19th Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ August 12, 2012 ~ 1 Kings 19:4-8; Eph 4:25-5:2; Jn 6:35, 41-51
We are what we eat. The more like God we want to be, the more we need to nourish ourselves with God, any way that we can. That’s why we’re here this morning.
What do we feed on the rest of the week? Too often, we indulge in spiritual junk food: sensationalist media, gossip, judgmental conversations (which are no less judgmental if our judgments happen to be true…… if, indeed, any thought that judges a created being can be true in the Creator’s eyes).
We can tell that these things are junk food because they don’t satisfy us for long. We get fidgety and start looking for our next fix. When we fill up on the love of God, however, we have all we could ever want. It’s only when we forget that we have this that we go looking for fake love, in the form of judgment or self-righteousness—or fake power, in the form of anger.
You may have heard the old story about two beasts fighting within us, and the one that wins is the one we’ve been feeding. In a spirit of playful nonviolence, I’d like to adapt it to two sled dogs pulling in different directions. Imagine them miniaturized, living inside our brains, pulling us along the tracks we’ve worn in our neural circuitry as we’ve repeated various thoughts and behaviors. For instance, there’s the hit-the-snooze-button track and the get-out-of-bed-now track, one dog pulling each way.
If only the snooze button were the worst thing we had to worry about. Other tracks that are a part of human nature are listed in the letter to the Ephesians: false and destructive talk, anger that’s allowed to take root, bitterness… This past week has reminded us starkly of the violence to which these tracks can lead, as a person or group becomes dehumanized and seen only as a threat to be eliminated.
It sounds easy in the abstract to choose the kinder tracks—being tenderhearted, forgiving one another, sharing and giving ourselves with love. Of course, if it were always easy the world would be a very different place.
It’s worth taking a moment to notice how we ourselves get seduced by anger, destructive talk, bitterness and the rest. I become so sure sometimes that I’m right and someone else is wrong, and I work up so much adrenaline around it, I should have a T-shirt: “It’s not drama if it’s mine.”
Do I know that no lifetime series of experiences could drive me to do what Wade Michael Page did? … Do I know, then, that I can always forgive, as the Ephesians are asked to? How can I know that, when I’m quick to swear even at the slow driver in front of me when I’m running late?
So what do I do, when I catch myself swearing at the slow driver? The answer isn’t so much something I do in that moment as something I do over time. I feed the other dog. Gradually, over a period of years, that dog has grown big enough to take over sooner and more consistently. I start to swear at the slow driver; I remember the painful interactions to which indulging that side of myself has led in the past; I let the angry thought go and hop onto the other track, maybe singing a song I’ve learned here to keep me on that track. Such songs are part of what I feed the other dog.
Which brings us full circle to what we’re here for today. Like Elijah, we—and the wise sled dog within us—need to eat so the journey is not too much for us. We are here to feed on the bread of life, the love of God in word and sacrament and community. May we go in the strength of that food to the next place God has in mind for us.