What do recipes for Spritz cookies, Mexican Pozole, Thai Som-Tam, A Green Smoothie, and Widow’s Loaves have in common? Well, all of these hese recipes are used by Lutheran Christians around the United States as they live out the faith and beliefs that have been given and entrusted to them by God.
There is Ute, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, CT, who makes batches of homemade spritz cookies and delivers them weekly to a chaplain who serves Seafarers in New Haven and New London, CT. There is Pastor Pete, a first generation citizen of Mexican heritage, who has been regularly bringing pozole to church potlucks for over 25 years – people are always asking him to make it – as a way to celebrate and share the roots God gave him and his family on this earth. Similarly David and his wife Piyamat love to bring Thai Som-Tam to the weekly feasts their church in Illinois hosts as part of building community and celebrating Christ’s joy planted among them. And there’s Elaine of Indiana who makes daily smoothies from sustainably harvested ingredients to remind herself and others of how we need to be good caretakers, good stewards of God’s green earth.
Jesus says in our gospel lesson, “ whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6: 35b) What better ways to celebrate this new life entrusted to Ute and Pastor Pete and Piyamat and Elaine in faith by Christ than to care for seafarers, celebrate their God-given roots on this earth, build community, and care for the earth.
And when we look at these and other stories of faith we see a common thread of outward facing faith. God didn’t just inspire Ute to make cookies for the people she knows and likes. Instead God in Christ inspired Ute to make cookies to reach out to some of the 1.25 million people who make seafaring their life’s work each year, leaving families and home for work out on the ocean. Pastor Pete is making pozole to celebrate his Mexican roots in a way that fosters lasting community and celebrates that all people in all countries and cultures belong to God and are beloved in God’s eyes.
You see, the Bread of Life come down from Heaven in Jesus Christ for us and this work is always trying to give itself away for a greater purpose – God’s saving and salvation purpose in the world. Our human brokenness may forget this truth and try to clutch on to these gifts from God as though they are finite and belong to us. The Israelites certainly tried to clutch onto to the manna from heaven, the quail provided each day for their sustenance. The manna shriveled up and the quail turned rancid because the people were trying to use God’s gifts according to their purposes, not God’s generous direction.
For the Israelites, that generosity came in the form of receiving just enough food for the day. Actually, that’s a pretty great way to receive the gift of food when you’re a people on the go. When you’re traveling in the wilderness, unsure of how long it will take to get to the Promised Land, you don’t exactly want to be hauling along a bunch of coolers.
For us, who at least in this country, are mostly privileged to have more food in our pantries than many families in other parts of the world will see in weeks or months, God’s calling to share of God’s abundance will probably look a little different than for the Israelites in the wilderness. We can make cookies every week to be shared with lonely seafarers as a taste of home. We can cook a big batch of our favorite family recipes to share at church and community gatherings. We can pack care packages for refugees and adopt families for Christmas through FAMILY of Woodstock.
The common thread is that the manna and quail in the wilderness did not belong to the Israelites and all of the bounty in our pantries and pocket books, the bounty of time in our weeks; none of this bounty for the Israelites or for us actually belongs to us. These blessings come from the source of true life that is Jesus Christ and therefore these blessings are not meant to be held onto for ourselves, but to be given and used to praise God as God intends.
This is the second of multiple weeks where we are hearing in our gospel lesson about our Savior, who is the very Bread of Life, come down from Heaven, for us and this world. This Savior Jesus plants in us faith and gives us redeemed life by his very blood and being. There is no greater gift that can be given to us. We have literally been given everything, but we need to remember that it does not belong to us. These redeemed and resurrected lives belong to God in Christ!
So whether, as our second lesson from Ephesians reminds us, whether we have gifts to be apostles or teachers, pastors or prophets, these gifts all come from one source. Whether we are cookie bakers or pozole makers, all these gifts come from one source. And we are called to learn as communities how to marshal and organize ourselves by the principles of love and humility and kindness so as to share all our God given gifts; no, I should say so that we can share all of God’s God-given gifts through us with the world. This is God’s faith through us, and this is the common thread that God desires to use to bind us wonderfully together. Amen.