Sunday, August 01, 2004

A Summer Menu

Asbury First United Methodist Church

Text: Psalm 107
Breakfast and Wonder

Jesus has taught us that one does not live by bread alone, but by the divine word. As we enjoy a summer to nourish the body, may we in prayer also nourish the soul, with a soulful summer menu of meditation!

As day breaks you may find yourself rubbing eyes against the gleam of sunlight. (One day!). Before you is a bowl for breakfast. Cereal covered with luscious raspberries. This summer, will you begin the day with soul, too? The soul responds to God’s “wonderful works to humankind”. Summer is our time to nourish again our relationships. With neighbor. With family. With nature. With soul. Pause again, spoon suspended over berry and bran, pause. What has been the most wonderful day in your life so far? Think about that day, that hour, for a moment at breakfast.

All of life is a gift. “O Lord who grants me life, grant me also a soul filled with wonder”.

Coffee and Acceptance

With a few hours behind you, the day may open up for a break. Coffee and a fresh baked muffin, raspberry sweet. A little butter. As we enjoy a summer to nourish the body, may we in prayer also, with the Psalmists, nourish the soul, with a soulful menu of meditation. A few hours of morning labor, and a few years of mixed experience, bring a need for pause.

We are people of faith, gathered in a community of faith. That does not mean that we are spared the bruises and hurts and tragedies that inexplicably lie embedded in life. I take cup and roll to the lips and I pause to remember those unforeseen and unexplained midnights. The night of a life taken. The night of an illness discovered. The night of betrayal. I know the lament, the anger of these people in the Psalms, “they cried to the Lord in their trouble.” We can usually find something earthly or someone human to judge and blame, when things go wrong. Except when the unfairness swells into injustice, when the harm happens to the innocent, when the lightning strikes close to home, or at home. Then we cry…to the Lord.

We remember that faith is the power to withstand what we cannot understand. We remember that weeping may tarry for the night, even as joy comes with the morning. We remember that the extent of possibilities always outruns our grasp and count. We remember that we hope for what we do not see.

But we still lament. Finish that muffin. Which was the day of your biggest unanswered question? Assuming there is no ready answer, can you accept that silence?

Lunch and Thanksgiving

A simple lunch. Soup, peanut butter and jam (raspberry). There are times when the summer songs suffice. Count your many blessings, count them one by one.

I remember the Polish poet who was sent to Siberia for half a lifetime. He returned. How did he survive? He remembered the kindnesses. Over lunch, now. The day is half-gone. Think with thanks. Ten lepers were healed. One spoke in appreciation. Think with thanksgiving. We all receive more than we deserve. Seeing a fallen bird, Asher asks his Father why God lets the living die: “to remind us that life is precious; something you have without limit is never precious”.

Make a list. For what are you truly thankful? In this Psalm, as in so much of the Bible, thanks is given for deliverance, for freedom, for redemption. On what day did you experience liberty? When we are thankful, grateful, appreciative, then we have good humor, and then we have generous habits, and then we have soul. Here is the heart of the hymn: “O give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever.”

Dinner and Compassion

Before you now is the main meal of the day. Salad. Meat. Bread. Fruit, a mixture—berries to be sure.

As this summer nourishes our relationships, let us pause before the heart of life (as of Scripture and church and faith). “Steadfast love”. Pardon, begin with pardon. Forgiveness, begin with forgiveness. Compassion, begin with compassion. Can you name a day on which you felt, or knew, or received, or relied on compassion? Think at dinner. Sharing the fruit, sharing the memory of forgiveness.

Here is an old warhorse. I heard it again a while ago. It has whiskers, it is so old. A dinner yarn. A man arrives at the pearly gates. His interlocutor says, “Entry, 100 points”. How am I to find 100pts, our man asks? “Tell me about yourself”. Well, once I helped a woman across the street. “Excellent, one point. Anything else?” Well, once I went to church and gave what I thought was a generous gift. “Excellent, that’s two.” Now our man is worried. At his rate, I will never get in. I won’t make it. I’d only get in by the grace of God. “Grace of God! 98 points. Excellent. You’re in.”

Be kind to one another. Tenderhearted. Forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Dessert and Satisfaction

Who can go to sleep on an empty stomach? In the evening, in the summer, a little ice cream with berries (raspberries) goes a long way.

What little measure of satisfaction, a hunger filled, a thirst slaked, a longing fulfilled, what day of satisfaction have you known? There is some satisfaction in every life. Just as every heart has secret sorrow, every heart has some satisfaction. “He satisfies the thirsty and the hungry he fills with good things.” Can we be satisfied with what is good?

You did what you could do in a time to build. Good for you! You brought real kindness to a hurting parent, or child. Good for you! You sought to name the good things in a time of real tragedy. Good for you! You found a way in the wilderness. Good for you!

Evening is no time for meditating on the mistakes. By perfection, Matthew and Wesley meant health not precision. Here is the thought for ice cream and raspberries. What has satisfied you?

I have known our Honduran missionary, Mark Baker, since 1985. He came by this week. We discussed the limits of God-talk, the multiple responsibilities of mid-life, the current issues of dispute, the globe and the country and the cost of housing in Fresno today. At the end of the day, this one day in the Day of God, Mark can take satisfaction in the redemption God has brought, to body and soul, for so many of the poor of the earth, through his work.

Here is a summer menu, a mode of thought, based on ancient Psalm.

Breakfast is for wonder, coffee break for acceptance, lunch for thanksgiving, dinner for compassion, and the evening snack for satisfaction!

“Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.”

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