The Collect for the fourth Sunday in Lent
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
These days, Monday Matters offers reflections on the prayers we say in church on Sunday, the collect of the day. We do this based on the conviction that praying shapes our believing, that what we pray forms us. We do this hoping that the prayers we say on Sunday will carry us through the week.
Over the years, I’ve developed what I call bird feeder theology. It began when my wife and I went on vacation, off season to some island. Because it was off season, the hotel was mostly empty, which was fine by us. It rained cats and dogs each day (which we found out is why it was considered off-season). Live and learn. So we spent a lot of time on the balcony, reading and imagining what warm sunny beaches felt like.
Each hotel room had its own balcony, all connected so you could see down a long line of neighboring units. Each unit had a bird feeder hanging over the railing. Keenly attuned to nature, I came to this astute observation. The bird feeder that contained seeds was crowded with lots of birds. The bird feeder with no seeds had no birds. Birds went where they were fed.
As a preacher, even on vacation, I found myself thinking about the application to church life. As I pondered the mystery of why some churches attract lots of folks and some churches don’t, I came to believe that it may have something to do with where people were being fed. Not always, but that’s often the case.
Over the years, when I would meet with people to talk about their own spiritual journeys, I often found that a fruitful question was this: Where are you being fed? If people said that they weren’t being fed, even if they were members of a church where I served, I would encourage them to find a place where they did feel like their spirits were being fed. Bird feeder theology.
One of the great tragedies I sense these days in the church world is that we are often failing to feed people. Said another way, we often answer questions that no one is asking. Just check out clergy interactions on social media if you want to know what I’m talking about. A friend of mine, a seeker, wanted to know more about the Christian faith. He lived in the neighborhood of a seminary, and had time during the day, so he signed up for one of the introductory courses. After two weeks in the class, he called me to say that he quit. He said that the people in that class cared 200% about stuff that nobody else in his world cared anything about. Let’s just say he was not fed by that course of study. Others may have been. Not him.
So ask yourself this morning: Where am I being fed in my spirit? Where do I find spiritual nourishment?
It’s interesting to me that we refer to the eucharist as our principal act of worship. It is a sacrament that is all about a meal. It is the place where our spirits are nourished with bread and wine. I believe that happens even if we don’t always feel like it. It happens even if we don’t understand it. I wonder if you experience it that way. There are other ways we may be fed. Worship. Music. Teaching. Books. Art. Service. A walk in the woods. A walk on the beach. Moments of silence.
Jesus said “I am the bread of life.” I’m guessing that means that in connection with him, in relationship with him, in following him we will be fed. He came not only to provide lunch for hungry crowds (5000 of them). He came to nourish hungry spirits.
Spend some time this week thinking about where you are being fed these days. Give thanks for the ways your spirit is nourished. In this Lenten season of self-examination, ask if you are hungry for more. Where will you go to find that? Pray that God will show you the way. And as Christ’s hands and feet in the world, consider ways that you can provide sustenance and nourishment for those around you, helping to feed them in body, mind or spirit.