This is yesterday’s sermon from Community Lutheran Church!
I want to begin by asking you to close your eyes. Imagine before you a beautiful home, expansive and furnished impeccably. As you walk down the hall, you round a corner and see a huge banquet hall. The aroma of rich food and spiced wine reaches you before you see the table groaning under the weight of roasted meats, freshly baked bread, an array of cheeses, and brightly colored vegetables and fruits. Even the dishes themselves are exquisite. You’ve never seen a finer feast and you pinch yourself, trying to see if you are dreaming.
Open your eyes. Hungry? This is the feast of Lady Wisdom described in Proverbs. She decorates her home like some sort of Martha Stewart guru and has her servant girls run around the city – even to the very top, inviting everyone to come in. But she doesn’t pass out invitations or even issue a formal decree. No, she calls out to everyone who will listen, “You that are simple, turn in here!” Well that’s one way to invite people! Perhaps she’s not so great with social etiquette after all. You see, if I were going to have a feast, the last thing that I would want to do is run around saying “Hey! Simple, senseless folks, come on over for supper!” I mean, for one, it’s insulting, and two, who knows who might show up?!
So what’s going on here? The book of Proverbs was a book historically designed to help instruct young people in the way to live their lives wisely. Wisdom is personified as a woman who sets a decadent feast, calling those who are in need of guidance and instruction to eat at her table. Here, eating is a metaphor for learning the way of God, being satisfied by God’s teaching and transformed by the meal. Lady Wisdom’s arch nemesis is Lady Folly – personified as a loud, lazy woman who calls out from her doorway, enticing the simple with promises of food and drink that sound appealing, but lead only to peoples’ demise.
Both call out to the simple, calling them to come and dine. The difference is that Lady Wisdom offers true food and drink – instruction in the ways of God that lead to life. Lady Folly offers food and drink that look good, but lead to death.
Given these two options, it seems only natural that one would want to feast with Lady Wisdom. But doing so requires admitting that we’re not as wise as we might have thought. It means humbly admitting that we need help and instruction in order to learn and grow, which can be more difficult than it sounds. As one member of the Wednesday Bible study put it, “we’re stupid and we don’t admit we’re simple.” It also means turning down what might seem appealing in the short term in order to embrace what is truly life-giving. And that can be a challenge.
I like the way David Brazzeal puts it in his book, Pray like a Gourmet: “Does your prayer life feel like you’re eating the same food over and over every day – mixing the same ingredients but hoping for a new, more enticing dish?
Or perhaps you’re experiencing something more like a divine drive-thru. You hurriedly place “your order,” always in a rush, expecting God to deliver it promptly at the next window?
Maybe your most intimate moments with God are akin to grabbing a cheap frozen dinner from the stack in the freezer and tossing it in the microwave: bland, monotonous, and predictably uninteresting.
I understand. I’ve been there too. We all deal with twenty-first century pressures, stresses, distractions, and time constraints. We fall prey to the default mode of our culture- fast and efficient. We’ve even allowed what George Ritzer calls the ‘McDonaldization’ of our society to invade and take root within the very relationship that is most precious to us – the one that, in fact, is the source that sustains and nurtures our soul. No wonder we feel spiritually anemic and malnourished.”
Sometimes we settle for the fast food of Lady Folly and the world rather than attending the gourmet meal of Lady Wisdom and God. I think it’s one of the reasons we’ve been spending so much time talking about Jesus as the Bread of Life. Food is essential to our survival and we don’t usually need to be reminded to eat, but we do need to be reminded of who Jesus is – the One who sustains and gives life – and about how important it is to be nourished in our faith.
In the Gospel for this morning, Jesus pushes the idea of being the Bread of Life even further – to a point where it sounds like, well, cannibalism. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” Yikes. Of course, we hear this and we think of the Last Supper, the cross and resurrection, but it must have been shocking to hear. But here’s what I think he’s getting at.
Jesus gives us himself – completely. He gives us his body and his blood on the cross. He gives everything he has for our sake. And he gives us something to chew on. We’ve looked at Lady Wisdom’s feast versus Lady Folly’s and one of the differences is that Lady Folly’s food is an easy meal. It sounds good, but it doesn’t taste great and it leads to destruction. The feast that Lady Wisdom sets and the feast that Jesus offers is not an easy meal.
Jesus says those who eat of his flesh will have eternal life. And the word that he uses for “eat” really means “to gnaw” – yep, it means “to chew.” Christ gives us something to chew on – something to think about. He doesn’t give us something easy to swallow or easy to digest. He gives us something that causes us to wrestle, to wonder, to engage with for the rest of our life. We can’t just down it in one single solitary gulp and be satisfied. It’s something that we are constantly required to chew on, to savor, and to think about.
We’re invited to return to the table again and again to try and figure out what God means for our lives. What faith means for our lives as individuals, what it means for our life as a people in community, and what it means when we walk out of that door and engage with people from different backgrounds and different places. What it means when we go to work or when we serve in our various roles. We are forced to gnaw on our faith and to figure out what it means to live it out. Like a dog chewing on a bone, we are to be engaged with our faith and in our relationship with God.
I love the metaphor of attending the feast, because I love food, but also because it’s an active metaphor. God invites us to the feast and we come to partake of the rich food – to learn and practice our faith, but also to share around the table. Since we’re Lutheran, maybe it’s helpful to think of it as a potluck. God provides the main dish and an abundance of strong coffee, and we all bring a dish, maybe it’s a Jell-O casserole, representing our gifts, skills and experiences to share with others. Together, in community, we worship, learn and grow, and we wrestle with our faith, our questions and our doubts.
We are lavishly saved by God’s amazing grace through Christ’s cross and resurrection, but that doesn’t mean that life will be easy or the way clear-cut. We will always need help, instruction and support in God’s ways – in trying to live as followers of Christ in the world. That’s why we come back to this place week after week to hear God’s word and be forgiven and strengthened at the table. Because we will always be distracted by the loud shouting of Folly that would cause us to turn from God, to live in fear, to belittle ourselves or others, or to seek fame and glory instead of the way of the cross and a life of discipleship.
God wants life for us – abundant life – and not just in eternity, but here and now. God wants to feast with us and to be active in and with us. Christ is inviting us to eat and drink more deeply so we might discover that the food of the world we’ve been settling for – power, riches, acclaim, success, popularity – it might look good, but really ends up leaving a bad taste in our mouths. Just as Christ gave his flesh and blood – everything he had for us – we’re invited to give our whole selves to following him. Bland prayer life? Come on out to Diving into Prayer and try something new. Feeling like you want a refresher in the basics of faith? Sign up to help teach Sunday School – it’s a blast and it’ll help you learn as well. Looking for a way to serve, but unsure of how to do so? Come out on Rally Day to learn more about our ministries here. Christ is inviting us to swap the metaphorical frozen pizzas we’ve been living off of, for the richness of a gourmet meal.
“You that are simple, turn in here!” We don’t like being called simple, but if it reminds us to turn to God instead of relying on ourselves, it’s a good thing. If it points to the good news that God wants us to lay aside our own agendas and ways we’re missing out on God’s abundance by settling for Folly and cheap substitutes, it’s a good thing. My prayer for all of us then is that the Holy Spirit might humble us and open our hearts so that we can see and taste the splendor of the magnificent feast God lays before us each and every day. Amen.
© 2015. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.