Perhaps, nothing has a deeper tradition than what you eat where. Let’s try just a couple:
On thanksgiving, we eat…
On a campfire, we make
After shoveling a snowy driveway, I want to drink….
This end of the summer series sets for us an example of how we use our favorite books, movies, art, and culture to see God’s very presence all around us. We began with Pastor Jim’s grounding in scripture of loving God and our neighbor. Last week, we contemplated Gifts from the Sea, the book by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Today, we meditate on Chocolat, the movie, as it instructs on tradition, or expanding it.
You might be playing with what traditions you have in your life. Or perhaps you hear a bit of Fiddler on the Roof in your mind’s ear. The song, Tradition swirling through.
Sometimes, we hold onto our tradition as if they were gospel.
Whether they are the traditions of how we what we do with our families, in our country, or at the church, it has become set hard in stone. This morning, we raise the question of how we hold tradition gently enough to cherish, but also be open enough to where God is moving.
Chocolat is a 2000 movie nominated for an Academy Award that explored tradition and openness in a small French village in 1959. Take a look.(Video Clip 1 – 1:17)
Traditions can often serve us well reminding us who we are across generations who we are. The challenge can come when we forget crucial parts of who we are.
Each of the gospels has a story of feeding the multitudes. A narrative in which many gather to hear Jesus and then, the disciples fretted worry and want to send the crowds home. We, who are pragmatic, understand. They would be better off at home, all getting their own food – and anyway, why, did they not think ahead? Did they not know they would get hungry today? We find ourselves thinking and we think through the story as we hear it time after time?
And yet, this story is a miracle. Not just because all were fed. But because, minds were changed. Lives were changed. Each time, some thing or someone new introduces change or expands the vision, there is often initial resistance.
In Chocolat, change comes in the form of chocolate shop and new connections. Take a look. (Video Clip 2 – 1:31)
We can almost taste where change is coming. In the film, we are eager for transformation in the lives of the characters. It is easier when it is on the screen, isn’t it? Come to me, all you who hunger and thirst, the prophet, Isaiah proclaims, return to God and know the expansive ways of being a child of God, the prophet proclaims.
We listen again and again to God call for love to grow the table wider enough for all God’s people. It is God’s grace that works on us even when we were sure that we knew more. In our own stories, there are often those, like the Count, who seek to silence or limit us.
For millennia, the church, or those in the church has been a part of limiting vision, in the name of tradition. We have called women, people of color, gypsies, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities, theological understandings, the misunderstood, intellectually disabled to silenced in the name of tradition.
Last month, our book of the month club read Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans. Rachel Held Evans lays out “what we have done”, in hopes of calling us to expand the vision of tradition. Let me share a bit of our shared tradition: In July of the year 1099, Christian crusaders lay siege to Jerusalem. They found a breach in the wall and took the city, killing every defender in their path and killing children among them. The words accompanying their actions? “God wills it.” Lord, have mercy.
When European Christians came to the New World, they brought much with them… including rape, violence, plunder, and enslavement of native peoples. They likened their conquest of the Americas to Joshua’s defeat of Canaan in the Bible. Lord, have mercy.
In the years leading up to the American Civil War, Christian ministers – ministers! – wrote nearly half of all defenses of slavery. Methodist pastor J.W. Ticker told a Confederate audience in 1862, “Your cause is the cause of God.” Lord, have mercy.
On the second day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s imprisonment in a Birmingham jail, a guard slipped him a copy of the morning paper. By the dim light of his cell, Dr. King read the tall black letters that headlined the second page, and I quote (because I’d never use these words on my own): “WHITE CLERGYMEN URGE LOCAL NEGROES TO WITHDRAW FROM DEMONSTRATIONS.” It was the Saturday before Easter; the same day Jesus lay buried in the grave. Lord, have mercy. (1)
Take a look at how this story concludes. (Video Clip 3 – 2:35)
With hope, faith, love, we find ways in the table expands to more fully reflect God’s visions. You and I are a part of that change as moved by the Holy Spirit. We are called reflect on the traditions we carry. Not all of them, my friends, are biblical, not all of them are essentials.
Where is God calling you, today, to expand your vision of tradition and God’s love? If that feels too big of a question, remember, the little boy only had two fish, five loaves of bread. But through Jesus, many people were fed. How can you share your little, so that God can expand your vision of tradition and God’s love?
This is the gospel of Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
(1) Amended from “What We Have Done,” in Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, And Finding the Church (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015), 74-77. Credit to Rev. Candy to LaBar.
Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 55:1-8
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 6:30-40
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, August 19 ~ Saturday, August 26
Sunday: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and at! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Isaiah 55:1. Consider that the prophet Isaiah was calling God’s people to expand table fellowship over two millennia ago, and we are still seeking the same call today.
Monday: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” Isaiah 55:2. Pray for those who are spending their money on that which is not bread and labor; on that which does not satisfy.
Tuesday: “Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.” Isaiah 55:3-4. Have you inclined your ear to God or are you turning away?
Wednesday: “As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34. Pray for time when you encounter those who are lost, that you might have compassion.
Thursday: “When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’” Mark 6:35-36. Consider how eager we are to pass along the challenges of feeding others. The disciples wanted the people to go home. We would like an agency, governmental or private, or some other individual to address the situation. Consider where God is moving.
Friday: “But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?’” Mark 6:37. Where are you being called to feed the hungry?
Saturday: “And he said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So, they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.” Mark 6:38-40. Give thanks to God for the miracle of multiplication, sharing, and division. Perhaps God is urging you to multiply your impact, share your resources, and divide your assets.