Pastor Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church on August 6, 2017
[sermon begins after two Bible readings; other two readings are at end of sermon]
Luke 12:22-34 He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!25And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?26If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
[The Lord says,] Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator* shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Thursday morning, Rob and I met our niece and her family of six for an early breakfast on their airport layover. The kids range from small to school-aged. We are named to be their legal guardians in the event of tragedy. This legal reality deepens our times together over the muffin crumb carnage on the floor. We shared stories, time, and food. In the language of the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we were given ‘this day our daily bread.’
Later that morning, a radio interview with Judith Jones was re-aired, commemorating her death the day before at the age of 93. She was a long-time book editor for the likes of Ann Frank’s diary, John Updike, Anne Tyler, and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Ms. Jones also published her own memoir cookbook after her husband of 45 years died – The Pleasures of Cooking for One. In the interview, she talked about the pleasure of smelling garlic cooking, things sizzling, feeling at home again in her own kitchen, pouring a glass of wine, lighting candles, listening to music, honoring her past with her husband, feeling “happy, special, grateful.” Again, because I was sermon writing in my head, my thoughts turned to ‘our daily bread.’
In the same news radio line-up was an update on the Venezuelan political crisis. Towards the end of the report, a man was interviewed about the lack of meat available. Recently plentiful, nourishing meals have become rice and a few beans in the course of just a few years. Again, my thoughts turned to ‘our daily bread.’
In my Facebook feed on Thursday morning were two different articles about food. One was about the life-long challenges one author faces with food, body-acceptance, and health. Not too long later in the newsfeed was an article about the famine in South Sudan caused by drought and civil war. Again, my thoughts turned to ‘our daily bread” and the different ways food comes up in the day-to-day.
These experiences and information about food came through in one morning. I wasn’t looking for them. Although, thinking about ‘Our daily bread’ helped me hear them all differently. All have bits and pieces of the big picture of food. The big picture? There’s enough food for everyone in the whole world. Today. Right now. ‘Our daily bread’ for everyone is available if not for drought, war, and politics.
With real concerns about how to connect available food with hungry people we hear from the Gospel of Luke:
“And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
In light of hunger concerns, the Luke reading and Judith Jones’ food stories can first come off a bit like the princess who declared of the starving peasants, “Let them eat cake!” Telling someone who’s hungry that the Bible tells them not to worry about food is obscene. This Luke reading is not part of the regular three-year lectionary cycle of Bible readings for Sundays. It follows Jesus’ parable – a cautionary tale of greed about a farmer with a bumper crop who builds bigger barns to store the crop rather than distributing it.
In the Luke reading today, Jesus’ teaching moves beyond worrying to living, moves beyond greed to kingdom generosity. The math is simple. People living generously means their neighbor lives with less need. Living generously don’t mean only giving charitably, although, it does mean that too; it also means paying a living wage. Living generously means that we may go without something so that others may live. Living generously means praying for our daily bread to include all people while shattering the cycle of generational poverty…working with people caught in that cycle…seeing dignity in all the children of God with whom we pray for ‘our daily bread.’
Martin Luther writes a thing or two about what we mean when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In the style of the Small Catechism, we ask the question, “What then does daily bread mean?” Here’s what Martin Luther taught in the 16th century was included in daily bread:
“Everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”
That’s quite a list of pretty much everything our bodies might need to live well and to live in stability with the people around us. Hunger and poverty are destabilizing to the extreme. I often wonder what I would do if I were desperate to feed my family. I imagine different scenarios that involve what people around the world and in my neighborhood are experiencing. Would I migrate? Would I apply for SNAP benefits? Would I work two jobs? Would I steal? Would I stand in line for hours? Would I walk miles for water? Would I starve to feed my children? Very few of us know what we would actually do. I certainly don’t. At this point in time, Rob and I have plenty to feed our family, seeing to our needs and then some. We can eat and savor in the manner that Judith Jones talks about the pleasure of food.
Wendell Berry, author, poet, and farmer, writes that:
“Eating with the fullest pleasure…is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection to the world. We experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and power we cannot comprehend.”
Mr. Barry’s words caught me off guard in last week’s staff meeting devotion and conversation about Luther’s Table Blessing After Meals. (Pretty cool that we get to do those kinds of things as a church staff.) I’d not thought much about eating as an experience and celebration of dependence. If I’m honest about it, I think it surprised me because to my mind having food means having independence. But that independence is a story made up out of whole cloth, an unconscious fiction that helps me sleep better at night. The Gospel of Luke would align with Mr. Barry. Things like food and clothing are given by God and received by us. There is nothing we create by ourselves. Sure, seeds can be planted but the ground for planting needs to be there first and seeds need to be garnered from plants that already exist. See where this is going? Eating is an act of utter dependence, whether it’s in desperate starving gulps or savoring sips. We confess our dependence on the planet and on each other with every act of eating.
As Christians, every act of eating confesses our dependence on God. This includes our eating of Holy Communion. We physically confess with our hands cupped and held out to receive the grace of God that we cannot create on our own. “We are beggars, this is true.” We are dependent on the grace of God in Christ Jesus for all that we have, for all that we are, and for all that we can be to each other so that all people may eat and live. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, our light rises in the darkness as we offer our food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted; and the Lord guides us continually, making us like a spring of water whose water never fails. Thanks be to God and amen.
 Sunday, August 6, is week three of five of Augustana’s sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer.
 Remembering Judith Jones. NPR Here and Now on August 3, 2017. http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2017/08/03/remembering-judith-jones
 For more on Venezuelan food shortages see “Banging on Empty Pots, Venezuelans Protest Food Shortages,” at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-idUSKBN18U0SO.
 Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Losing It In the Anti-Dieting Age. The New York Times. August 2, 2017. https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/magazine/weight-watchers-oprah-losing-it-in-the-anti-dieting-age.html?smid=fb-share&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fm.facebook.com%2F
 Learn more about South Sudan famine and how to help at https://www.elca.org/en/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/South-Sudan-Relief
 Updated 2016 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics can be read at http://www.worldhunger.org/2015-world-hunger-and-poverty-facts-and-statistics/
 Luke 12:29-31
 Meda Stamper, Presbyterian minister in Leicestershire, England. Commentary on Luke 12:1-21 for Working Preacher on July 31, 2016 (a ministry of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN). http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2923
 Martin Luther. Luther’s Small Catechism in Free Indeed: Devotions for Lent (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 2016), 50.
 Luther, 91. “Table Blessing After Meals.”
 Last words attributed to Martin Luther on his death bed.
 Isaiah 58:10-11, paraphrased.
Psalm 107: 1-9
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.*
4 Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
7 he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
9 For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.