A Dialogue with Jesus

Dec 2, 2018 by

Communion Reflection for December 2, 2018             Paula Papky for MacNeill Baptist Church

Jeremiah 33:14-16              Psalm 25:1-10                    1 Thess. 3:9-13                  Luke 21:25-36

 

Jesus:  What’s up, Paula?  You’re lookin’ a little glum, there.

Me:  Well, Jesus, you’d be glum too if you had to spend any time at Limeridge Mall.  You can’t even find a parking spot up there.

Jesus:  You’re complaining about crowds of people?  I had people following me all the time, day after day, wanting me to heal them, rescue them, pay attention to them.  Complete strangers, most of them.

Me:  But you didn’t have to listen to The Little Drummer Boy everywhere you went.  You didn’t have Burl Ives exhorting you to have a Holly, Jolly Christmas.

Jesus:  Lighten up, Paula, for God’s sake.  These days leading up to Christmas are supposed to be a time of hope for all the people who are vulnerable, aren’t they?  You know, hope, peace, joy, love?

Me:  How am I supposed to make Jeremiah the prophet sound like hope?  The man walked around Jerusalem making dire pronouncements.  He made people unhappy.  I don’t see how the people of Israel, especially in Jerusalem, could have heard his words as hopeful.  I mean, those who survived the slaughter and the complete destruction of their city and Temple faced the long march to Babylon.  They would become slaves once more.  What hope had they to cling to?

Jesus:  They clung to the promise that these terrors were not God’s last word to them.  Jeremiah got it right when he prophesied the days were surely coming when Judah would be saved and Jerusalem would live in safety.  It would take sixty years for the promise to be fulfilled, but a remnant of them would return to their homeland to rebuild.

Me:  It’s still a pretty gloomy story for the first Sunday of Advent.  It must have been terrible for that sorry parade of captives to enter Babylon, in chains, tired and hungry.  No Santa in that parade.  No Jolly Old St. Nick.  And by the way, what’s with Jolly Old St. Luke?  Such a scary prophesy!  “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.”  I think he was quoting you, Jesus.  “The end is near” and all that.

Jesus:  Did I say that?  I probably should have said, “The beginning is near.”

Me:  The beginning is near?  Who’d believe that?  Not the people who watched the fall of the Temple, the second Temple, built in Herod’s time.  There were rebellions and uprisings.  Cruel consequences.  One thousand rebels crucified in one day.  And you speak about a beginning?

Jesus:  Well, you have to know where to look for hope in dark times.  Remember that little parable I told about the fig tree?  Its leafing out was a sign that something new could come from what had looked dead.  There are seasons in God-time.  Cold, hungry, wintery seasons, seasons of endurance would be followed by seasons of warmth, safety and new growth.  Seasons when the prisoners would walk free, the lame leap for joy, the blind see, the hungry be filled with good things.

Me:  I’m just not seeing that, Jesus.  The people at the mall just head for the food court when they’re hungry.

Jesus:  Sure, but maybe they have other hungers you don’t see.  They’re hungry for meaning, for friends, for community, for work, for dignity.

Me:  I know.  I get that.  And even in our city, I know kids go hungry, their parents are hungry and discouraged.  They worry about losing their job, about buying Christmas gifts for their kids.

Jesus:  People are hungry in so many ways, even among all the shoppers, the tinsel, the sales.

Me:  Sure.  I know that.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been reading a book about all those hungers.  It’s called, Take This Bread, by the American writer, Sara Miles.

Jesus:  Oh, that one.  I read it on Kindle the other week.  After all, it is my book and my table she writes about.  I love what she says about that first bite of bread she was given in a church.  She says, “Jesus happened to me.”

Me:  She was 46 years old and had a thoroughly secular life.  That’s the amazing thing!

Jesus:  I think it happened because of the way she stumbled into that church, completely unprepared, a total stranger.  And the 20 or so people sitting around the communion table made space for her.  They told her it was an open table; anyone could come and eat.  They didn’t ask if she’d been baptized (she hadn’t) or how or where.  They didn’t mind the way she was dressed.  They didn’t ask what she was hungry for.  They just said, come and eat the bread and drink from the cup in memory of me.

Me:  What the little group remembered and later taught Sara Miles was the way you, Jesus, ate with the unwashed, the stranger, the prostitute, the poor.  You were open to all comers.

Jesus:  And wasn’t it amazing to learn how her life was changed by the bread and wine?  Now, Sara Miles’ story is a story of hope for dark times.  It’s a story of what it means to fill people’s deepest hungers.  You know, the Scriptures are full of stories of hungry people fed.

Me:  Well, my favourite feeding story is about you preaching and teaching all day on that mountain – or was it at the sea shore?  Anyway, the disciples came to you and said that it was getting late and people were hungry.  I can just picture you looking at them, and saying, “Well, go ahead.  You feed them.”

Jesus:  I remember.  They scrounged around and came up with five loaves and two fishes.  I told them, just start feeding people.  And then everyone ate their fill and there were 12 baskets of scraps left over.

Me:  Yeah, how’d you do that, anyway?

Jesus:  Oh, that wasn’t me; that was God.  It’s God every time people are fed in body and spirit.  Every time people are given hope in tough times.

Me:  It’s a tough time right now, Jesus.  Hundreds of thousands of people are on the move.  I think of those people who walked all the way from Central America, through Mexico, to have their hopes dashed by the U.S. refusal to let them come in and make new lives.  And even relatively rich countries there’s a lot of hunger.  As we get ready to stuff ourselves, we’d rather not think too deeply about the poor and isolated in our own city.

Jesus:  Sara Miles was aware of that, too, down in a poor area of San Francisco.  But after her remarkable experience of communion, she paid attention to what I was calling her to do:  feed the hungry.

Me:  Pretty amazing story.  She got that whole small church to turn itself into a once-a-week grocery pantry.  People could come and get food to take home and cook for their families.  That little church used their own small donations to get started on basics like bread and milk and cereal, and fed 60 people the first week.  People could hardly believe they could come and get groceries with no money.  Then food banks in the area began to donate to the pantry and restaurants donated the fresh fruit and vegetables they usually threw out.  Gradually those who came for groceries began to volunteer to load and unload the food trucks, to greet people and to give out food.  They came to be known as “the pantry deacons.”  I don’t know if our deacons would go for it, though.  But people got to know each other, came to worship services, formed a new, larger St. Gregory’s Church.  And as the numbers grew to 250 hungry people, satellite church pantries were started up.  Some substantial donations made that possible.

Jesus:  And it all began because people gathered around a table and included a woman of no faith but of deep questions.  They told her, “It’s an open table.  Come.  Remember. Give thanks.  Ponder.  Leave and return and eat the bread again and see what happens.”

Me:  My favourite sentence in the book comes from that bishop friend of Sara Miles said about what that small church was doing.  He said, “There’s a hunger beyond food that is expressed in food, and that’s why feeding is always a kind of miracle.”  Feeding people is always a kind of miracle.  Amen.

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