Sermon for Sunday, August 8, 2021 – “A  Week’s Worth of Nourishment”

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

These days, we spend a lot of time thinking about the food we eat. Seems like every day there’s a new diet promised to be THE answer for losing weight, preventing cancer, caring for the earth, and basically making you a much better person. We give a lot of thought to the food we consume. And that’s good, because our diets do significantly affect our lives, the planet and other people.

Jesus also invites us to pay attention to our spiritual diets. What helps us to experience the abundant, everlasting life that God gives us? What is toxic? What helps us to nurture others? Dietitians encourage keeping a list of everything we eat during the day to help us be mindful of our food choices. That’s helpful advice when it comes to our spiritual diets as well.

When we wake up in the morning, worries and concerns are often the first things on our plates. We stew about what the day will bring, how we’ll manage it, whether there’ll be enough time, or too much empty time. Our minds gnaw away at the stressors in our lives and soon we find we’re consumed by them. Then, often we open the morning paper or turn on the news, and take in more anxiety producing stuff. As Christians, we’re called to be informed and politically engaged, but too much news can make us really unbalanced.

Social media often gives us even more negativity. It can work us up ‘til we feel like sharks in a feeding frenzy. And everywhere we turn, someone is promising a quick fix to feel better. If you just get the right lotion or dish soap or smart phone app then you will be nourished, then your life will be balanced. There is so much pressure to consume more.

All of this leaves us drained and exhausted, unable to nurture relationships, tend to community and serve others. So we look to vacations, retreats, powerful experiences hoping those will feed and nourish us. But when our daily rituals are so depleting, we aren’t really replenished with just an occasional taste of something good. One healthy meal can’t make up for all the days of junk food and empty calories. We need a steady diet of life-giving nourishment.

That is what Jesus gives us. Jesus Christ, and our life in Christ, gives what we need for a nourished life that can nurture others. In many ways, Jesus provides for us the way grandmothers used to feed large extended families, the way many grandmothers still do. (I don’t mean to reinforce any gender stereotypes here – my husband is the main cook in our house – but I do love the image of Jesus as a grandmother.) With Jesus, and with grandma, there’s one really big meal on Sunday and then you’re sent home with food to last all week long.

On Sundays, Jesus really goes all out and puts on the spread. The whole entire family and all sorts of guests are invited to the table. We share stories from scripture and talk about what matters. We make music, we sing, we pray. We are drawn near to God and to all of God’s beloved children, that is all people. We share a meal together. And Jesus really pours himself into this meal, in fact he gives his whole self. Jesus gives of his very flesh and blood so that we might be filled with his abundant, eternal life. We are fed with God’s forgiveness and healing,

That’s Sunday.  But then, like grandma’s meal, it doesn’t end there.

We’re sent home with good nourishment for the rest of the week.
We’re sent with the wisdom, peace and challenges we’ve received at the dinner table so that we can chew on them throughout the week.
We’re sent with the Bible, God’s Word, and the invitation to gnaw on it and let it get into us.
We’re sent with the Holy Spirit so that we will always be fed by God’s presence with us.
We’re assured that through the power of prayer we can commune with God anywhere.

And we’re reminded, just like a grandma says, that we are part of a family. We are not alone – we have siblings in Christ.
We’re also charged to live out the values of this family – to live in ways that nourish others and creation, as Jesus calls us to do.

These gifts provide what we need for a healthy spiritual diet each day. Prayer can help us to not just mindlessly consume but rather to discern what we want to take in, what we want to avoid, what we’re called to try to make better. Simple routines each day can keep us connected to God’s nourishment. We can begin each day with a simple prayer of thanks, rather than diving into the worries. We can make the sign of the cross on our forehead to remind ourselves of Jesus’s presence with us. We can take a deep breath and a moment of silence before jumping into a task, as we do in our meetings here at Good Shepherd. We can end each day with a practice of gratitude rather than stewing about what went wrong, what we didn’t get done

Reading a portion of scripture each day, even just a taste, offers what we need to face the news and not be consumed by it. For through God’s word, we are assured that life prevails over death, that love is stronger than hatred, that God is present and at work amidst all the turmoil of our world.

We don’t do these things to try to earn God’s abundant, everlasting life. That is given to us, to you. Rather, these practices help us to experience that life deep in our bones. They give us what we need to live as Christ’s body for the sake of those who are hungry and hurting.

Beloved of God, Jesus has given his very self to provide for us now and forever.

We have all that we need to be nourished and to nurture others.

Come and eat!