Shoulder Wisdom

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Kronk’s Shoulder Angel from The Emperor’s New Groove.

Proverbs 9:1-6

Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

I wanted to talk about Aretha Franklin and her masterful voice that joined the company of the saints. 

I wanted to talk about the freedom of the press and national security and church sexual abuse, you know, something besides our own personal troubles that’s occupying more than a few of our minds. 

Or, there’s the near-scandalous talk from Jesus in the Gospel reading that’s approaching cannibalistic language that even the kids on the camping trip got stuck on — as they approached communion with their parents, more than one could be heard saying: “IS THAT BLOOD?!

Instead, I got stuck on Proverbs. I got stuck on a literary device that, it turns out, is kinda symbolic of our times.

You’ve seen the scene a lot, especially if you’ve been subjected to a lot of cartoons in your life: stories for children where we break the most human of struggles (like crises of conscience) into simple terms. 

In these scenes, there’s always a character who’s having a moral quandary. They may have just run into temptation, or they may be faced with some other moral choice. 

The same thing always seems to happen: poof! On each shoulder appears, an angel and a devil.

The shoulder-being encounters always seem to follow a common plot, with each of the shoulder-sitting characters keeping to common motifs.

Take for example, The Emperor’s New Groove. The villain’s henchman, Kronk, is given the task of getting rid of the main character, Kuzko. Kronk throws Kuzko unconscious into a stream of water that ends in a giant waterfall. After plopping him into the water, Kronk watches as the bag containing Kuzko floats towards the edge of the waterfall. A conflicted look slowly appears on Kronk’s face as he watches the other character float towards certain doom. There is a pause as Kronk has an internal struggle. 

Just then, a voice dripping with guilt-inducing righteous concern floats into Kronk’s consciousness: “You’re not gonna just let him die like that, are you?” 

Poof! An angel Kronk appears on the real Kronk’s shoulder with his hands folded. The very muscular, very dense real Kronk remarks in surprise: “My shoulder angel!” 

Just then, another voice, laden with humor and mockery: “Doooon’t listen to that guy!” Kronk’s shoulder devil appears with an easy, relaxed posture and says: “He’s tryin’ to lead you down the path of righteousness. I’m gonna lead you down the path that ROCKS.” 

A quick back and forth ensues as Kuzko continues to float towards the edge, but the scene ends with the shoulder devil’s final counterpoint: “Look what I can do.” as he performs one-armed pushups. The shoulder angel concludes solemnly: “He’s got a point. 

Even a little bit of research on shoulder angels and shoulder devil scenes will produce countless icons of pop culture, especially cartoon ones: Donald Duck. Pluto the dog. Tom and Jerry. Family Guy. 

In most of them, it’s about the same situation as Kronk’s supernatural shoulder companions: the angel is stiff and righteous, begging the main character to either do the hard thing, to not have any fun, or both. The shoulder devil, by contrast, is loose in posture and confident in demeanor, seducing the main character into doing the easy, fun thing. 

Of course, we know that in the long run, the character who chooses the shoulder devil’s way will have a much worse time, but still: the shoulder angel is way less fun at parties.

All these scenes are, of course, meant to illustrate a character’s internal struggle between right and wrong, the same one we fight every day. We, too, refer to angels and devils on our shoulders. We depict them in similar ways in our own conversations: the angel tells you not to make that evil but funny Facebook comment, or to eat the healthy thing, or to help that person even though you don’t want to.

We do the same things, in fact, with the internal conflict that the shoulder angels and devils are meant to represent: when after a bit of an internal struggle, we say, “No, no, I’m gonna be good,” we usually do not mean that we’re about to do anything fun. 

Pastors, maybe, are more acutely aware than most of this equivalence of being good with being predictable, stiff, and un-fun. We are seen as the embodiment of your shoulder angels, as evidenced by the dampening of party conversation when we walk up at any wedding. A new pastor must quickly grow accustomed to the assumption that we only want to talk about how much you’ve prayed or been to church in the past year. My friend Steve, a pastor in Alabama, once remarked at how people would respond to him in his clergy collar, utterly fascinated that he was able to operate a self-checkout rather than simply standing prayerfully with his hands folded as if life froze in the first century.

To be good, we think, is to be of the spirit rather than the flesh, to always do the hard, self-disciplined thing rather than the fun thing. Church people, and especially clergy, are expected by the wider culture to be buttoned up saints, while folks at the bar are earthy, easy sinners. Saints are spiritual and other-wordly; sinners are earthy and real. It’s no secret and no surprise that, given the honest choice, most nonreligious folks would rather hang with stereotypical “sinners” than stereotypical “saints.” 

This is a problem, and it isn’t just a PR problem for religions everywhere. It’s a problem because if we associate being good with being buttoned up and perfect, we’re going to miss the point entirely, and both we and the world will be worse off for it.

We’re conditioned to hear morality portrayed this way. Most congregations hearing the readings this morning will have more than a few people turn to look playfully meaningfully at each other when the Ephesians reading is read: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves” (Ephesians 5:18-19). 

Paul probably wasn’t the most fun at parties. “Do not drink beer; sing hymns!” Here at our Savior’s, we just split the difference and do both, just like Martin Luther would have wanted. (See you tomorrow night.)

Luckily, Paul isn’t the only reading. If Paul isn’t fun at parties, you can find Woman Wisdom from Proverbs hanging out by the bar.

You see, Woman Wisdom in this  part of Proverbs is part of a kind of shoulder angel / shoulder devil scene. Except, in Proverbs, the “angel” isn’t stiff or reserved. Woman Wisdom calls out with a familiar prostitute’s call, the same one that her adversary, Woman Folly, calls out with: “Turn in here! 

Woman Wisdom isn’t stiff and spiritual and boring. She uses the same language a prostitute would — she’s quite a scandal. Woman Wisdom, after all, is throwing a party: 

“Wisdom has built her house… she has slaughtered her animals and mixed her wine” (Proverbs 9:2-3). She invites passers by to turn in here, come in, and drink her wine and feast at her table, to lay aside their simple ways and learn about the complex ways of life. 

Sounds like a party.

Unlike Paul, you want to invite Wisdom to your cocktail party. She throws the party. She is real. She’s the kind of friend or lover who takes care of you, tells you the truth, and helps you understand life better.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus takes the whole “being good does not equal being boring and spiritual” thing and takes it about eight strides too far. He’s approaching cannibalism and you have to be sure that the people listening to him are not just confused, they’re alarmed. After all, the teacher just turned to the people with whom he was arguing — remember, the people who wanted to kidnap him and make him king so that he could feed them forever? — he turned to them and said not only “I am the living bread”; he said “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” 

The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).

And this — the fact that it’s part of my job to rectify the cannibalistic language to the ritual — this is why I wonder why religion gets associated with boring things and why folks expect me to walk around with folded hands and think about spiritual (that is to say, boring) things all the time.

Because the full force of the Gospel of John is that God became flesh. As much as you might’ve heard that line every Christmas, the reality of it is not starched or buttoned up or boring. It’s so personal that it’s uncomfortable. God’s love and God’s very word became a human with a body just like yours, gave up the instinct to survive to give his body so that the world may live, then gives his body as bread to sustain us every time we gather at the table in a mystery that even the best of us struggle to understand. It’s so personal that even the most serious seminarians who get to this passage, myself included, make sacrelicious jokes to hide their discomfort.

As my own John teacher said: “Christ didn’t come to declare flesh evil; Christ came to make flesh holy.” God became flesh and lived among us and gave itself for us and rose again because the only thing love can’t do is stay dead.

Tell that to your super cool shoulder devil.

Love became flesh. Love sets the table here. Love throws the party.

We have this intensely personal encounter every single week, when God gets into us, quite literally. We talk about communion as inaccessible and holy, and often people worry about doing this thing or that thing “wrong.” They worry about messing with the holy, make jokes about getting struck by lightning. We worry about fouling up the symbolism.

When hearing this, I refer back to Flannery O’Conner, the Southern writer, who wrote of a conversation about the Eucharist with a friend: “…toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. [My friend Mary McCarthy] said …she thought of it as a symbol… I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.

This faith thing is more than we all bargained for. It’s not about being “good” in the starched and boring sense. It is more than un-fun shoulder angels making us do un-fun things that will ultimately benefit us in the long run. Faith is not about holding your nose and eating your vegetables; it’s about consuming God’s own self.

Love is not starch-collared or white robed and it is not particularly dignified. Love is real, and it’s earthy, and it’s sometimes so personal that it’s uncomfortable and even a little shocking. 

God is Love, and Love sets the table here.

Love does not speak with a guilt-inducing, judgmental voice. Love knows us intimately and loves us anyway. Love, like wisdom, doesn’t judge you for going to the party; love throws the party. And love gives us the courage to share ourselves with others, even when it’s uncomfortable. 

God is Love, and Love sets the table here. Love doesn’t shame you for having fun; love throws the party. 

I wanted to talk about some kinda current events, but I ended up with a literary device in the book of Proverbs that wanted to speak to current events instead. We all have crises of conscience about what to do and what to think.

Instead of imagining the usual starched shoulder angel, try imagining Woman Wisdom instead.

The right thing isn’t always the easy thing, no. But it is the most life-giving thing. It is the one that leads us into a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. It’s a scandal that nourishes us and looks past our walls and brings us back to life and love. 

And today, here, I argue: that’s anything but starched and boring — that’s a party.  Amen.

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An Angel-Cooked Breakfast, or Bread for Trash

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1 Kings 19:4-8
John 6:35-41-51

The Old Testament lesson today was only part of an whole epic story about the prophet Elijah, but I don’t blame you if you didn’t recognize it based on the four prescribed verses for today. So let me tell it for you.

The dust swirls around the prophet’s feet and his heart bangs against his ribcage, pounding from exhaustion and from fear. 

Elijah, the great prophet of Israel, finds himself in ancient times doing what humanity had already been doing for centuries: running, looking for food, trying to survive. He was lacking in safety, in security, in food, in everything. He was just trying to live for another day.

He’s being chased by a powerful person who has a vendetta against him. Her name is Jezebel, and she existed long before her name became a popular blog title. She’s vowed to kill Elijah, but he’s not exactly a blameless victim: he’s responsible for the deaths of Jezebel’s prophets. He has killed for his faith, and now she wants to kill him as vengeance. 

Life. Death. Hunger. Revenge. Religious zeal.

A tale as old as time. 

Running for his life in the desert, Elijah slumps down beside a broom tree, known for its branches that usually stretched out enough to give you relief from the sun. Finally finding some measure of comfort from the punishing heat, feeling little other than desperation, Elijah begs to die. 

He is no longer a prophet with enough religious zeal to kill his enemies. He has a moment of existential clarity: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4 NRSV). 

Through the centuries, we humans have made advances: in science, in medicine. Diseases like the flu don’t kill us in large numbers anymore. Something we take for granted, like antibiotic ointment, saves our lives from infection so often that we barely remember that people used to die routinely when relatively minor wounds got infected. 

We as a society think we’re less superstitious than we used to be, as people in increasing numbers join the “spiritual but not religious” ranks. I often have my doubts about this, however, as the same people I see posting things about how backwards and old the Bible is also post things about Mercury being in retrograde, harkening back to ancient astrology: but that, as they say, is none of my business. 

The point is, we as a society think we’ve come so far and learned so much about our world, but even as we’ve learned to save lives from hunger and war and disease, people still die from all three, and the lives that we’ve saved have contributed to overpopulation which leads to more hunger and war and disease. The fundamental question of our time, I believe, is the same as the fundamental question has always been: how do we stay alive? How do we make sure that we have enough for ourselves and our children?

People with too many resources fear those who have too little. People who have too little, for their part, tend to resent those who have too much. And everyone all along the economic spectrum is a flawed human who just, at the core of their DNA, wants to survive. 

In this way, we, like Elijah, are no better than our ancestors.

Nearly every question and policy issue we wrestle with today pits, in some form, survival against compassion, and there are no simple answers. Compassion is something almost everyone values. Compassion is one of the things that makes us human — that we do not only operate to survive, as most creatures do. At the same time, too many of the problems we face are related to survival and cannot be solved with compassion alone.

It is notable that right when Elijah stops fighting for his own survival, he finds God’s own compassion. He falls asleep in despair and wakes up to find that an angel has cooked him breakfast. 

It might sound crazy, but I’m certain that an angel has cooked me breakfast before.

Last year with six of my new best friends from Camp Calumet, I ran a relay across New Hampshire, from the White Mountains to Hampton Beach. It’s around 200ish miles, and we did it to send kids to summer camp.

It works like this: twelve runners divide up between two vans, giving each van six runners and one driver. Each runner runs 3 legs of the race, running from 5AM on Friday morning until around 4PM on Saturday. We run through the night, guided by head lamps. We sleep when we can. Mattresses from camp are delivered to Lutheran churches in New Hampshire, giving us a place to crash for a few hours when we get a break.

And once, angels cooked us breakfast. 

There is a particular photo from last year with my pastor friend Joseph, who serves in Marlborough. Neither of us looks particularly happy. We had each run about ten miles apiece and had just woken up feeling terrible, so we found it appropriate to take a photo in front of the sign at a church that said, simply, in big letters: “TRASH.” 

But we woke up to find that Lutheran angels cooked us breakfast. I had to look back at the photo on Facebook to even remember where we were: I hadn’t known at the time. The folks at Triumphant Cross in Salem, New Hampshire, got us back on our feet with an enviable Lutheran breakfast spread. 

Given strength by those folks and their food, we finished our last legs, and, together with the other six teams from Camp Calumet, we raised over $100,000 to make sure that every kid in New England has a shot at going to summer camp. (And we’re doing it again this year!) 

We all put aside survival and the day to day and we gave something of ourselves: the runners, the people dragging mattresses around the state, the people working to make sure that the logistics were calculated correctly, and the angels who cooked us breakfast.

Are we better than our ancestors? Probably not by much. But I know that making things in the world better requires us to give a little something of ourselves. 

In the Gospel reading, Jesus talks about how he gives himself for life. In an inhuman, godly move, he gives up trying to survive entirely and in the process, gives life to everything. 

Often, we in our comfort talk in sentimental terms about the Bread of Life and about Living Water. We talk about them as spiritual realities, but they don’t make much sense if you’re starving or dying of thirst. They don’t make much sense if you’ve never been served breakfast by an angel. Paradoxically enough, you understand the spiritual reality only if you’ve understood the literal reality of having your desperate hunger satisfied.

It’s a lot like it’s hard to understand the value of community if you’ve never been lonely. 

Jesus gives himself for the life of the world, and we usually come to understand that kind of grace through another person giving of themselves for us. The last time I preached this Sunday in the lectionary cycle three years ago, I was talking to my home church. 

It had been a rough year in all kinds of ways, and a rough few years, really. I was preparing soon to drive north a thousand miles to meet with the synod staff in New England. I talked about Elijah and about how the bread the angel fed him sustained him for the long journey ahead. I talked to my church about how they had been the Body of Christ, the Bread of Life, that had sustained me through their love.

If you are looking for the Bread of Life, it is not some far-away reality. It is right here. It is the loaf that we bake in house. It is also the Body of Christ, the people gathered around this table, who give of themselves for the sake of helping others.

In our world of scarcity, we are the Bread of Life for each other and for the world. Like Jesus, we are called to give of ourselves. It is not our job to save the world, but we get to be a small part in it if we can help sustain someone — physically, emotionally, spiritually — for one more day. If we can only be the angels that cook breakfast for hungry people.

In our world of survival, we in the church worry about our survival too. Churches all over New England and all over the United States are closing. We worry a lot about survival and scarcity and finances. But the Body of Christ does not begin and end with one congregation. 

The Bread of Life is Christ, and it never runs out. The Bread of Life sends angels to cook breakfast for hungry, desperate people who feel like trash — desperate because you’re a prophet on the run from a murderous queen, because of poverty, or because they ran too far to send a kid to camp. 

As we said last week, things like love and kindness do not run out. God does not run out. God’s work will get done. We can be better than our ancestors by believing that the Bread of Life is not a commodity that we produce. The Bread of Life is the Body of Christ, the Church, powered by God who never sleeps and never runs out.

My pastor friend Drew posted a quote by the late John Kavanaugh, a Jesuit priest, philosopher, and preacher. He died in 2012 but was acclaimed for being able to get right to the heart of any issue. He does this with the Bread of Life text, and so I end with his thoughts: 

He writes, “Our problem is not believing that God could inhabit bread. It is believing that God could inhabit us.” 

God does inhabit us: in bread and wine and water and Spirit. You are the Bread of Life, the body of Christ, given for the life of the world. The work of God, the work of life, does not depend on you, but you are invited to participate. You are invited to give of yourself for the life of the world, as Christ gave himself for us. 

And that, in this age — this human age — this age of survival and fear and scarcity: is Good News indeed, for us and for the world. Amen.

“Real or Not Real?”: Truth, Jesus, and the Boy with the Bread

Suzanne Collins’ dystopian trilogy meets John’s Bread of Life discourse. 

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The “boy with the bread” scene from The Hunger Games movie, 2012.
“You don’t forget the face of the person who was your last hope.”

– Katniss, The Hunger Games book

John 6:24-35

At first, she only knew him as “the boy with the bread.” 

In the fictional dystopian book and movie series The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is a teenager in Panem, an authoritarian nation far in the future which exists where the United States used to be. There was a rebellion once, years ago, and the rebelling District, District Thirteen (likely found, fans say, in the northeast), was said to have been obliterated. 

Katniss and Peeta, the boy with the bread, live in the Appalachian Mountains, in District Twelve.  District Twelve is the poorest of the Twelve Districts in Panem. There is very unequal wealth distribution in Panem, with the Capitol and its citizens holding most of the wealth and living lavishly, followed by the district which primarily produces military equipment and other tools for the Capitol, followed by other districts which have thriving industries, followed finally by those who specialize in less thriving industries. 

District Twelve, where Katniss lives, produces only coal. Its strongest residents struggle in the mines, while the others struggle for food. Katniss’s family is particularly poor after her father’s death in the mines.

One night just after her father had died, young Katniss found herself next to a pig pen as the searched frantically for food to for her mother and younger sister. Just then she hears an uproar as Peeta, another teenager, walks out of his parents’ struggling bakery. His mother is yelling at him for burning bread, which he must now throw into the pigpen just outside the bakery.
Spotting Katniss in her desperation, however, he checks to make sure his mother isn’t watching and throws the bread to her instead, allowing she, her mother, and her younger sister to eat, at least for that night.

That is how Katniss came to know Peeta as the Boy with the Bread.

Years later, the two will love one another. Years later, they will join in a second rebellion — the subject of the final two books. Also years after he became the Boy with the Bread, the oppressive regime of Panem will capture and torture Peeta physically and psychologically. Part of the psychological torture will be to get him confused about what is real. He will be brainwashed into believing that his friends are his enemies, and that Katniss, whom he once knew and loved, wants to kill him. Once Peeta is rescued, for the rest of the books and the movies, the Boy with the Bread will play a game called “real or not real” with Katniss to help him remember what his reality really is. 

He will ask her things as innocuous as “real or not real: your favorite color is green?” He will ask her things as significant as “real or not real: you love me?” 

Peeta, the Boy with the Bread, nourished Katniss with bread when she was starving, and years later, she will nourish his tortured mind with truth. 

“Real or not real?”

This week in our reality, Facebook identified an active political influence campaign that had created at least 32 pages and inauthentic accounts on Facebook and Instagram that had been created to further divisions between political factions in America. We realized once again what digital natives already knew: you can’t trust anyone on the Internet to be who they say they are. That just because something is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true or authentic.

“Real or not real?” 

Conspiracy theories flood all of our timelines. None of us likes to think of ourselves as prone to falling for conspiracies, of course; only dumb people do that. And yet, how have we all occasionally shared, in person or online, things that rile us up that we haven’t checked out for ourselves? We keep realizing, again, what digital natives already knew: strong words paired with photos don’t make truth, like the “Abraham Lincoln” quote paired with his portrait that says, “You can’t trust everything you read on the Internet.” 

Conspiracy theories get us because, while none of us wants to be fooled, we all want to be the heroes of our story; we all want to be smart enough to find truth that no one else has figured out yet. That leads us to constantly playing the game:

“Real or not real?”

Honestly, I think we fall for conspiracy theories the same way we fall for fad diets. We’re willing to do anything to be the heroes of the story, to figure out the real truth, as long as it doesn’t involve a healthy media diet and expending actual intellectual energy. We’d prefer to take a pill and get thin, or learn the one key that’s been hidden from us to figure out everything that’s wrong with the country and the world.

“Real or not real?”

The twenty first century is one big game of “real or not real.” But you know what? This is not new. It’s just online now. Ever since humans invented language, we have been using different vocabularies for the same concepts and the same words for different concepts and then used such misunderstandings to try to manipulate one another into believing things.

Having different definitions of the same words is at the root of a lot of division and manipulation and conspiracy theories and misunderstanding. And that’s where we find Jesus and the crowds today. 

When we last left Jesus, he had just pulled off a miracle even for an experienced caterer: feeding 5,000 people at once. The ancient near east was (and is) big on hospitality and making sure your guests have enough to eat; Jesus, never one to be a bad host, provides more than enough for his guests. The crowds are so won over that they don’t just want to encourage him to be their leader; they want to force him to be king. The crowd is so won over that they essentially say, “cancel your plans for the rest of your life; you’re our king now.” 

But the ever-wily Jesus slips out of their grasp. Ever notice how Jesus always does that? He can never quite be owned by anyone, so it’s funny how often we Christians try to claim that he agrees with us on everything. 

Then, after a little classic walking on the water episode, the crowds have finally gotten wiser and located the missing Jesus. They approach him on the shore and say, literally, “How did you get here? 

Then the crowds and Jesus embark on a conversation that can be summed up thus: the bread of life — real or not real?

Are you talking literal bread, or is this some kind of metaphor?

Jesus chides the crowds almost immediately that they’ve only come looking for what they see as “real” bread, literal bread. They go back and forth for awhile, as Gail O’Day, my own John teacher, says: “using the same vocabulary but speaking in different languages…. Jesus keeps trying to speak to the crowd in the cadences of grace” — that the work of God is actually God’s work, not ours — but “the crowd … turn[s] the language of grace into the language of contingency and demand.”

Jesus promises them the bread of life, but they say in return, “wait. Real bread or not real bread? If it’s real bread, what do we have to do to earn it?” 

They keep trying to figure him out, but they’re losing the game: real or not real?

The bread they keep asking after is the bread that fills their stomachs, but they keep getting hungry again. They keep needing more, and more, and more. You can’t blame a human for getting hungry, but you get the feeling that these aren’t starving people so much as people who think they might be onto something: that they’ve discovered a guy who can feed everyone. That’s worth something, you know. Not unlike conspiracy theorists, they hope they’ve been the first to find a solution to all their country’s problems. They live in an occupied land, but people who can control the supply of food will soon be free people.

No wonder they wanted to make him king by force.

Jesus isn’t interested in being in power. Being in power is temporary. As George R.R. Martin told us of the struggle for power: “in the game of thrones, you win or you die.” And as we learned through seven seasons of Game of Thrones: everyone who plays the game dies. 

Bread is temporary. Power is temporary.

The bread Jesus is offering is himself. The bread Jesus is offering is something true. And truth never runs out.

Real or not real?

This is real: community. Love. Ancient ritual. Grace. Mercy. Seeing another person as human. Hope for the future. 

We hunger for a lot of things these days: among them, a common purpose and a common identity and a common story and a common truth, held together in an uncommon love. 

Love and truth do not run out.

Bake those things into a loaf, and you could call them the Bread of Life. Bake those things into a loaf, and you could say that God was there. Bake those things into a loaf, and the one who eats it will never be hungry for love or truth again, will never again have to ask: “Real or not real?” 

Hearing this, the crowd finally says, “Give us this bread always.” Jesus responds, “I am the bread of life.” Truth and love and community and identity cannot be bought and sold or hoarded or scarce. You cannot run out of these things.

Neither can you run out of God.

Real.

At first, Katniss only knew Peeta as “the boy with the bread.”

The bread that Peeta threw to Katniss when she was hungry was temporary, but the bond that it created between them was not. That’s how kindness works. That’s how love works. They do not run out.

The Boy with the Bread nourished Katniss with bread when she was starving, and years later, she will nourish his tortured mind with truth, answering the question that we answer for each other whenever we need it: real or not real?

Truth does not run out.
Real: you are loved. You are welcome. Wherever we gather in love, Christ gathers with us. The Bread of Life is here. The work of God is God’s work, not ours. 

God is here, and God is here with you.

Real or not real?

Now and always: real. Amen.