Sermon – February 1, 2015
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching– with authority! Mark 1:27
Please be seated.
This week, I’ve been remembering and thinking about my experiences in addressing hunger. How was it that I came to believe that following Jesus meant addressing issues like hunger?
My earliest memory is of being in Junior High School in the late 60s and waking my parents up early on Friday mornings. The church I grew up in had partnered with the church down the street to make sure the children in the public housing complex in our neighborhood got breakfast each morning before they went to school. Obviously, this was before school breakfast programs.
The mothers in the housing complex knew that a good breakfast was essential to their children getting a good education. A number of the mothers attended the neighboring church and said they wanted to start this program. They needed additional help, and members of my church helped on Fridays. I remember there were plenty of wonderful stories about my parents going to help the mothers with this breakfast. Sometimes the children didn’t like the food, but the mothers made it clear they’d better eat it.
In 1972, there was a huge flood in Harrisburg. Only a small part of the center city did not get flooded, which included my church. So many people were devastated by this flood and having enough food was a major issue. Some people got together and started a food pantry in the basement of the church. Suddenly, the little stage and much of the storage space in the church was filled with cans and cans of food and brown paper bags. Lots of volunteers came to help. My church regularly collected food. If you visited the church during a weekday, you’d often find people waiting to get their bag of food. When my father retired and as long as he was able, he was a volunteer at this Food Pantry.
Early on, I learned that following Jesus meant finding a way for people that were hungry to get food. I guess that’s why when I found out Corbin Presbyterian needed help unloading 9,000 pounds of food and packing 312 boxes for senior citizens, I was happy to go help. I guess that’s why I’m so excited about the Grow Appalachia program that makes it possible for people to learn how to grow their own fresh food and to sell some or give it away to others. I guess that’s why I was so happy for Knox County Community Economic Council to use our park last summer as a lunch site for children.
In our Gospel today, Jesus astounds and amazes the people in Galilee. He teaches with authority. He rebukes the unclean spirits and makes them come out of people. In essence, he challenges people to think differently. I hear this amazement as excitement, but I’m sure some were thinking, “who does he think he is?”
Most of us don’t like to be challenged to think differently. Yet, that’s what Jesus does throughout his entire ministry…challenges the status quo. He asks us to love our neighbors. He asks us to love ourselves. He asks us to serve our neighbors. He challenges all of the hierarchies we build between who’s rich and who’s poor, between who’s superior and who’s inferior, between genders, between people of different ages.
Love is at the heart of the message of Jesus…love for all of humanity…love for all of creation. Making sure people have the basic needs for a good life: food, clothing, shelter, meaningful work at a living wage, and a healthy environment, for no other reason than that they are beloved of God.
It’s a lot to ask and when we follow Jesus, Jesus never stops turning our world upside down and challenging us.
In the early 1980s, I was a new single mom. My children were 4 and 5. I had lots of family support and I was working really hard to be self-sufficient. I’d gotten a new job with better benefits, although not much more money, but I wouldn’t get a paycheck for four weeks – your first bi-weekly check was held. My apartment was pretty good, but there were railroad tracks close by and when the trains went by, the rattling of the apartment would make the dining room light come on. But it had been hard as a single mom with two kids to even find a landlord willing to rent to us.
One Saturday, there was a knock on my door and I opened it to find my pastor. He was carrying a brown bag of food from the Food Pantry. I was overwhelmed to be the recipient of one of these bags of food and so grateful to be able to stretch my dollars for the month. After he left and as I was unpacking the food, I found a check for $25 in the bag. I was amazed.
That’s what following Jesus does…encourages us to come together and care for others in ways that may go against our inclinations. In the process Jesus teaches us new things with authority and we are amazed.