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Jun 20, 2021

Your Fill

Your Fill

Speaker: Rob McClellan

Series: June 2021

Category: So-called Christian Values

Today's Scripture: Mark 8:14-21

Today's Sermon

 

"Your Fill"

 

Mark 8:14-21 

          14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ 16They said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ 17And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ 20‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’ 21Then he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’  THIS IS HOLY WISDOM, HOLY WORD.  THANKS BE TO GOD.

“Your Fill”

          We lost Eric Carle on May 23.  If you know that name, you know his unique style of illustration in his children’s books, accomplished by dabbing tissue paper in paint.  Among his most famous books is The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which sold over 50 million copies and catalogs a journey from caterpillar to butterfly.[1]It is a journey literally through all sorts of food, food, though, is not the point.  Transformation is. 

          Over the next year, our Scripture readings for worship will largely come from an alternative lectionary and commentary, a supplement to the standard three-year cycle of biblical readings.  It’s clear the editor chose to put today’s readings together because he thought they were both about food (Genesis 41:14-40 and Mark 8:14-21). 

          In the Genesis account, Joseph warns Pharaoh that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine.  Thus, they are able to store up grain to get them through the lean years.  In the gospel reading, Jesus reminds his disciples how many he fed with just a little bread and a few fish.  Sometimes, Jesus’s way gets held in contrast to the old way, urging lavish generosity, but it’s a mistake to contrast the two.  Surely, we can see the wisdom both in storing up grain for a hard season, and we can take to heart that so often we both have and are enough.  Such a recognition makes for a nice sermon on the wisdom of balance, knowing when to save and when not to hold back.

          Who could fault our commentator for drawing our attention to feeding the hungry, which is what he does in his commentary about these texts.  Hunger, after all, is all around us, even here. 

          Did you know…[2]

  • More than 10,000 children in Marin live in food-insecure households.[3]
  • 33% of all children in Marin live in households with income insufficient to meet basic needs.[4]
  • Between 9,000 and 12,000 seniors over 60 live on less than $29,000 per year, defined as the "Self-Sufficiency Standard" in Marin.[5] In Marin!

          Both Joseph who got Pharaoh to plan and provide for the people, and Jesus who urges his followers to feed and to clothe, would likely want us to pay attention to and do something about these realities.  These passages are ultimately, however, not about food.  They, too, are about transformation.

          Joseph wants to change the way Pharaoh is leading the people toward a perilous future.  To do that, Joseph draws upon a different source of wisdom. Did you notice where Joseph gets his insight?  It’s from a dream.  We’re dismissive of dreams, but in many cultures, and in more across the years, dreams have been recognized as a sacred way of accessing the divine.  Dream consciousness is another kind of consciousness. Our culture is so frenetic, so addicted to busyness and visible productivity, that we scarcely are given opportunity to access our dream consciousness and harness it to better the world.  As funny as it may sound, we’re often too tired to dream.  However, the pandemic has given some people the time and space into which this kind of consciousness can enter. 

          Watch and see what kind of imaginative prospects emerge from this time.  When we access this other level of consciousness, we can see beyond the current ways of doing things.  When we are so embedded in how we’ve always done things, we have trouble believing it could be any other way.  Now we’ve been given a glimpse that things can be different.  Before the pandemic, who would have thought children would wear masks for over a year largely without complaint (their adults are another matter)?  We would never have attempted to conduct the church’s work through Zoom?  Who would have thought we could reorganize so much so quickly? 

          A couple of weeks ago, we spoke about prayer.  Part of growing up, of maturing spiritually, is seeing prayer less of building a list for Santa and more of an opening oneself more fully to God, accessing the dream consciousness.  That dramatically shapes who we are, what we do, and what we want to be about. Someone came to me just this week with a dream of sorts of what this church could be as a spring of holistic wellness in this particular corner of Marin.  We spoke about how we could grow this fairly traditional church into a place where people could become well, not just intellectually about spiritual matters, or even spiritually, but bodily, relationally, that we could expand the ways in which we contributed to the community’s wellness.  What other dreams might be trying to be born in us right now?

          Jesus, who was always going off to pray, wants to transform how some people in power exert it over others.  He contrasts the Pharisees and King Herod, leaders in his own beloved faith, with a different kind of kingship and kingdom.  His concern is leadership that is, at best, half-baked.  “Watch out,” he says, “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod” (v. 15).  Yeast here, scholars tell us, is a symbol for “pervasive corruption hidden within human beings.”[6]  This is not about bread.  It’s about the corrupt use of power, people who get in power and exploit it for their own wellbeing but not the wellbeing of those in their care.  In contrast to the rotten yeast of corruption, Jesus offers a purer bread of life, based neither on scarcity nor on control, but on abundance and liberation. 

          Jesus offers this contrast because he operates out of a higher consciousness, sometimes referred to as the Christ-consciousness, a consciousness available to all of us.  He sees differently, both recognizing the sacredness within all things, and the ways in which people stray from their true center.  Thus, Jesus calls out what is right before our eyes, but often unseen.  He names the corruption his contemporaries either cannot recognize or cannot face.  These are people who have built systems hungry for their own dough, who want their own power to rise, while others grow hungry and dependent and compliant.  In contrast, the manna of which Jesus speaks, the bread he breaks, is eternal in quality and in quantity.  It multiplies as it is shared.  In Christ’s economy, you can have as much bread for your journey as you need because the transformation being asked of you takes a lot of energy.

          That brings me back to Eric Carle.  If you’ve read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, you may remember that after all that eating, the caterpillar develops a stomachache.  Carle did not write that detail nor ever wanted it included.  The publisher insisted.  Their must be a punishment for the feasting.  How’s that for not seeing with Christ consciousness, for being so embedded in toxic diet culture, driven by shame and punishment as prepayment for change?  The publisher missed the point entirely.  The book is not about gluttony; it’s about a journey toward metamorphosis.  Change is hard.  Growth takes energy.  Carle’s way of seeing was right—you need a lot of nourishment if you’re going to grow; don’t try and take it on after starving yourself.  The good news is there is a seemingly endless supply of life-giving manna to supply your need. 

          Moreover, some of the most important time in one’s growth is cocoon time.  I’m a little surprised Carle’s publisher didn’t have the caterpillar being secretly productive inside the cocoon.  That would be in keeping with the culture.  Thankfully, the caterpillar prevailed and resisted the pressure to perform and be on display for the world to see in every moment. Rather, it feasted, pulled in, protected itself, and let growth happen, so when it was time it emerged as a butterfly, the butterfly, of course, which is often an old old metaphor for resurrection.

          We are called to be the resurrection, born again with new consciousness, Christ consciousness.  So, eat your fill.  Don’t fall for rotten yeast.  Rise with the bread of life.  Be transformed, and take flight. 

          Amen.

 

[1]https://www.msn.com/en-ca/health/other/here-s-why-eric-carle-didn-t-want-his-hungry-caterpillar-to-get-a-stomach-ache/ar-AAKsgyb?li=BB15ISWR
[2]Compiled by https://extrafood.org/the-need/hunger-in-marin/
[3]2019 U.S. American Community Survey Census Data
[4]kidsdata.org [5]2013/2014 Marin County Civil Grand Jury, "Aging in Marin: What's the Plan?"
[6]Notes from The Harper Collins Study Bible, The Revised Standard Version.