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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 14B
Deuteronomy 8:1-10
Ephesians 4:(25-29)30-5:2
John 6:37-51
Psalm 34 or 34:1-8

Among the adventures my family and I are having as we adjust to life in Montana, one of the most interesting is shopping for food. Now, you might think that doesn't sound like much of an adventure; after all, I've been making trips to the grocery store and the farmer's market and such places for an awfully long time. However, I've discovered since moving here that the rules have changed. There are items here that I suppose you all take for granted, that I've never seen before. Choke cherries, for example. Until this week, I had never even seen a choke cherry before, let alone known what they were used for. One kind woman gave me a huge bowlful of them, and we're going to try making jelly this afternoon. I'll let you know how it goes.

On the other hand, items I considered staples are unknown here. You can't find italian beef anywhere here (except for one restaurant in Billings that lists it on the menu, and trust me, it's just not right). This is a real lack, I assure you!

Even items that are common in both parts of the world are different. I see new brand names everywhere I go, even for staples like bread. The kind of bread I bought back in Indiana is not carried here, so far as I can find, so we've been experimenting with different brands here, to see what we like.

Of course, even if the brands are different, I didn't have any problem finding bread here. Everyone eats bread. Actually, that's true worldwide, even if the bread does take different forms. Think of pita bread for example, or tortillas. It doesn't matter where you go in the world; someone will have figured out how to grind grains to make flour, and add liquid, and make bread. Bread is a foundational ingredient in the human diet. They call it "the staff of life" for good reason.

in today's gospel, Jesus talks about bread. And the universal nature of that image makes it a little easier to grasp. When Jesus talks about shepherds... well, not everyone knows about shepherds and sheepherding-- I certainly don't! But when he talks about being bread, that's an image everyone can grasp, in one way or another.

And that is as it should be. Because Jesus, like bread, is foundational.

The other day I had a conversation with someone who asked me what the definition of a Christian was. I will admit that I was surprised by the question, so I asked him what he thought it meant. Christians, as he understood it, are by definition people who care for their neighbors, who are generous, kind, honest... in other words, good people.

Now, that's a lovely example of someone living by Christian principles; but that does not define a Christian. There are plenty of other traditions that also espouse those principles, and people of many faiths, or none at all, who try to live in that manner. Likewise, there are any number of Christians who fail to measure up to those standards, all too often. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," scripture reminds us.

No, actually the definition of a Christian is simpler than that. A Christian, my friends, is one who believes in Jesus as God, and the son of God; and who tries to follow him as Lord and Savior. That is our foundational truth. All the behaviors that are listed in the reading from Ephesians this morning-- speaking truth, not allowing anger to lead to sin, not stealing-- are based on that. Those are the things that we stack on the bread, if you will. They make a tasty sandwich, and are healthy and life-giving-- but it's not a sandwich at all if the bread isn't there to begin with.

Similarly, we can do all of those good things and more with our lives; but it is our recognition of Jesus-- our willingness to "confess the faith of Christ crucified," as it says in our baptismal liturgy-- that makes us Christian. It is our willingness to acknowledge the God we know in Jesus Christ that forms us into the body of Christ. Trying to live that truth, every day, is what will bring us closer to God-- and what will bring others closer-- and what will allow the inbreaking of God's kingdom into a world that sorely needs more of it.


Anonymous Deacon John said...

What is "italian beef"?

August 14, 2006 3:56 AM  

Blogger Dawgdays said...

I miss Italian beef too.

Deacon John, take thinly sliced roast beef and put it in au jus (as in a French dip) but with Italian seasonings (oregano, etc.) Pull it out of the au jus and put it in a roll. For an extra sloppy sandwich, dip the roll into the juice.

I really should have waited until lunchtime to write this.

August 15, 2006 9:59 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds good!

August 15, 2006 6:38 PM  

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