Tenacity and Trust

Caananite Woman

10 Pentecost A 2014       Fr. Ray Kasch     August 17, 2014

Lessons Is 56:1-7; Ps 67; Rom 11:13-32; St. Matt 15:21-28

 

I grew up in a very NON politically correct world. We used words that many today would find offensive and hurtful but it was not our intent to offend or to hurt. Mostly we understood the words that we used to be descriptive rather than insulting. For example someone who could not hear or speak in my childhood was called “deaf and dumb.” By dumb we were not thinking Jim Cary kind of dumb but the Old English meaning unable to speak. The use of that term was made popular through the King James Bible. Today of course it has taken on an entirely different meaning.

When I went to work for Family and Children’s Services in Chattanooga I was given initial training about what words were to be used and what words were to be avoided and to my surprise this was so fluid that we would receive by mail regular updates. Just when you had it down they would change it on you. Don’t say that a kid is “short” call him “proportional” etc.. Some of it made sense but some of it felt like thought police with sensitivities taken to an extreme. It hasn’t improved much. We hear with regularity of people losing their jobs over saying something that another found offensive and seems that it doesn’t take too much these days to offend.

So imagine what the thought police today would have to say about Jesus’ exchange with this Caananite woman. “Did He just call her a dog?” He would be wide open for being accused of being both racist and sexist and no doubt some would consider Him so. But let’s nip that in the bud because since we know that He was sinless and racism and sexism is sinful, then He could not, COULD NOT be either.

First if Jesus was a racist, or had a Jewish aversion to Gentiles, He would not have been in the district of Tyre and Sidon to begin with. That region is not on the way to anywhere so you only go there because you want to go there. Also that area was known as a Gentile region, so it would be like going to New York and complaining about all of the Yankees up there. Certainly we know that Jesus was smarter than that.

Second, if Jesus was truly being sexist, He would have taken His disciples advice and sent her away. In fact He could have had the disciples do that for Him so that He would not have to have contact with her at all. Given that He was a Rabbi and she was a Gentile woman that would have been the expected behavior. But instead He went against the societal expectations and ministered to her.

Okay, He was not sexist or racist but isn’t comparing her to a dog over the top, even for the Son of God? As I just mentioned, language is fluid. Think how radically words have changed in just our lifetime. Some of you grew up watching the Flintstones. Do you remember the last lines of the theme song? “ We’ll have a yabba dabba do time, a dabba so time, we’ll have a gay old time.” That is not a line that would be used in a children’s cartoon today. 

My point is that if words change that much just within our lifetime I wonder if we can begin to fathom how differently words were used 2,000 years ago. Add to that the fact that Jesus came from an entirely different culture and it should make us slow to judge by placing 21 century standards on 1st century language.

It was common for Jews to refer to Gentiles as “dogs” and they did this not to put Gentiles down as much to emphasize that they were the children of God. And it is evident in the story that the woman took no offense by this expression. She used it herself to make her case.

I conclude that Jesus was not insulting her, rather He was simply making the point that charity begins at home. When Jesus tells her that charity begins at home she in essence says, “That may be true but there is nothing that says that it has to stay there.” Jesus loved her answer, commended her faith and gave her what she was seeking which was the healing of her daughter.

This is an interesting place for St. Matthew to put this story. Here Jesus is complementing a woman for her faith but one chapter earlier we see Him rebuking Peter for not having enough faith when He had to pull him out of the sea. Thus a Gentile woman is looking far better than the future Bishop of Rome, which should silence the critics who say that only the books that got into the Canon were the ones that kept women in their place.

What I take from this story is a real life metaphor for prayer. When the woman first approached Jesus the passage says, “He did not answer her a word.” Have you ever had that happen to you in prayer? You pray and pray and pray and pray and the heavens are silent. After that goes long enough you would even be happy, if like a scene from the Wizard of Oz, someone would just open up a little window from heaven and tell you to go away.

Silence is tough to take. I recall one time complaining to my spiritual director that I was getting no answers at all in my prayers and he said that sometimes God does this to remind us that what we are ultimately seeking in prayer is not answers but God Himself.

But the good news is that silence was not the final word from Jesus. Instead of sending her away, Jesus answers her, but He answers her with a challenge that in turn forces her to dig deeper.

It has been my experience with prayer that a long silence can act like a challenge and result in me taking another look at what it is I am asking for to see if I really need it. Years ago I bombarded heaven with a specific prayer request. I was like that guy in Jesus parable who knocked on the door so long that the homeowner got up and opened the door just to shut the guy up. I asked and begged and pleaded until God gave me what I asked. The problem was that I didn’t come at if from the approach of discerning God’s will. I came at it more like a spoiled kid saying “I want what I want and I want it now.” So I got what I wanted and it went very badly and almost destroyed me. Looking back I realized that I got my will but I did not get God’s will.

That was a hard lesson but it did teach me to listen for God’s challenges to my prayers and be willing to be very open-handed towards God. If we demand something of God in prayer we are in essence saying that we deserve it and we need to be REALLY careful about asking God to give us what we deserve. The reason the word “mercy” comes up so often in the liturgy is that we are asking God NOT to give us what we deserve.

I think the other reason for God’s challenges in prayer is that it gives us an opportunity to increase our faith. Faith is like a muscle, if you want it to grow it must face resistance. When you go up to a Coke machine and put the dollar bill in, you don’t have to exercise faith to get a Coke back do you? It’s an automatic exchange. But God is not like that. When we push on God, so to speak, He pushes back. This builds our faith and that is how our relationship with Him is strengthened. Think back over you life and see if the times of greatest spiritual growth for you were not associated with some of your greatest challenges.

But let me clarify something about faith, when I speak of our faith growing. I don’t mean to imply that faith is measured with a volume or quantity. In fact I think that is a dangerous way to view it because over the years I have seen people wounded from being told that they don’t have enough faith, or that their loved one was not healed because they did not have enough faith. What does that mean anyway? Were they a quart low?

What this Caananite woman shows us is that faith is a combination of tenacity and trust. She was not going to take “No” for an answer and she knew exactly who to go to.

I once heard a TV preacher tell his audience to “demand” that God answers your prayer. I would heartily disagree. He is the potter and we are the clay. Clay doesn’t make demands. I think you know that there is a difference in our hearts between being demanding and being tenacious. And we should be equally cautious about going the other way and engage in prayer without any expectations.

I once had a friend of a parishioner ask if I would do an exorcism on her home because she was having some strange manifestations. I did it and about a week later I saw her in a restaurant She came up to me all excited and said, “You won’t believe it, it worked.” And I said back to her, “No I do believe it, that is why we do it.”

When we pray we should expect an answer. We should not be passive. I have heard people add “thy will be done” to their prayers not so much to seek God’ will but as if to give God and out and to keep themselves from being disappointed if their prayer is unanswered.

We are not to pray this way. You know this from our liturgy.“And now as our Savior Christ hath taught us we are (what) to pray” The word is “bold.” This is from the Gospel according to Luke. LK 11:5 Then (Jesus) said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

    LK 11:7 “Then the one inside answers, `Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’  I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Hebrews 4 says Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence (some translations say ‘boldness’) so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

If you were to approach your boss for a raise, what would be the best way to do it? “Well I don’t know if we have the money or not and you may not agree with me but I sure would like a raise if that is something you would like to do but it is entirely up to you, I leave that in your hands.” How good are your chances? That is what we do in prayer when we are passive in prayer.

On the other hand if you walked into your boss’ office and hit his desk with your fist and said, “I demand a raise” how well do you think that would be received.

But if you went in and confidently and respectfully asked for a raise that would no doubt be your best chance for getting one. That is what I see the Caananite woman modeling. Her faith was evident by her tenacity and trust and that is why she received her answer and that is how we should pray in order to see our requests answered.

Let me ask you a question. What would have happened to that little girl if her mother stopped asking? Would she have been healed? I doubt it. Is it possible that in your life right now you are stopping short of asking? If so that may be the very reason that you are not seeing answers to your prayers. Following this woman’s example, let us boldly come before the throne of grace. Amen.

 

 

 

Miracles in the Midst of Messiness

Jonah and Whale

Fr. Ray Kasch       August 10, 2014

Lessons Jonah 2:1-9; Psalm 29; Romans 9:1-5; St. Matthew 14:22-33

We have a number of parishioners who are either directly or indirectly related to law enforcement. They have never told me this but I want to make an educated guess about something that really chaps them. Here they are doing a job most folks don’t want to do and for which all of us wish there was no need. The pay is not what it should be but then again how much do you pay someone who puts their life on the line for us every day? The hours that they work, with the accompanying stress, would be intolerable to many. Most of the time the work that they do goes unnoticed, but as soon as our cars break down or we feel unsafe while withdrawing money from an ATM then what is the first question to come out of our collective mouths? “Why is there never a cop around when you really need one?” I can just imagine that after the 100th time they have heard this line, which was probably their 3rd day on the job, it takes every bit of self control that they can muster not to mace that person.

From a spiritual perspective, isn’t it true that we are tempted to do a very similar thing with God? He provides seed for sowing and bread for eating, He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, He cares for the widow and orphan, He holds all things together and yet His mercies largely go unnoticed. Even for those who have never darkened the door of the Church, as soon as we feel unsafe or we have an emergency or we fall into a pit of our own making, the question enters our collective minds, “Why is God never around when you really need Him?” I wonder if God tires of hearing that as much as the police do?

In today’s lessons, particularly focusing on Jonah and Peter, we see two characters who if they did not ask that question out loud it surely must have crossed their minds. Both men found themselves in a real jam. Jonah found himself in the belly of a great fish and Peter found himself sinking into the sea. Where was God? The truth of both stories was that He was right there all the time and as a result Jonah was delivered from the belly of the great fish and Jesus reached out his hand to Peter and calmed the storm 

O.K. that is all well and good for these Bible stories but can we look for that kind of miraculous deliverance in our own lives in this day and time?

First let’s briefly tackle the issue whether miracles exist at all. If you watch shows about the Bible on the History Channel it is typical to hear attempts to give scientific explanations for the miracles. You may conclude from these efforts that is not necessary to believe in miracles to be a person of faith. Others argue that these stories are not to be read as historical events as much as morality plays. They are meant to encourage us that God will be with us in the difficult times of our lives.

While it may be possible to explain some miracles in the Bible in natural terms, that approach does not work for all of the miracles and besides that it misses the point. As author Frederick Beuchner said, it is also possible to look at a Rembrandt painting and find a rational explanation in terms of paint and canvas. Whether by scientific method or supernatural intervention, it is still the work of God.

Thus while it is not necessary to see everything as a result of direct divine intervention, we must be very, very careful about dismissing the miraculous. In fact I would argue that if you are a Christian you must believe in at least two miracles because we recite them in the Creed every week. Science cannot explain the Virgin birth nor the Resurrection of our Lord. In fact as St. Paul indicates, if the miracle of the resurrection were not true there would be no Christianity. So yes we believe in miracles and therefore lets consider our lessons to see what we can learn about miracles in our own lives.

The first thing that I want to point out is that our lessons involve miracles that are kind of messy. Allow me to explain.

Jonah’s miraculous deliverance from the belly of the great fish, if you read the entire story, includes the truth that it was God who created the fish to swallow Jonah in the first place. Later in the story Jonah takes rest under the shade of a plant but God created a worm to kill the plant and this drove Jonah to the edge. Then the whole story ends up going in a different direction than Jonah had hoped.

Or take Peter’s situation. He is miraculously able to step out of the boat and begin to walk on water and it seems that everything is going great. But then he sees the storm and he becomes frightened and he starts to sink. Here Peter had stepped out on faith fully trusting that God would be able to be his Rock and his Salvation and suddenly he finds himself drowning.

Here is my point. We have a tendency to call things miracles only if they go smoothly and everything turns out right, like how neatly everything wraps up at the end of a one-hour TV show. But the Bible does not support that perspective. What the Bible shows is miracles in the midst of messiness.

Let me give you a modern example. I read a book by an orthopedic surgeon who experienced death in a kayak accident. If I remember correctly she was under the water some 25 minutes before they found her and pulled her out. She vividly recalls being greeted by loving spirits and making her way to see God but she was told that she had to go back because her family would need her. She came back to life with no brain damage in spite of how long she had been dead. A few years later her teenage son was killed in an accident and she knew that was why she had been returned to this life. Miracles in the midst of messiness.

Why is it important that we realize this? It is important because it keeps us in contact with Jesus when things get messy. It has us looking to Him but not with the expectation that He will wave a magic wand and that everything will be perfect. Looking for miracles in the midst of the messiness will have us be like Peter and reach out for Jesus’ hand when we are sinking rather than believing that God has abandoned us and we find ourselves drowning in our own bitterness. The Psalmist does not say that God miraculously removes us from the valley of the shadow of death. He says that while we are there in the messiness “thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

A friend of mine posted this quote from a famous TV preacher. “Because of Christ, I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am strong. I am healthy. I am talented. I am creative. I am confident. I am secure. I am disciplined. I am focused. I am free from the past. I am free from fear. I am free from condemnation. I am free from addictions. I am free from lack. The right people are in my future. The right opportunities are headed my way. I will accomplish my dreams. I will overcome every obstacle. This is my year! Things have shifted in my favor…..” I think the only thing that he left out here is “I am woman hear me roar.”

I think that I understand what he is trying to do here, that he is trying to be a model of living in biblical optimism. Nevertheless such quotes make me shudder because much of what he is claiming, if it is indeed true for himself, is certainly not true for the rest of us and won’t be until the kingdom comes in its fullness. I fear that people will take these words and do one of two things with them. Either they will claim them for themselves and then lose their faith when they don’t happen or they turn away in hopelessness at the outset, saying to themselves, “I can never be that.” Instead of telling folks that nothing bad is every going to happen to them, he needs to be telling folks that nothing can separate them from the love of Jesus and there is a world of difference between the two.

Most of the time miracles don’t happen to make life less messy, miracles happen so that we can get through this messy life.

Jesus taught us how to live in this perspective by using one word. “Nevertheless”…He prayed, “Father if there be any other way, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” That word allowed Jesus to trust the Father even if the Father chose not to let the cup pass from Him. He looked past the events into the character of His Father and He trusted Him. 

The other point I wish to make from our lesson is the result of the miracle in the Gospel account. When Jesus took Peter by the hand and calmed that storm, the text says, “And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.” Miracles should lead us to worship. They are not given to fill us with curiosity or to entertain us.

Not to long after moving here I was in a local restaurant and a gentleman, noticing my clerical collar, started to discuss religion with me. I thought that it would be a “fishing” opportunity but actually he did not want to discuss faith. He wanted to convince me how wrong I was for not being in his particular part of the Church. As we ended our discussion he said, “Well you need to come to my Church, because when our preacher lays hands on you and prays for you, you will fall down.”  

Some of you have told me of experiencing such a thing, so that may be of God, but herein lay the danger. The danger is of the miracle eclipsing the message. Note that my brother did not say, “Come to my church because you will meet Jesus through Word and Sacrament” or “Come to my church because you will experience the love and presence of Jesus.” He said “Come to my church so you can you fall down.” At least in his case, the experience with God was not leading to worship and that is cause to wonder about the validity of his experience. Miracles are not given to titillate or entertain, they lead to worship.

The Diocese of Texas has included in their mission statement that Christians should be a people of miraculous expectations. I love that and I think it is right because that is the kind of God we serve. But we also need to keep our miraculous expectations in perspective. Even greater than temporal deliverances, as experienced by Jonah and Peter, is the inner miracle of the forgiveness of sins and God putting a new heart within us. It is this miracle that lasts for eternity and this miracle most certainly leads to worship.

Hang on to these stories of Jonah and Peter. All of us sooner or later find ourselves in the belly of a giant fish or sinking in the sea and when we do these stories of deliverance will comfort us. They are assurances that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

These stories need to inspire our prayers of deliverance for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are suffering unspeakably at the hands of Muslim terrorists. We need to pray that as they are tempted to ask, “Where is God when I really need him?” that they will know that He is already there because He has never ever left them.

We need to use these stories to inspire our witness to people all around us who are in desperate need of deliverance. We need to be like Jonah and boldly declare to them “Salvation is of the Lord.”Amen.

Do We Pray to Saints?

Communion of the Saints

I have a strange question, Ray. Have you always believed in praying to, or going through, saints, like Mary, Mother of Jesus? Or is this a relatively new thing? It seems to me that JESUS is the only One to be prayed to and through.

I received this question on Facebook from a member of my church from my non- denominational days in the 1980’s. It is a good and an important question because it helps to clarify a common misconception. Her conclusion is exactly right. We only pray to and through Jesus, or to be more precise, to and through the Blessed Trinity. As Anglicans we do not pray TO the saints, but many of us believe that we pray WITH the saints. What is the difference?

If I am having a problem is it permissible to call a fellow Christian and ask for their prayers? Of course it is because we have examples throughout the Epistles of the Apostle asking for the prayers of others. In the Revelation to John we are given a glimpse into heaven where we see saints praying, as represented by heavenly incense (Rev 5). They are aware of our struggles on earth as they cry out to the Lord, “How long?” (Rev 6).

This usually poses another question. “Why would we need the prayers of the saints if we have Jesus praying for us?” Let me answer that question with a question. “Why would Jesus need angels to minister to Him if He is one with the Father?” (Matt 4:11). The answer in both cases is because that is what the Lord has ordained. We are not just united with Christ, we are united with one another as His Body and since Christ has only one Body, heaven and earth are united to one another as well. (Heb 12:22-24). God has ordained that we need one another. We are family.

One of the most loving things that we can do is to pray for each other. As long as we believe that “there is only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5) then we remain in the truth if we call upon the Body of Christ to pray for us. We are not asking for saints (either on earth or in heaven) to mediate between God and us, rather we are asking for their prayerful support. Frankly I don’t see the difference between picking up the phone and asking a friend for prayer or calling upon a saint in glory. As a sinful man I need all of the prayers that I can get and so I take every advantage of the grace that God provides through the communion of the saints. My father prayed for his family every day and now that he is in glory I have no reason to believe that he has stopped. I also pray for him to continue to grow in the love and service of the Lord. Our prayers for each other keep us united in Christ and also prove that death cannot stop love.

Can God Set A Table in the Wilderness?

table in the wilderness

NEHEMIAH 9:16-20; PSALM 78:1-29; ROMANS 8:35-38; ST. MATTHEW 14:13-21

A few years ago I was talking with a neighbor, who worked at Nissan in Smyrna, and he was telling me about the buyouts that Nissan was offering it’s workers in order to reduce the work force. Sales had been so bad that they were eliminating an entire shift. I could tell he was worried even though his buyout package along with his 401k and retirement seemed to me like he had won a minor lottery. Still, he saw his future as tinkering with cars and selling things on Ebay. Not exactly the American dream is it?

As I thing back on that conversation I don’t thing that things have improved that much. I keep hearing on the news about our improved economy but I am not seeing that reflected in giving to the Church. I also know that my neighbor is not alone in being concerned and even worried about his future and that is why the Psalm that we have today is such an appropriate one.

The people of God are in the wilderness and they are worried where their next meal is going to come from and so they ask the question “Can God set a table in the wilderness?” They admit He struck the rock and gave them water but they seriously doubt that He can give enough bread and meat to provide for all of the people. Sure He is God and sure He brought them out of slavery but can they expect Him to provide? Can we expect Him to provide even during a recession? Let my try to answer that question?

First, I think that we need to ask if it is okay to even ask such a question. Some would say that this kind of question expresses doubt or a lack of faith and since the Bible says that which is not of faith is sin, therefore it is a sinful question. But I think that is a shallow reading of the Scriptures. The context of the line about that which is not of faith is sin has to do with our actions when we know deep within that what we are about to do is wrong but we do it anyway. I can easily see why that would be sin and which one of us doesn’t own that T shirt?

But that is not the same thing as saying that it is a sin to question God. In fact there are numerous examples in the Scriptures of people questioning God and God not condemning them for it. The Book of Job is a classic example. Last week in Bible Study we read of both Martha and Mary in their grief asking Jesus where He had been. “If you had only been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus did not rebuke them for questioning Him.

The real issue is not the questioning but rather what is going on in our hearts when we ask the question. The people in the Psalms today are going about it in the wrong way because in verse 17 we are told that they are “rebelling” against God, in verse 18 they are “testing” God, and in verse 19 they are “railing against” God. You don’t even have to know much about the Bible at all to know that rebelling, testing and railing against God is not advisable. But many other of the Psalms represent honest questions from people who are feeling overwhelmed by circumstances or genuinely confused or are in grief and pain and they are speaking to God on an honest way, as creature to Creator. The folks who say that we should only make positive confessions are missing the kind of relationship with the Lord that keeps things real.

If we are struggling to keep our faith in tact or if we are struggling to deepen our relationship with the Lord, it is not only okay it is important for us to seek and knock and ask. But we must do it in such a way that you are not rebelling or testing or railing. A sinless but broken hearted Jesus even cried out asking God where He was when He cried “My God, my God why has thou forsaken Me?” It is okay to ask.

As the Psalm goes on to show, when you ask God a question you had better be ready for Him to answer it. He rained down so much manna on them that after days of manna, three times a day. They even asked Him to stop with the manna so He rained down birds. Can God set a table in the wilderness? You will be drinking manatinis when He gets through with you, so be prepared. Yes, God can set a table in the wilderness.

But let’s keep going. I think it would be instructional to ask the question “When will God set a table in the wilderness?” The short answer is that God sets a table in the wilderness once we get IN the wilderness. He did not give them manna in Egypt. They had to take a great risk and step out in faith and put themselves in a situation where it was literally going to be life or death. That is when they saw God’s miraculous provision. Similarly Jesus did not go into the towns and villages and start feeding everyone. It was when they were away from their homes, following Him in order to learn from Him, that the need arose to feed the multitudes.

I honestly believe that we saw some miraculous provisions once we left everything behind and entered the wilderness as St. Patrick’s. And these were provisions that we would not have seen if we had remained behind in Egypt. Some miraculous provisions came in the form of people who joined us after we left. Fr. Palmer saw us on the news and called me up and said that he wanted to talk. We met for a few weeks and we got along so well that he joined the parish and he has been a total godsend to me and to the parish. Fr. Chris has been an equal godsend.

I also consider our wonderful property a gift from God. Our previous property was 18 acres of flood plain and a crack down the middle of the nave. I used to sit in my office, working on a sermon during a rain storm and literally see logs float by in the fields. Now we are on 71/2 acres of beautiful farmland, not a foot of it is in a flood plane. I have carpeted the center aisle but to the best of my knowledge there is no crack. So God has been good to us.

My point is that if you want God to set a table you have to be willing to enter the wilderness and trust Him. And how we do that will look different for each of us. Maybe the Lord is leading some to change careers or to go back to school. Maybe some are being called to trust God with their finances and need to start tithing, which is giving God 10% off the top. Some may be facing health issues and need to truly place their lives in His hands so that free from fear and anxiety they make wise choices. The testimony that we have from the Israelites is that God does not call us out of Egypt just to let us die in the wilderness. He saw them through to the Promised Land. The same will be true for us. He has not set us free from our sins and called us to follow Him just to abandon us when we need Him the most. God has provided, God is providing and God will provide because He was, He is and He is to come. I love that saying that you don’t have to be afraid of the future because God is already there.

To be reassured of the truth of that statement we need to understand WHY God will set a table for us in the wilderness. That knowledge we gain from our lesson from Romans. “No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

There is a YouTube clip that has become a sensation that most likely you have seen. It tells a story of a couple of guys in London who bought a baby lion at the store Harrods, named it Christian and then tried to raise it. Once it became too large to handle they returned it to Africa to be reintroduced to the wild. Christian was successfully reintroduced and became the head of his own pride. After awhile the guys went to Africa to see if they could find Christian but they were told that not only would Christian not recognize them but that he would be dangerous. The YouTube clip shows this wild lion running at the men and them jumping on them and literally giving them hugs without any semblance of danger. He even brought one of his wives as if to introduce her to them. It’s one of those Youtubes that you have to see alone because you are going to cry like a baby.

The point of the clip is how often we underestimate the power of love. And if it is true that we underestimate the power of love between a human and an animal, or even a human and another human, then imagine how sorely we must underestimate the power of God’s love towards us. He isn’t just fond of us like some dotty old uncle; He is loves us enough the He sacrificed His only Son so that we could be adopted into His family. If He paid the price of His Son to get us, He is hardly going to forget about us or overlook us. That is why the Psalmist said it is easier for a nursing mother to forget her own child than for the Lord to forget about us. An unfailing love for us is why God will set a table for us and since nothing can separate us from His love.

We have asked WHEN and WHY God sets a table for us, so we should take it one step further and ask HOW. How do we receive the Lord’s provision?

To get this point we have to think of God’s provision as being more than just in material things. He certainly does that too but that is secondary. I have been in parts of the world where the average salary is $2 per day and worshipped with Christians who overflowed with joy. When they worshipped they were grateful for their daily bread but they were even more grateful for the Bread of Heaven.

The five loaves in the Gospel miracle are foreshadow of this Bread of Heaven that we receive at the Mass. He is God’s ultimate provision. Beyond giving us things, God is giving us Himself…. “This is My Body.” Does that mean that we should not look to God to provide our material needs and that we should spiritualize this verse from the Psalms about setting a table in the wilderness? Of course not but it does mean that we need to be sure that the main thing is the main thing. In Morning Prayer we end with the prayer called the General Thanksgiving where we thank God “ for all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.” God provides all things but since His ultimate provision is the gift of His Son that is where our thanksgiving begins and ends.

There is something about the music that came out of the horrors of slavery that cuts to the chase and says it like it should be said. One African spiritual is called “Give me Jesus” and its words are as simple as they are profound.

In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You may have the world
Give me Jesus

Dark midnight was my cry
Dark midnight was my cry
Dark midnight was my cry
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You may have the world
Give me Jesus

O when I come to die
O when I come to die
O when I come to die
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You may have the world
Give me Jesus

They say that there are two ways to become wealthy. One is to make more money and the other is to be content with what you already have. It is this perspective “you may have the world, give me Jesus” that puts us in the track for being wealthy by the second and better way. The New Living Translation of Psalm 23 begins, “The LORD is my shepherd, I have all that I need.” That is an enriching perspective on life.

My neighbor is a really nice guy and a hard working family man so I hope only the best for him. I have invited him to church and he has been a number of times but I cannot honestly say that I know much about his faith. I’m sure that over the years he thought that he would be safe working for an international firm like Nissan. But he and indeed all of us have to learn that there is only one place that we are truly safe, and that is sitting at a table that the Lord has set. Can God set a table for us in the wilderness? Dinner’s ready, y’all come. Amen.