Reflections to start the week
Monday, July 28, 2014
The church was big. It could seat over 1500 people. I went there last week for a service of burial, offered in thanksgiving for the life and witness of a friend, someone I admired for many reasons. Apparently, I wasn’t the only friend and admirer. The place was full for this sweet, sad liturgy that affirms the power of resurrection and calls us all to “alleluia” even in the midst of things beyond our understanding.
The homily at the service told the story of a full life, well lived, marked by what the well-heeled crowd would undoubtedly consider notable accomplishment. We honored a man who had a PhD in physics, a Harvard MBA, a remarkable and extended career in management consultant, working at top levels of a major firm. He served the community in many ways, on all kinds of boards. In retirement, he ably led a faith based organization that sought to draw people into deeper relationship with God and touched thousands of lives in North and South America. He had a deep commitment to his wife, who has had a powerful ministry in her own right, her ministry marked by goodness and grace. He had a deep commitment to the rest of his family and his many, many friends. He had a warm and winning personality. He was a skilled and avid golfer, even developed his own golf course. By many measures, he was a success. Out of all these impressive, even enviable accomplishments, here’s the thing that struck me in the homily offered by a wise clergyman. Indeed, this was the point of the sermon. This friend was described by the homilist as someone who for almost his entire adult life was hungry to know God. From what I could tell, the guy knew God pretty well. But the homilist suggested that there was always this desire to go further, to go deeper, to know more. I found myself thinking that would make an amazing epitaph: A person hungry to know God. It caused me to ask: What does it mean to live a life hungry to know God? What would it mean for me to follow that hunger?
Our liturgy is there to help. The service of Morning Prayer begins with confession. I consider it daily course correction. Whenever I read this service, I pause on this phrase: We have not loved you (God) with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. There is not a day that prayer is not true in my life, even when prayed just moments after waking. On most days, before my feet hit the floor, a word or action or thought has demonstrated that I have room to grow in love of God and/or neighbor.
We see it in the eucharist. As a priest, I was asked this question at my ordination, a question to which I return in moments when I wonder about my peculiar profession. In the ordination service, the bishop asks the would-be priest: Will you nourish God’s people with the riches of God’s grace? When we gather for communion, the bread and the wine, Christ’s presence with us, address that hunger.
Jesus taught his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. That word “righteous” is not so much an indication of right action, following the rules, coloring in the lines, staying in your lane, thinking inside the box. It indicates relationship. To be righteous is to be rightly related to God and neighbor. This Monday morning, consider what it means to you to be hungry to know God? Where do you see that need, that hunger and thirst in your own life? How might you go about meeting that hunger? Give thanks for those you know, like my departed friend, who have helped answer those questions, even in a small way.
– Jay Sidebotham
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled, and they took up what was left over the of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who are were about 5000 men, besides women nd children.
-Matthew 14:19-21, a sneak preview of this coming Sunday’s gospel.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.