost violently

Against God’s Truth

(pause)

Elijah’s words are frightening to us

Because of the vulnerability of this prophet who was human,

Who was also a child of God

Who in this moment felt besides himself

Despondent

 “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.

He pleaded for death,

Why?

He knew of God’s mighty power

He’d answered the call

He’d faithfully, obediently

lived out the mission that God had given him

Or did the ugliness of this world

bleed right through the film cast over his eyes?

What happens to us, my sisters and brothers in Christ?

What happens when we answer the Call

To be a part of the community of faith,

To use our hands, to facilitate healing

To use our voices, to facilitate healing

To use our bodies to be a physical manifestation of God’s Grace

And suddenly this world revolts against people of faith?

(pause)

When I answered this Call, this path that God had set before me

It seemed that the more I wandered in this wilderness

The more I was aware of the unpleasantness of this world

And how Creation struggled

I watched and observed

that people would rather cling to false prophets

Chain themselves to idolatry

Reject the presence of Jesus Christ

Especially when Jesus calls them and us

To be in relationship with one another

Regardless of our faults, our disabilities

Our aging, our low status

Our skin color, our languages

Our visible suffering

(pause)

And the more my eyes were opened to the hostility in this world

The disobedience of this world

The refusal to acknowledge Who God was

The denial that yes, we could actually live into the Peace of Christ

As a beloved community

The more I was angry

Does that too, make you angry, beloved?

It is okay to say we are angry, because those that we love

Those that are dear to us,

those that we are bonded to

through the Holy Spirit, through the blood of Jesus

May never know any peace

(pause)

There is so much betrayal between us as humanity

As people of faith

So my anger evolves into a state of inconsolable sadness

When the Charleston Nine were murdered

I had the ability to flee into a wilderness

I had the ability to immerse myself on the lower prairie

Of my camp

And cry out loud

O Lord Hear Our Prayer!

We are hurting!

“It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life,

for I am no better than my ancestors.”

(pause)

So what nourishes us along our spiritual journey,

And who are the Angels among us?

What nourished me in those moments of being in that wilderness

Was the opportunity of doing Bible Study

With high school youth, counselors-in-training

What nourishes us, my sisters and brothers in Christ

When we find our voice, and speak for transformative change

And God’s righteousness

Even enduring ridicule, jeers, and hatred

This is when our Angels, those next to us in the pews

Or across the fence

Or in the coffee shop, grocery store

Who stop and share the peace

Invite us over for a meal

Bless us with their prayers and their love

(pause)

What nourishes all of us beloved

Is the Good News of Jesus Christ

Jesus stands there, beyond the Cross

In our aisles, in the streets, in our homes

Right where we are

Handing out Life Giving Bread

Jesus says

 “This is the bread that comes down from heaven,

 so that one may eat of it and not die.

(Share with the congregation that now, even as the world continues to battle between  peace and being the beloved community, and grumbling about who Jesus is and questioning whether or not Jesus called and commanded us to take care of the poor, there are moments when I find myself frustrated, angry and sadden with this world. It is in those moments when sometimes I don’t feel like even eating, that I clearly hear my Granny Hazel’s voice, now an Ancestor telling me “Get Up and Eat.”)

Thanks be to God

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