INSTALLATION of NEW MINISTER

St. Matthew Lutheran Church cordially invites you to the installation service of

REVEREND MICHELLE NOTARDONATO

on Saturday, October 3, 2015 at 11:00 A.M.

St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 2701 Broadway, Paducah, KY.

A reception will follow.

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Living Faith

A sermon for August 30, 2015:         Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23; James 1: 17-27

What’s the best way to live a life that is faithful and pleasing to God? This question runs through all the readings for today. In the first lesson, Moses tells the people to “observe the teachings diligently, as a gift from a good and just God, and pass them down from generation to generation.” “Passed down from generation to generation,” – in other words: tradition.

In the Gospel lesson, Jesus confronts his critics, members of a group of Jews who have carefully collected what has been passed down to them from generation to generation; not only the laws, but the many customs and interpretations connected with keeping those laws. Jesus sees that following hallowed traditions was not the real point in his encounter with those who were seeking to discredit him. Instead, he wants to know, “where’s your heart?”

There is an ancient story of a sentry standing day after day at his post with no apparent reason for his being there. One day, a passerby asked him why he was standing in that particular place. “I don’t know,” the sentry replied, “I’m just following orders.” The passerby then went to the captain of the guard and asked him why the sentry was posted in that place. “I don’t know,” the captain replied. “We’re just following orders.” This prompted the captain of the guard to pose the question to higher authority. “Why do we post a sentry at that particular spot?” he asked the king. But the king didn’t know. So he summoned his wise men and asked them the question. The answer came back that one hundred years before, Catherine the Great had planted a rosebush and had ordered a sentry placed there to protect it. The rosebush had been dead for eighty years, but the sentry still stood guard. The tradition had been passed along, but the meaning was lost.

The Pharisees have carefully studied God’s rules, and Jesus and his disciples are breaking them, going against tradition right out there, no apologies. In their attempt to counter Jesus and His claim to speak for God, these upstanding religious authorities judge Jesus and his disciples: “sinners.” For the Pharisees, the faithful way to stay right with God was to strive to keep the laws in the correct way, and to do what they could to get others to be just as correct in their actions.

Why do your disciples not live according to the traditions of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” they ask. Jesus has a harsh answer. He says, you are hypocrites. It’s just lip-service; your heart isn’t in it.

It can be easy to find ourselves in situations where what we are saying doesn’t match what we are doing. When my sister Barb was confirmed, her sponsors came. They had five boys, including the youngest, twins who were quite the handful. Gene, the dad, lined us all up in the living room for the official photo. He set the timer, quickly slipped into the picture. Shot after shot, the twins took turns making faces. Finally, the photographer lost it. He grabbed the nearest little offender, and scolded: “You’re gonna smile and you’re gonna look happy for this picture, if I have to paddle your little bottoms until you do!” That was the end of the picture-taking for the day, as the rest of us tried to stifle our laughter.

Jesus teaches that if you want to be on God’s good side, don’t bother just fixing up what shows up on the outside. It’s what’s inside where faithful living starts. It’s not lip-service that truly honors God, but service from the heart.

Now, there are some who want to say that anything that we do which has been passed down to us is “dead,” not “from the heart,” an exercise in “empty ritual.” Lutheran historian Jaroslav Pelikan has said: “Tradition is the living faith of those now dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of those now living. And it is traditionalism that gives tradition as bad name.” Traditions can serve God, or traditions can stubbornly stand in the way of God’s work. You’ve heard perhaps– the “seven last words” of the Church are “We’ve never done it that way before.”

So how do we distinguish between a life-sustaining tradition passed on to us down through the generations, and the empty external show of traditionalism? We need to take the advice that is drawn from another reading for today. Look in the mirror.

In today’s second lesson, James talks about people who look in mirrors. There are those, he says, who glance at themselves quickly and forget what they saw. They are the people who encounter God’s message to them, but it doesn’t really register. Taking a quick look at whether someone else has washed according to the religious rituals, they jump to the judgment that they know all there is to know—and all that God needs to know.

Not only have they missed seeing the truth about others, says Jesus, they haven’t really seen themselves either. They might look squeaky clean on the outside, but the inner truth is different. Folks like these Pharisees are wearing the glasses of self-righteousness that makes them see themselves in a better light than they should, and others in a worse light. This kind of skewed view in the mirror misses the things that really spoil and distort God’s image – the evil intentions, the things they do or fail to do that hurt others, the ways that they make people’s lives a burden, in the name of getting others to do and be what they believe God demands. They miss seeing the good in those they have condemned in God’s name.

Of course, the Pharisees don’t have a monopoly on this. The “Pharisee heresy” is something we all can easily fall into. But, wearing the glasses of the love of Jesus Christ, we can look into God’s mirror and begin to see ourselves as God created us to be. To see ourselves with all our own unique flaws and faults. To see ourselves with all our own unique gifts and talents. To see ourselves as beloved forgiven children of God. Wearing the Jesus-glasses of self-giving love, we are better able to see others in that same light. What difference will what we see make in what we do with the gift of our lives?

Notice that Jesus tells the Pharisees that they have not kept the Commandment – not “commandments” — of God. The heart of God’s compassion gives shape and substance to the one crucial Golden Rule law of love in action. Jesus Christ continues to be active through us, the Body of Christ. The Bible says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Jesus mirrors a God who is recklessly in love with you and me. God wants us to live faithfully in loving and free response to that reckless and amazing love of God.

Living out our faith from the heart means that we need to be prepared to respond to what we see – be doers as well as hearers – says James. We might have always assumed that someone else would be able to respond better than we ever could – and so we never took a risk. Perhaps in God’s eyes there is more to us than we knew.

It does matter that we should see ourselves as we really are, and not as we would like to be or as we fear we are, because only then can we change and grow for our own sake, and for the sake of others. Only then can we faithfully live out the lives that God has created us and called us for. Look in the mirror. What reflection do you see? Look around you: what do you see reflected in the faces of your sisters and brothers in the faith? See an image that reflects a creature claimed and called by Christ.

“Every generous act of giving…comes from above.” And to that we might add all acts of mercy, or support, or friendship. All we do that is good comes from God. It comes to us hidden in our responses to the ordinary struggles and joys of our lives. The grace of God comes to us through knowing that we are forgiven and loved, not because of how good we look, or how well we have done in measuring up to the standards of the world, but because God has come to us and sought us out, and promised to be with each of us as we seek to live faithfully. As you move into a new chapter of your life together as the people of God in this place, I wish you all the best of God’s blessings. I know that God has been, and will continue to be, faithful in working through you. God loves you, no matter what, and that matters. Live it.

The Why of Worship

A sermon for August 16, 2015     

This morning, I shared a sermon about why we do what we do in worship.  This one comes from my sermon file, from many years ago, so I don’t have information to credit whoever first put this together.

Before the Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness

You can expect today’s worship service to be out of the ordinary. Today, at crucial points in our liturgy, we will stop to talk about the meaning of what we are about to do. The word we use to describe what we do here is “liturgy,” and it means the “the work of the people.” Here, we aren’t “fans in the stands.” We are part of the action on the field.

We all look for meaning, the kind of meaning one finds in a long-term relationship. Occasionally we take the time to sit down with someone we love, to talk about ourselves, and to put into words all that we regularly feel and do without thinking about it. And so it is with our Sunday order of worship.

The meaning of liturgy for each of us keeps changing, partly because we keep changing. Each of us comes with different needs. . . on different Sundays and in different seasons of our lives. Some come to be freed from guilt and sin. Some come to pour out requests to God. Some come to hear an encouraging word about life and this world. Some come looking for shared celebration. Some come to find inspiration in the familiar Bible stories one more time. Some come to be close to God. Each of us looks for and finds different meaning in the liturgy; and yet what we do week after week here can take in all these needs.

Because it is central to our needs, the liturgy of Holy Communion serves as the heart of the Christian community. In a human heart blood is drawn in and pushed out, and so it is also in Holy Communion: we are drawn to God only to be pushed back out again. Our cells fill up with life here and then carry it out to the world.

We were made a part of God’s holy circulation system through Baptism. There Jesus Christ claimed us as his own. Luther said we should remember our Baptism every day. Any time we remember and confess our failures and shortcomings, we are brought back to the forgiveness we live in because we are baptized.

Before the Entrance Hymn

We have been drawn here to this place like blood which is pumped back to the heart. We come seeking life. Burdened with the care, the problems, and the guilt of life, we were brought here by the Spirit to rid ourselves of our burdens. Now that we are here, we need help to focus our minds, hearts and souls so that we can see clearly that we are in the presence of God.

The next part of the liturgy gathers us together. The music of the Prelude began that process. The Entrance Hymn serves to center our thoughts and may provide a time for the leaders to enter. A greeting makes it clear that God is here in our midst and loves us. We gather to speak with God in prayer, using words that Christians have prayed since the earliest days of the church, Kyrie, eleison. These Greek words mean “Lord, have mercy.” Then we move quickly to praise. The final act in our gathering together gets specific. This is not just any old gathering. This is a gathering on the twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; the prayer for this day sets the theme. With the completion of this prayer, our preparation is over. The Prayer of the Day is the signal that we are ready to hear the Word of God.

Before the Lessons

Some opening parts of the order of worship can be left out at times, but hearing the Word of God is not optional. It is like oxygen to our physical hearts.

Three kinds of readings follow–one from the Old Testament, one from the Epistles, letters to the early church, and a final one, the Holy Gospel, in which we hear of our Lord’s life. Because the Gospel makes the rest of Scripture meaningful, the Old Testament reading usually forms a parallel to the Gospel in some way. Today the Second Lesson also picks up the theme of “what is the wise way to live.” Taking Jesus up on his offer of his own life given for us means that we also receive God’s gift of new life.

The First Lesson shares with us the memory of God’s gracious activity for the people of Israel. Following this lesson, we use the church’s oldest hymnbook, the book of Psalms, to respond to the reading with a biblical passage appropriate to the theme of the day. For the Second Lesson we hear ways of living out the faith. Since the Gospel offers us Jesus himself, we rise to greet the Lord with shouts of Alleluias and Praise. Jesus welcomes children, so we also share the Word with them. To help us internalize the Gospel we have the final word, which we call the Sermon. Today the sermon is replaced by this Narrative. After the sermon, we sing together a hymn carrying themes from the Word of the Day.

We are cells sent to carry life to all that is dying. We find death at work in ourselves and in the world around. The Creed reminds us of what God has done for us to bring life. In the Prayers we bring before God the places in our lives and in our world where the oxygen of gospel life is needed. Since God has given us life, we can trust that we ourselves are life-bearers. We are God’s first answer to our prayers: our God uses us to bring life to the world. So open your hearts to receive the life that is yours through the Gospel.

Before the Peace

Just as the Service of the Word began with a greeting, so now the service of the Table also begins with a greeting (The peace of the Lord be with you always) and our reply (And also with you.) So far we have been given the life of the Word–oxygen for our cells. But, our Lord knew that in order to give us true nourishment, he himself had to become our Bread of Life, food for our spirits.

Just when we thought it was enough to hear of his life and his deeds, Jesus surprises us with more. As we eat the bread of life and drink the cup of salvation, we see Christ in one another; together we are the body of Christ in this place. This is the gift that our Lord wants to give us each Lord’s Day. That is why we bring ourselves and all that we have–our money, time, possessions, and the bread and wine. Miracle of miracles, all is transformed. In and through the bread and the wine we receive the living presence of Christ. We who seek nourishment become bodies filled with life. First we gather the gifts and bring them forward. We bring ourselves. We lift our hearts. Together with the whole host of heaven, we bless God, as at a meal. Suddenly we realize it is God who is blessing us. Amen, Come Lord Jesus. And he does come.

It is this moment which is higher than any other. We seek life and here we taste and see that the Lord is good. We praise God because all that was dead is alive, all that was cut off is restored. The body of Christ is for each of us. Each of us is the body of Christ. We sing a hymn to celebrate this wonderful mystery. Come, the feast is about to begin.

Before the Post-Communion Prayer

We have been drawn into the presence of God, but only for a time. Now, we are pushed out of the chamber. Here we see that we are sent out as the Body of Christ even as that Body was given to us. Now we are that Body for the world. A prayer helps get us on our way, and we share with each other some of those things that are we sent to do. Then comes a good word, the Lord’s bene-diction. With a hymn, we sing our praise and thanksgiving on our way. And a final encouragement that highlights our serving God in that world: “Go in peace and live our mission to be and make disciples of Jesus.”

We are nourished by the life in Christ’s body and blood, and, having been forgiven, fed and filled, we are pushed out into the world to nourish life in the world. Thanks be to God!

Bread for the Journey

A sermon for August 9, 2015:     1 Kings 19: 4-8; Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2; John 6: 35, 41-51

We’ve been hearing a lot about food in our Bible readings in the past couple of weeks. First, Jesus feeds the 5,000, and the rest of the sixth chapter of John talks about it. There was that mystery meal of manna, which God used to feed the Hebrew people in the wilderness as they fled their slavery in Egypt. And in today’s first reading, another miracle with the food, as God sustains the prophet Elijah in his wilderness. It’s enough to make you hungry.

What are you hungry for? In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus reminds us that, whatever material things we hunger for, there is at heart a deeper hunger. We hunger for whatever will give us what it takes to thrive and not just survive. We hunger for that Bread that will give us the strength to stick with our journey. Deep down, we hunger for the Bread of Life, for the assurance that God loves no matter what, and God goes with us on our journey, even when we wander off the path or simply stop and drop our exhausted selves under some modern version of a shrub in the desert.

In our First Lesson, the prophet Elijah was hungering for hope. It was odd, I suppose, that he was so down. He has just come from an astounding triumph–he had won all the gold medals in the prophet competition. The kingdom was wrestling with a desperate problem – a stubborn drought, and the people were hungry because they couldn’t grow food or feed their livestock. Many were turning to Baal, the name of the surrounding culture’s god of material wealth and success. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest with the God of Israel to show which god would be more powerful to break the drought and deliver the people. The God of Israel wins with a flair that any Hollywood special effects expert would have appreciated. Quite a day for Elijah, except now he’s in big trouble. It seems the Queen, Jezebel, is a devoted follower of Baal, and she has vowed to find him and “do to him what he did to the prophets of Baal.” Elijah has a bulls-eye painted on his back. So he runs for his life, even though the rains that he has prayed for have come, beginning to break the long killing drought.

Elijah runs a whole day’s journey into the wilderness. Finally, breathless, he collapses, terrified and in despair. He wants to be dead and done with it all. But God has other plans for the prophet Elijah. An angel comes, sets the table, and brings out the food– simple, but substantial. Bread fresh baked, and cold water. Elijah eats his angel meal. God has offered him life in his spiritual drought, but then he just goes to sleep again. But God hasn’t given up on Elijah.

Again, the messenger from God wakes him, and tells him, “Elijah, eat — I am sending you on a new journey, and you need nourishment for this, or it will indeed be too much for you. The journey will be long, but I will walk alongside and give you what you need on your way.” And so God also promises us. I will walk with you on your journey and provide for you what you need.

That journey of Elijah brought him to Mount Horeb, where Elijah will hear the voice of God tell him that even though only a handful of faithful people remain in the land, Elijah’s work will carry on into the next generation through Elisha. His life will matter. This is the food that carries him through the rest of his journey. This is the bread that addressed Elijah’s hunger for hope. God’s Bread is hope for our road of life.

Bread can simply mean the stuff you make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with. Bread can also refer to all the physical things our bodies need to keep on living. The slang term “bread,” in fact, means money, right? So we need bread for the gas bill and groceries, for the computer or the car or the mortgage payment. These things are included when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, asking God to provide our “daily bread.”

But when Jesus uses the term bread, he’s talking about much more than just stuff. Jesus points us beyond all that we use to try to satisfy our physical appetites; pushes us past our attempts to merely fill the time while we bide our time until our journey ends. The pantry shelves keep needing to get restocked, the car conks out, and finally, even our bodies. What Jesus gives us abides forever. The Bread of Life sticks to our ribs the whole journey, even when we find ourselves in the wilderness like Elijah, hungering for hope.

The word “bread” also describes the law which Moses gave the people of Israel on Mount Sinai, — or, as it is also called, Mount Horeb. (That’s the place where Elijah’s journey was taking him.) There are accounts of Jesus miraculously feeding crowds of people in each of the Gospels, but the Gospel of John adds an interesting detail. He tells us that it happened at Passover. The people in Jesus’ day hoped that a “prophet like Moses” would come at Passover and feed them again with manna, and this would be a sign that God had finally sent the Messiah to save them. And here, Jesus is that sign. Not Moses with the manna, but Jesus who is himself the Bread of Life. Not the Lawgiver on Mount Sinai, but the Savior on the cross: the cross, the assurance of God’s love, the evidence of God’s grace even in the face of ever-present human brokenness and evil.

God’s love and grace continue because God cares for us, even when we turn our backs on God. God fed the wandering Israelites–even though they were complaining to God who had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. God fed the prophet Elijah, even though he had so quickly given up on God, and was ready to live the rest of his sorry life sulking in the wilderness under that old broom tree.

God continues to feed us, no matter what is happening in our lives. God knows our physical needs, but God also loves us enough to point us beyond a life of just biding our time. God wants us to have the life that abides, and share that life with those we meet.

God has work for us to do, many opportunities to share the love we receive so graciously from our Lord. Just as surely as you come home from school or work hungry for a snack, so there are those who hunger for other needs which go unmet. Children who have known only war in their short lives hunger for security and healing of the hatred. Young people, angry and afraid on unsafe streets, hunger for hope and safety. The sick and suffering hunger for wholeness. The desperately poor hunger for justice and opportunity. The lonely and lost folks hunger for love, for acceptance and respect. And, faithful followers of Jesus will also often hunger for hope, reassurance, for strength, to follow Jesus in their daily life, to be present for each other and for the world.

Today’s second lesson gives advice on how to satisfy a hunger for a healthy spiritual life as the people of God. As you prepare to welcome a new pastor, along with the excitement and anticipation, you may be hungry for the assurance that God will continue to nourish the journey of ministry here. This passage reminds us that we are “members of one another,” brought together by the Holy Spirit, forgiven by Christ, and loved by God. We can trust God’s promises to provide our daily bread. We can risk offering ourselves and our own gifts generously so we can prove to be God’s daily bread for each other and for the world.

Jesus is the angel in the wilderness who sets out for us food that strengthens us for our journey, the Bread of God’s outreach of love in Jesus. This is proof of God’s continuing love for us. That doesn’t mean that there will never be suffering or anxiety—or repair bills. The point is not “where the Messiah is, there is no suffering.” Rather, “where there is suffering, there you will find the Messiah.” And where we find the suffering servant Messiah, we can taste and see that the Lord is good, and will faithfully provide for us whatever we need to carry out our calling to be Christ for others.

Because we are all part of the Christian family, no matter where our journeys take us, the same Lord walks alongside, the same promise sustains us, and the same mission calls us out onto the road. Jesus, the Bread of Life is the Passover Lamb who gives his life for the life of the world – and that includes you and me. The table is set and we join again in the feast of victory for our God. Welcome God’s angel at your broom tree and give thanks to Jesus for the gift of Bread for our journey.

Mystery Meal

A sermon for August 2, 2015:           Exodus 16: 2-4, 9-15; Ephesians 4: 1-16; John 6: 24-35

One semester in college, I had a German class right before what always turned out to be a late lunch.  We learned some useful phrases, like the words that often described our feelings: “Ich bin hungrig,” – “I’m hungry” –mumbled over the rumble of hungry stomachs. The people of Israel in today’s first reading were hungry, as they wandered out in the barren wilderness. They were in transition, no longer slaves in Egypt, and not yet rooted in their Promised Land. Wandering in the wilderness, anxiously wondering if they would have a future.  And, let’s get down to the basics, they were hungry. Moses their leader heard the rumble of hunger and the mumble of complaint. Transitions to an unknown future can be really tough stuff.

Israelites were wandering around in the wilderness— with only a faint memory of the ringing chorus of their song of deliverance from the Egyptians army.  Now they were just faint, from hunger and thirst. And worried and weary. They were murmuring. It happens. They take their complaint to Moses—and Moses takes it up with God. And God, well, God listens and God responds. There was the gift of water at Mara, good for drinking, no longer bitter.  And now—this.  This, well, stuff.  Whatever it was. They got Manna, which literally means, “What is it?”

Every once in a while in my high school cafeteria, we had what we liked to call “Mystery Meal.”  We weren’t really sure what it was, and we loved to complain about it. A nutritious lunch was what we needed— and I suppose that mystery meal must have been good for us–but what we wanted was pizza burgers and tater tots!

Manna, the Mystery Meal, was God’s response to the complaints, providing what the people needed. Nothing to write home about – if they’d had a home to write to – but enough to keep a traveler from starving. An answer to the prayers of the hungry complaining people; God’s gift of grace, a miracle. Just enough for all to eat, when and where they needed it.

The people, however, viewed it with about the same enthusiasm as we viewed the “mystery meal” in the school cafeteria. Manna: “What is this stuff?”  God’s manna continues to settle thick outside our tents each morning, there for the taking.  It’s like the chorus to that old hymn: Great is thy faithfulness: “Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”  Morning by morning, God provided manna for each person, with a double portion provided for collecting on Friday morning, in preparation for Sabbath when no work was to be done. Not too exciting, this mystery meal, but steady.

The character Forrest Gump in the movie has a classic line: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’ll get.” The Israelites didn’t really know what they were getting that first morning the “what is this stuff” manna settled onto the ground outside their tents. Then, after a while, they always knew what they would get, and they got bored and restless. They longed for something else.

So, this morning, we might ask each other, “What is manna for you?” Have you taken in the evidence of God’s answer to a need, settling thick outside your tent each morning?  “Morning by morning new mercies I see.” So often, we can take a look around and mutter, “What is this stuff?” Murmuring at the manna–and in that complaining, we can miss the mercies of God, new, morning by morning. Why might we find ourselves missing out on seeing God’s gift of manna in our life?

We confuse our needs with our wants.  Enticing us into this confusion is what advertising relies on. Our world around us specializes in confusing needs and wants. Maybe you’ve heard that old Janis Joplin song: “O Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz, My friends all have Porsches, and I must make amends.” Now, think about it: Fussing about what we want and don’t have can mean that we miss the manna–the old Chevy that keeps on running faithfully, health good enough to get to work, hope that pulls out of us strength we didn’t know we had, loving people around us who inspire and support us and keep us going.  Manna mercies, mysteriously hidden in the ordinary stuff of life.

The people of Israel, hungry in the wilderness and murmuring, needed food.  What they wanted were the pantries of plenty in Egypt. But God provided what they needed. They had been slaves in Egypt, and God was leading them through the wilderness to freedom. God brings us beyond the slavery to our material wants–not discounting them – God heard the cries of hunger— but giving us what we need, sometimes even if we didn’t know yet how we would be needing it. God knows what we need better than we ever could.

In our Gospel reading today, the people wanted to make Jesus the “bread king.” That’s what they wanted. But Jesus says no to that, and offers them what they needed instead. Jesus tells them, “I am the Bread of Life.” Jesus meets a need that encompasses every other need: spiritual nourishment. God does the manna mercies, so that we may know we are claimed by God, who wants to be our God. Manna from God’s hand is not just for meeting physical hunger. In Egypt the slaves were fed just because they had to eat, or perhaps fed to keep them quiet and satisfied so they’d keep on working. Those slave bosses didn’t care about them. The manna in the wilderness says, “I am the Lord, YOUR God.” God cares and we can trust that God will provide, morning by morning.  Day by day, Jesus cares: “I am the Bread of Life. I will be there for you; I will be there with you; I will continue to be there at work through you.”

We are invited this morning to a Mystery Meal. Food for the spirit giving us, in a truly amazing mystery, what we truly need. At our Lord’s Table, we remember and give thanks for what Jesus has done for us, how much God loved us; we taste God’s mercy and hear the word of forgiveness. We gather with the fellow members of the Body of Christ in this place, and in the mystery of this meal, we are united with the people of God in all times and places. We receive the spiritual food that we need in order to “grow up” into mature Christians, able to “speak the truth in love.” We grow together as a Body gathered here by God’s Spirit into the full, loving, healing life of Christ. We celebrate God’s victory for us over all the powers that would leave us starving for life and hope and love. Jesus is the Bread of new Life, broken in mercy for us, and nourishing our spiritual life together as we embody the love of God.

We pray about manna in the Lord’s Prayer: give us this day our daily bread; we are the gathered people of God joining in our common table prayer. God does provide what we need–our daily bread, morning by morning, mercifully laying out the manna – all the many things that we need: family, food, friends, work to do and the strength to do it, the structures of life in community—all we need for our lives. This Mystery Meal that bring us the Bread of life draws its nourishment from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and assures us of our place in God’s plan to love and heal all of creation. All these things God has graciously provided for us. Morning by morning new mercies I see–the glory of the Lord, hidden in the humble manna, in the bread of life, mysteriously hidden in the Body of Christ, made of folks like you and me, each with some gift that contributes to sharing that new life.

Let us give thanks to the praise of God’s glory, for God has given us, and will continue to give us, all that we truly need even when we may mumble and stumble and turn away from God and God’s people and God’s will for our lives. We pray: God, give us eyes to see your manna mercies, and a hunger for the Bread of Life, so that we may “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” Give us eyes to see, hearts to trust, and hands to gather your gracious gift of manna, our bread of life, new every morning.