Beautiful scripture passages again today. These weeks that we have been in have been full of scripture lessons saturated with beauty. In particular this scripture text that we heard from Ephesians a few moments ago will always hold a special place in my heart.
…be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:19, 20)
I remember when we decided as the music ministry of Faithful Folk – a music ministry that I helped found back in 2002 - to add the first part of this quote to our first CD. Fifteen years later, in December of 2017 we gathered to give thanks to God – just as the second part of this quote from Ephesians suggests – for everything God had done through Faithful Folk.
We gave thanks to God for the psalms and hymns and spiritual songs shared through concerts and CDs that reached thousands of people, witnessing to the love of Christ. We gave thanks for benefit events organized and benefit CDs that helped raise over $100,000 for homeless shelters, food pantries, families in need, and youth ministry.
But I think that I give God thanks most of all for the stories I heard time and time again through that ministry. Like one man who humorously wrote to ask us to please hurry up and get another CD made because his kids would only listen to the music of Faithful Folk in the car and with all due respect, he had needed to hide the two CDs they owned to maintain his sanity! The woman who wrote to tell us that while she was grieving after a miscarriage and couldn’t talk to anyone about it yet, and couldn’t listen to any other music, she’d been able to listen to the music of Faithful Folk and find solace, and that eventually got her opening up to others and moving along on her journey of healing. It’s amazing to hear these stories and to think about the power that psalms and hymns and spiritual songs can have in the world, a gift of Christ, the Bread from Heaven.
We’ve talked here at Redeemer about our national Lutheran Church’s tagline, “God’s work, our hands.” And that’s what we witness time and time again: God showing up through these cracked clay pots, through these imperfect vessels to shine Christ’s perfect light to the world.
God showing up through music and stories, Art camps and feeding the hungry, simple acts such as cleaning the kitchen as we did here at Redeemer this week, offering blessings and getting ready to start gathering for coffee and food again on Sundays this fall. This is just a few of the examples of the work of the Bread of Life from Heaven who is Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, who gathers us around this table each week to revel in the Feast of Life without end. Simple bread and simple wine shared, yet because they are shared in the context of striving community; because they are shared in the context of being gathered around the word in scripture; because God is real and truly loves and believes in us and this world; God in Christ shows up in these simple elements and they become a precious sacrament. They become a holy intersection between heaven and us.
This holy intersection, this bread and wine rewrite our DNA sequence and they overwrite our hard drives and they install the latest software of compassion and forgiveness and mercy and a burning desire to build justice and equity for those who most need it in the world. This holy intersection between Christ and our lives opens up the road ahead of us, and it opens up our hearts and our minds to see that God in the Holy Spirit is seeking to lead us out on that road.
This is the Bread of Life from Heaven, we hear, and it is not like that manna that your ancestors ate in the wilderness and they were hungry again. This Bread of Life that is Jesus, broken and shed for us and for this world; this is the eternal song that goes deep within our bones and our flesh, our hearts and minds, renewing our spirits so that Christ’s song may spring forth through us, literally and figuratively.
And others will praise God for the Light that they see and we will humbly join them, praising God for the Light that we witness as well. It is God’s Light, not ours. It is God’s work, but God needs these hands of ours, these hearts and minds and souls; our time, talent, and, and finances to carry this heavenly work out here on earth. My dad once said, as he was encouraging me to get the ministry of Faithful Folk started, “God doesn’t give us gifts to hide under a bushel.” We’ve heard that passage my dad quoted before, right?
And it’s true! We all have gifts to be shared. Yet the strange thing is that sometimes as humans we forget that. We don’t think that what we have is enough, or matters enough to do something with it. But that’s our brokenness, not God’s perspective. God looks down on you and me and sees precious potential. God looks down on the world and sees gifts that are needed at precisely this time for holy purposes. Gifts to be worked on and developed, striven towards and given to the glory of God with God’s help.
There is not one among us who is not called by God, who is not redeemed and consecrated – which are fancy words to say “made new” and “set apart with purpose.” Indeed we are made new and set apart with purpose, every one of us, each with gifts God is calling us to share.
I read this week about the gifts of one man named Jason Gapko (Living Lutheran, August 2018), born with a form of muscular dystrophy that has severely limited what he can do physically. Yet Jason, instead of letting his struggles stop him, instead of deciding that he didn’t have anything in this life to share, instead of being bound in life as he is bound to a wheelchair and ventilator; Jason has continued to discover God’s call to him. Jason serves as the president of the Board for University Lutheran, which administers scholarships for seminary students and supports the work of a congregation that is also a campus ministry. Jason got a grant to write an annotated bibliography of resources to support others struggling with muscular dystrophy. And now Jason is working on a PHD, a lifelong dream.
We all have gifts to share as God helps us learn how to give praise not only through psalms and hymns, but through every dimension of our lives and who we are. That old hymn says that, “they will know that we are Christian by our love.” And we know, because God in Christ keeps waking us up to know, that true Christ-following, Christ-serving love can’t be shared just one hour a week in worship.
This trying to follow Jesus, trying to serve and praise Jesus by sharing love with the world job is a twenty-four seven, three hundred and sixty five day a of the year vocation, and it is a calling that comes to us in every dimension of our lives. If we haven’t thought bout it that way before we do now. Every moment of this day, wherever you are, whomever you’re talking to, whatever you’re thinking about, it is part of your holy calling, given to you and sustained by God in Christ at this Feast without End. This Bread of Life that intersects with our lives and makes of us a new creation.
This world is torn asunder by the power of sin and broken up on the jagged edge of suffering. Yet God in Christ, who loved this Creation into life so full that it includes free choice, including the ability to choose badly; God in Christ has never and will never give up on this world or on us. And God in Christ, the Bread of Life from Heaven, will never stop trying to equip us so that we in turn may equip others to get out there in the sometimes-overwhelming-darkness-of-the-world to proclaim that there is Light brighter than this darkness. There is Hope-greater-than-any-fear.
For Christ is the true Bread from Heaven. This is our endless song. It was the song of the ministry of Faithful Folk and it is the story of Redeemer and is the song of all of our lives. This is the story we will tell and through this story, through Christ’s work, life will come to those who need to hear it and receive it most. Life is here for you and for me. Life is poured out for the world; God’s work, our hands. Amen.