Kate Stel’s Homily from August 12, 2018

Holy Wisdom Monastery Homilies Leave a Comment

Among my very cool classmates at the University of Chicago Divinity School and my trendy coworkers at the Div School coffee shop, Grounds of Being, I freely admit I have very few claims to fame. Compared to my vegan-inclined friends, I consume enormous amounts of dairy being a Wisconsin native. I would happily wear my LL Bean hiking boots every day to work over a pair of Dansko clogs. But, shockingly, it’s the sourdough starter I grow with my roommate Gwen that my friends are interested in. Some of my friends and coworkers have asked for a share of our starter, and a lucky few have been invited to our weekly pizza night, where we use homemade pizza dough made from our sourdough starter. Each week, I make the sauce, she buys the cheese. Both of us often forget to take the dough out of the fridge early enough in the day so they are ready to bake. We share a meal together, sitting at the counter in the kitchen, trying to stop my persistent cat Indy from stealing the pizza or burning himself on the very hot oven.

 

In today’s Gospel reading from John, we are treated to one of those special “I am” statements from Jesus. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” In such statements, we catch glimpses of Jesus explaining what he does for us.

Today, Jesus explains that he nourishes us with a bread that brings life. A clear Eucharistic message. And for those of us, myself included, who appreciate our daily carbohydrate intake and weekly pizza nights, it’s a relief to hear that bread does in fact bring life.

 

Each of our relationships and commitments requires us to set aside time, to set an intention for them. Everything from pizza night to my sourdough starter to my relationships must be nurtured with the intention to show up. Jesus in today’s Gospel asks his listeners to basically “show up” for him when he invites us to “believe.” In the Gospel of John as a whole, “believe” appears much more frequently than in the other Gospels and has a unique meaning.

According to one commentator, “belief” in John’s Gospel denotes a dynamic interpersonal relationship, not simple assent, between Jesus and the person to whom he reveals himself. Believing is an interchange, an openness of heart, a dialectic receptivity. It’s setting aside time and showing up.

 

Everywhere we find nourishing bread (or pizza), shared among those committed to setting aside time, we partake of the bread of life. We recognize the divine in the other and in ourselves when we seek and show up for our relationships.

Each week when I prepare and share a meal with my friend, we nourish our commitment to friendship with each other. In doing so, we open ourselves up to the sustaining power of relationship and connection, of life. Jesus invites us to eat up the nourishing bread of life and to drink in the sustaining power of dynamic belief. Especially, Jesus reminds us to realize the Divine Source within each of us that draws us together in relationship to partake in the feasting abundance flowing from our commitment to each other. This recognition of the divine in each other is, I think, part of what Jesus conveys when he says: “no one can come to me unless drawn by God who sent me.”

 

What relationships and communities must we nurture? Which do we neglect? Maybe a friendship strained by distance, a family connection lost with the passing of time, or even our connection to ourselves. I know I have several examples at the top of my head of failed friendships and broken connections. Losing or outgrowing friendships seems to be “a thing” in your 20s. It’s easy to blame circumstances, distance, stage of life. But this Gospel makes me wonder if it’s more to do with a lack of openness, reciprocity, or not sharing a meal together, not setting aside time.

 

John’s Gospel also has me pondering our relationship with the earth. It reminds us that Jesus himself, the nourishment we need and share together, surrounds us here on earth, not only in Heaven. He tells us “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven.” We are nourished, literally, by the fruits of the earth. Imbued with God’s Spirit, the earthly gifts we share sustain our bodies, the beauty of creation feeds our spirits, and the earth itself brings forth life in abundance. From today’s Gospel, we can in confidence seek nourishment and life from God through our earthly home.

 

This is a challenge, though. “Showing up” for the earth, and for God, is no easy task. Assenting to the idea that creation is sacred isn’t enough. Jesus invites us to a dynamic relationship of belief, of trust. Do we see our interactions with creation and our fellow creatures on earth as a pathway to God? Collectively, do we enable ourselves and others to nurture a relationship with Jesus through creation? I am afraid that we have forgotten our relationship with the land, grown apart through inattentiveness. I am guilty of this myself. Living in Hyde Park, on the South Side of Chicago, it’s very easy to feel distant from the land. Somehow we pretend that concrete isn’t a product of the earth, as if it could be from anywhere else?

In the noise, the density of people, and persistent illumination from thousands of street lights, sometimes the earth feels far away from me, as if it has forgotten me, not the other way around. Even in the most urban of places we can nourish a relationship with the land. Like all relationships, this one depends on each party showing up in the bad times as well as the good. In a few weeks, when I return to Chicago, I will try to renew and remember my relationship with the earth. I invite you also to set aside time for fellowship with creation and open your hearts to the Divine Presence within its abundance and diversity. God invites us to show up, to come to God here on earth. And we can do that both in the Monastery’s prairies and in the streets of Chicago, as long as we set aside the time. God has already given us the nourishment from the earth that sustains us, we just have to show up and pay attention.

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