2 August 2020 Ordinary Time (13) Table Grace

Isaiah 55:1-5; Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21

Opening Prayer
Like birds in late summer fields, we are drawn to the soil to seek sustenance. Feed us with the food we need. Nurture hearts hungry for safety and peace so that we may offer them to one another. Meet us on the ground of our being so that we may stand with dignity and grace. Amen.

Reflection: Table Grace

We eat and we are hungry again.

It is how we are made. Our bodies require daily nourishment. Complex, unseen but felt systems drive hand to mouth. Vitamin deficiencies spur cravings. We are driven towards getting what we need to live, for the functioning and repair of our muscles, bones, skin and organs. Every day. Every week. Every month, every year that we are alive.

We eat. And we are hungry again.

Our emotional selves hunger too. Deep within our brains there are two small almond shaped masses of grey matter called the amygdala. Every 12-100 milliseconds the amygdala scans the environment, asking Am I safe? Do I belong? Every 12-100 milliseconds. We are always on guard, always hungry for safety of the body and of the tender heart.

The pandemic has revealed to us how important nourishment of the tender heart is. We have missed the connection and contact – emotional and physical – of friends and loved ones. The scales have fallen from our eyes and we have seen our neediness of each other. That each day we need the nourishment of friendship, of understanding, of love. We eat, and we are hungry again.

Today our readings share the ancient wisdom that our spirits need feeding too. The prophet of the exile asks Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?…..Come to me; listen, so that you may live. (Is. 55:2-3)

Yesterday as I walked past newly mown fields, I listened to a 2013 interview with American Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement who walked with Martin Luther King, Jr. on Bloody Sunday across the bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Lewis, who died last week, was the son of a sharecropper – a poor farmer who with his wife had 10 children. As a teenager his tender heart was set aflame by the courage of Rosa Parks and the passion of King, Jr. He became an activist in the nascent movement, eventually chairing the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

In the interview (https://onbeing.org/programs/john-lewis-love-in-action/), Lewis spoke about the study of nonviolence that the freedom hungry activists, people who wanted to be able to vote in elections, undertook in preparation. Every Tuesday night at 6:30pm with teacher Jim Lawson, they read Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau on civil disobedience. They studied the world’s great religions. They role-played being hit, having their chairs pulled out from under them, being pretend spat at…so that when it happened, they would respond in love. As they prepared to march, King, Jr. told them: Just love them. Love everybody. Love the hell out of them. Look them in the eye. Love the hell out of them.

And I felt ashamed. Unbidden my rages large and small confronted me. It is easier to curse at the “monster” on the television news who endangers the world. To curse and defame. To seek to humiliate. To strike out in anger, than it is to love.

I need the hell loved out of me.

Lewis was badly beaten crossing the Selma Bridge. Asked if he was able to love the state trooper who beat him, he said In all of the years since, I’ve not had any sense of bitterness or ill feeling toward any of the people. I just don’t have it. I guess it’s not part of my DNA to become bitter, to become hostile.

So nourished was Lewis’ heart and soul that all he could do was love. His heart was graceful, accepting, open. He held no malice towards those who caused him to suffer. He called his activism love in action.

We need to be nourished – body, tender heart and soul – to love. We need to dig our roots deep in good soil. We need to turn our faces to the love that will not let us go, like sunflowers and the pepper plant on my kitchen windowsill.

And because we eat and we are hungry again, we need to do it again. And again.

Jesus takes pity on the hungry crowd in a deserted place. He turns to his disciples: Give them something to eat (Matthew 14:16).

How can we feed others unless we are nourished ourselves?

God guide and bless our nourishment, and open our hands to nourish one another.


Hymn  Put peace into each other’s hands R&S 635

Put peace into each other’s hands
and like a treasure hold it,
protect it like a candle-flame,
with tenderness enfold it.

Put peace into each other’s hands
with loving expectation;
be gentle in your words and ways,
in touch with God’s creation.

Put peace into each other’s hands
like bread we break for sharing;
look people warmly in the eye:
our life is meant for caring.

As at communion, shape your hands
into a waiting cradle;
the gift of Christ receive, revere,
united round the table.

Put Christ into each other’s hands,
he is love’s deepest measure;
in love make peace, give peace a chance,
and share it like a treasure.

May the peace, the power and the presence
of the living God be our sustenance and our song.