the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Prayer for Peace, Pass it on

The following statement was signed by over 100 Muslims attending the Sunday, Aug. 27, afternoon picnic in Cherokee Park here in Louisville. We would appreciate your assistance in publishing this message to the community, from the undersigned Muslims who reside in Louisville and Southern Indiana:

I am a Muslim, and maybe I am your neighbor. I do not advocate or support terrorism, or attacks against innocent people, under any name, or in any cause.

Islam teaches me that if you kill one innocent person, it is as if you have killed all of humanity.

My heroes are Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, not people who incite hatred and violence.

I believe in the Islamic values of tolerance, compassion and peace. I believe in the American values of equality and justice for all. I abhor violence, and pray for peace.

In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful, please join me in my prayer for peace.

I got the above piece from Sister Steph at Narrow at the Outset.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Year B - Ordinary 21

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
Psalm 34:15-22
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

I don't know about you, but I'm a bit worn out with the 6th chapter of John. My sermon this Sunday is on the text from Ephesians and so I have selected a passage from John that is congruent with the passage from Ephesians. (especially verse 19)

Alternate Gospel Passage:
John 3:11-21

Will You Be Able to Stand
Against the Wiles of the Devil?

In Ephesians, Paul speaks to the Church using beautiful poetic language that probably came from hymns sung by the early Church. He speaks of the Church as God's creation of a unique community with the crucified Christ as its head. He speaks of reconciliation to God through the death of Christ as breaking through the power of evil. He speaks to both Jews and Gentiles. He talks about his own calling and his apostleship which includes his mission to the Gentiles and his stewardshp of the mystery of the Gospel. He stresses unity in the Church. To Paul, love for our brothers and sisters is an imitation of God's love for us.

After five and a half chapters, he begins his concluding remarks with the word, "Finally...", as though to say "After all of this instruction here is the summation of all that I have said." The "Finally" that Paul sees as the culmination of all of his teaching is to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power." At the end of verse 13 carrying into the beginning of verse 14, Paul says "and having done everything to stand firm, STAND FIRM!"

Easy to say, hard to do. But Paul knows that and he provides us with advice on how to "Stand Firm."

What he tells us, though is another one of his metaphors. "Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil." There are a lot of issues here that need to be explained. And I suppose one reader's explanation is as valid as another's, so here is my take on what Paul is saying:

The words or phrases that have to be examined more closely are armor of God, Devil and wiles.

Meriam Webster defines wile as "a trick or stratagem intended to ensnare or deceive."

The Battle of Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga, Tennessee during the War Between the State (or the Civil War) is a battle that many historians agree was the battle that began to turn the war in the favor of the Union side. Up until this battle the South held the upper hand.

Because of the geography of the South, Chattanooga lies in an extremely advantageous place. It lies on the northern shore of the Tennessee River, between the Appalachian mountains on the East and the Cumberland Mountains on the West. The Southernmost ridge of the Cumberlands is Lookout Mountain across the river from Chattanooga. Missionary Ridge is a steep ridge that runs east from the foot of Lookout mountain across the south shore of the Tennessee River.

The Confederates had a strong fortification on top of both Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. The Union Army was stalled at Chattanooga and could not advance southward because of the combination of topography and the Confederate fortifications. The battle of Missionary Ridge and the retreat of the Confederate army units stationed there allowed General Sherman to advance over the ridge and begin his "March to the Sea" campaign that split the South in two, disrupting its ability to resupply it troops.

Now you may remember Lewis Grizzard, the comedian. And you may ask "what does he have to do with Wiles of the Devil and/or the battle of Missionary Ridge?" Well, in his day, Lewis told a little known story about how the "Yankees" won the day at Missionary Ridge.

You see, General Sherman sent a scouting party of six men up the ridge to spy on the Confederates and bring back vital information that would inform his strategy. They did not return. Puzzled at the loss of his men, he hand picked a group of thirty men to go and rescue the first six. He waited several days but they too did not return. Finally, General Sherman sent 100 of his best fighting men up the ridge to find out what had happened. This time, one lone soldier returned and fell dying at the tent of the great general. In his dying words he gave the general all he needed to succeed in the battle, "General Sherman, Sir, it's a trick! There's two of them."

So much for tricks.

I have said in the past that I don't believe in the Devil. I think I need to clarify that statement.

If by "Devil" we are talking about a supernatural being, a personality that is characterized as the god of evil as opposed to God who is then characterized as the god of good, then NO, I don't believe in the Devil. Remember Flip Wilson's character, Geraldine? Whenever some impropriety was discovered she would cry out, "The Devil made me do it!"

I believe that there is only one God and he is the creator of everything in this universe, both good and evil.

But if we are talking about the presence of evil in the hearts of men and women and how that evil strain can be compounded by people who band together and achieve positions of power through evil means to further their eivil causes, then the personification of the affects of these people can certainly be called the Devil.

I think that this description of the devil can help us in understanding what Paul said to the Ephesians and, in turn, what we should understand in the passage we read this morning.

But what about evil? We all know that evil exists. We also may think we have experienced evil or, at least, the affects of evil acts. But what exactly do we mean by evil?

Again we will turn to Meriam-Webster who defines evil as "morally reprehensible: SINFUL, WICKED, e.g. an evil impulse;"

Not much help here.

Perhaps we could think of evil as the motivation behind the breaking of one of the commandments of God. You know, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet, etc.

But here we get bogged down when we look at an example. Take, for instance, a non-political family in Lebanon whose house is destroyed by Israeli jets while on a bombing mission against a Hezbolah stronghold. To the family whose house was destroyed there was evil involved in the destruction of their home. Where is the evil? Is it in the heart of the young Israeli pilot who dropped the bombs? You might say "No, he's just as innocent as the victims, for he was drafted into the airforce and was ordered by his superiors to fly that mission."

What about the Hezbolah soldier, manning the stronghold being attached? Perhaps there is the evil? Well, maybe, but just maybe it was the killing of a loved one in some earlier battle with Israel that caused him to seek retribution.

What about the leaders of both sides? Their causes are good and noble, they want peace and autonomy for their people. But don't they also want power and doesn't power mean power over? Are their motives noble or evil?

OK, this is a gross over simplification. But where is the evil here? It depends on your point of view doesn't it? Sympathasizers of one side will always see the evil in the other side but almost never in their own. But it's there. Where?

Jesus said, the 'Kingdom of God is in you." Well, friends, I'm afraid that the only place for evil to reside in this world is inside us too. "Morally reprehensible as in sinful or wicked." Or perhaps it's the motivation in our heart to break one of God's commandments.

What about "Love thy neighbor as thyself?" Aren't we always making choices based on selfish motives rather than selfless ones? Remember Cain and Abel? Cain was jealous because Abel received God's blessing and he didn't. Selfish!

The business man buys up all the assets of a family owned company and fires everyone, because he believes he can turn a profit using different management and workmen. Self centeredness? What about greed? Wanting more than you have to the point of wanting what someone else has is called covetousness.

What about in your marriage, when you always want everything your way? Or children when they want to do something their parents don't allow? Selfishness, Greediness, Covetousness. All are sources of evil. But they are all personal and all evil is, in the end, highly personal.

But Paul tells us that in order to be strong and resist the tricks our selfish and evil natures play on us we must put on the armor of God.

Paul wrote this letter from prison in Rome. Every day he watched the Roman Soldier who was his jailer dress for the day. He must have thought about this armor the solder wore and he realized that it's purpose was to protect the soldier against the weapons of the enemy. For Paul, evil was personified in the form of the Devil, and the Devil was the enemy. We might say that the Devil is in us. So we need to put on this armor to protect ourselves against this enemy.

Paul gives us a laundry list of this armor:

The belt of Truth. The belt was the foundation which held all of the other pieces of the soldier's armor. Truth should be the foundation of our every action, our every thought.

The breastplate of Righteousness. Most people think Self-Righteousness when they hear this word. It simply means doing the right thing.

The shoes that make us ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. What makes us ready to proclam the gospel of peace? Prayer, Love, putting others first.

The shield of Faith. Faith in God defends us against all of the flaming arrows thrown at us by our opponents.

The helmet of salvation.


The sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.

So how do we stand firm against the evil in our own hearts? We do so by trusting in God.

Proverbs 3:5-7 KJV
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

Thanks be to God.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Year B - Ordinary 20

Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34:9-14
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

Come to the Table

We know that the very core of our faith is that Jesus' body was broken for us on the cross, that he shed his blood for us, but that he rose again from the dead and is alive. The deepest way for us to share in his death and resurrection is through Holy Communion, the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Here the body of Christ is symbolically given to us as our food; Here his blood is symbolically made present, spilled out to forgive our sins and to fill us with Jesus' life and strength and joy. Let us celebrate this Communion with gratitude, for here the Lord gives himself totally to us.

"Come, the table is ready!" In our homes this is the invitation that brings us together as a family to share our food and our love. "Come, the table is ready!" is Jesus' invitation to us in the Celebration of Holy Communion. He takes our human bread and symbolically makes it into the sign of the giving of himself: "Take this, all of you, and eat it: This is my body, this is I myself giving myself for you." Let us sit at the table of the Lord and break his bread, and learn from him to become each other's food and drink of life and joy.

How fortunate we are that we have the Lord’s Supper! Here is Jesus assuring us: I am with you and live among you, and give you not just any gift but myself to eat on the journey of life. Eat my bread of life and drink my wine of joy. This is I who give myself for you. In this way he also makes us capable of giving ourselves to God and to one another. Let this be a celebration of thanksgiving with the Lord among us.

Be Present at Our Table, Lord
by John Cennick, 1741

Be present at our table, Lord;
Be here and everywhere adored;
Thy creatures bless, and grant that we
May feast in paradise with Thee.

We thank Thee, Lord, for this our food,
For life and health and every good;
By Thine own hand may we be fed;
Give us each day our daily bread.

We thank Thee, Lord, for this our good,
But more because of Jesus’ blood;
Let manna to our souls be giv’n,
The Bread of Life sent down from Heav’n.

Thanks be to God.

Let us Pray
Loving Father,
how could we know the depth of your love
if your Son had not become flesh of our flesh
and blood of our blood?
How could we ever have the courage
to live for one another and if necessary to die
if he had not given up his body
and shed his blood for us?
Thank you for letting him stay with us in the
Celebration of Holy Communion
and making himself there our daily bread.
On our journey through life
let this bread be the food that empowers us
to live and die as he did,
for one another and for you,
our living God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Order of Service

Below is my order of service. I have been thinking about liturgical services for some time. This service is the latest movement from a traditional Baptist service towards a more liturgical service. If you have any comments or suggestions, ideas for doing this differently, please leave your comment. The liturgy is from several sources: The Book of Common Prayer, Liturgy Alive, and my own creative process.

The Lord is in His holy temple,
let all the earth keep silence before Him

Call to Worship
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Collect of the Day
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn No. 415 Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus

The Ten Commandments
Then God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Now is the Time of Repentance
Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name.
Almighty God strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.

First Scripture Reading 1 Kings 19:4-8
The Lord Bless the Reading and the Hearing of His Word.

Hymn No. 283 The Solid Rock

Second Reading From Scripture Psalm 34:1-8
[Read Responsively]
1 I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

2 My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

4 I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.

6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

7 The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

8 O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

Silent Meditation

Pastor’s Prayer
Almighty and everliving God, who in thy holy Word hast taught us to make prayers, and supplications, and to give thanks for all men: Receive these our prayers which we offer unto thy divine Majesty, beseeching thee to inspire continually the Universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord; and grant that all those who do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word, and live in unity and godly love.
Give grace, O heavenly Father, to all thy people give thy heavenly grace, and especially to this congregation here present; that, with meek heart and due reverence, they may hear and receive thy holy Word, truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.
We beseech thee also so to rule the hearts of those who bear the authority of government in this and every land, that they may be led to wise decisions and right actions for the welfare and peace of the world.
Open, O Lord, the eyes of all people to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works, that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, they may honor thee with their substance, and be faithful stewards of thy bounty.
And we most humbly beseech thee, of thy goodness, O Lord, to comfort and succor Nell Beavers, Niki Bird, Kim Bloodworth, Danny Hammett, Doris Hammett, Florence Hammett, Lorene Hammett, Louise Hammett, Tina Kelly, Rev. David Ramey, Betty Ramey, Margie West, Shurrell West, Linda Wheeler, Mary Wooten and all those who, in this transitory life, are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity.
Grant these our prayers, O Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen

Third Reading From Scripture Ephesians 4:25-5:2
The Lord Bless the Reading and the Hearing of His Word.

Worship the Lord with Tithes and Offerings

Hymn No. 99 When I Sruvey the Wondrous Cross

The Lord’s Prayer

And now, let us pray
as our Savior hath taught us
Our Father...

Giving as an Act of Worship

Presenting Our Gifts to the Lord



Fourth Reading From Scripture John 6:35, 41-51
The Lord Bless the Reading and the Hearing of His Word.


Let Us Pray...
Deliver us, Lord from every evil
and keep us from discouragement.
When we run out of resources
and our strength crumbles,
help us to accept our limitations
and give us the bread of strength of your Son
to keep us going in joyful hope
until the coming in glory
of our Savior Jesus Christ.
For the Kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
both now and for evermore.

Hymn No. 347 Wherever He Leads I'll Go

Closing Prayer & Blessing

Numbers 6:22-26
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying,
On this wise you shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee,
     and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee,
     and give thee peace.

Year B - Ordinary 19

1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:1-8
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51

If You've Been to the Mountain Top,
Watch Out for the Valleys
[Elijah and the Battle of the Gods]

I ran out of time and didn't get to write out my sermon this morning. Here is the outline I preached from.

I. Ahab, Jezebel and Baal
A. Ahab turned the people to Baal
B. Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Sidon
C. Baal was the god of the Phoenecians
1. He was the god of thunder
2. He brought the rain that watered the crops
3. He was the god of fertility
4. Baal demanded the first fruits of everything
a. Including the sacrifice of the first born child
D. They were an evil couple

II. Elijah called by God
A. Came from the wilderness
1. He had been a hermit
2. He lived in the caves with the wild animals
B. Announced a drought to be brought by God
C. The drought lasted three years

III. The Contest on Mt. Carmel
A. Who controls the rain?
B. Who controls the lightning?
C. The priests of Baal and their altar
1. They danced and chanted
2. Elijah taunted them
D. Elijah and his altar
1. The moat
2. The Water
E. Fire from Heaven
F. The people were persuaded
G. The killing of the priests of Baal
H. The rain comes at last
I. God’s Victory is complete

IV. The turning of the tide
A. Ahab and Jezebel put a price on Elijah’s head
B. Elijah’s fear
C. Elijah Flees to the wilderness
D. Elijah is now in deep despair
E. He lays down under the juniper tree
1. He is exhausted
2. He is out of control
3. He falls asleep

V. The Salvation of God
A. When our guard is down, God’s powers are at work on us
B. God sends an Angel
1. The Angel feeds Elijah
2. Like the Manna God provides the bread
3. The Angel beckons rest and more sleep
4. The Angel comes a second day
C. God sends Elijah to Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai)
1. Elijah has an encounter with God
2. God sends him on another mission

VI. The Mountain Top and the Valley
A. God uses Mountain Top Experiences
1. To inspire us
2. To demonstrate his mighty power
3. There is no high like God’s mountain top
B. God uses the Valleys too
1. The mountain top doesn’t last
2. How quickly we forget the power of God
3. How easily we are cast into despair
4. When we are in the Valley is when God comes to us
a. Not in the powerful ways of the Mountain top
b. But in the still small voice of the valley

VII. Jesus is the Bread of Life
A. Whoever comes to him will never be hungry
B. Whoever believes in him will never be thirsty
C. Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10
D. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you,
and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke
is easy, and my burden is light.

Thanks be to God

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Year B - Ordinary 18

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13
Psalm 51:1-12
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35
Rachel Gunter Shapard breaks bread during the Baptist Women in Ministry worship service Wednesday afternoon. Patricia Heys photo

Why Are You Looking for Jesus?

Last week we saw Jesus feed 5,000 people with only a few loaves and fish. That story reminded us of God providing for the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai by sending them the manna, the bread from heaven. The crowd was enthusiastic and wanted to take Jesus by force and set him up as their King.

But Jesus escaped from them and withdrew from them to the mountain to be alone and to pray.

In the meantime, the disciples got into their boat and sailed across the lake toward Capernaum. It was late in the evening. The winds got up and began to blow against their progress. If you know anything about sailing, you know that to sail toward a destination that is against the wind requires a manuver called tacking. In tacking you travel cross wind to the right and then to the left. The boat is able to move forward if headed only slightly into the wind. The progress is slow. It was taking the disciples all night to get only a short distance. It was about 3 o'clock in the morning when they saw Jesus, walking on the water towards them. They took him on board and finally reached their destination.

The crowd had been looking all night. They realized that he was not there. They were also aware that he had not been in the boat with the disciples. So they went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

They were looking for Jesus. People in our own time are still looking for Jesus. The fact that you are here this morning is because literally or figuratively, you too are looking for Jesus. In our text, the Greek word for look for also meens to seek. And I think we all are seeking meaning in our lives. We all want to know the answer to questions like "What am I doing all of this for?" In Jesus' day too people were looking for hope for a better life.

When they found Jesus in Capernaum they were surprised and asked him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" More to the point, what they wanted to know was "How did you get here?"

The crowd is trying to control Jesus. They wanted to take him by force to make him King. They needed to know when and how he got to Capernaum. They wanted to know: "What must we do to perform the works of God?"

They asked, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?" They saw the signs that he was doing for the sick, and when they saw the sign that he had done with the loaves and fish, they began to say "This is indeed the prophet that has come into the world."

Jesus did not answer their question. He made a statement about their motives. He wanted to know why the crowd was seeking after him. He said, "You are seeking me not because you saw signs, but because you ate from the bread and were filled."

Their search had a selfish, self-centered motive. "What can you do for me, Jesus of Nazareth!" While Christianity is certainly about God's Love, his Mercy and the gift of Grace when Jesus died on our cross for us, Christianity is also about selflessness and other-centeredness: "If anyone will come after me, let them deny themselves...", or "What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose one's own soul?"

Is it wrong to seek Jesus for what we get out of it? Is it wrong to seek Jesus for something to fill our needs? to feed our emptiness with the living bread from heaven? to promise us resurrected life when we die? to forgive our sins? to give us new life today? These motives are the ones that bring people to Jesus in the first place. They can't be all bad, can they?

Perhaps the distinction is found in properly understanding the word "sign." A sign is something that points to something else. The sign isn't the important thing, but what it points to. Businesses pay for billboards, not so people will be attracted to the billboard, but so that they might be directed to what it points to: the hotel or restaurant or whatever might be advertised on that hunk of wood.

The feeding miracle, as a sign, needs to point to something else beside being filled with food. All the good things we receive from Jesus are signs that point to something even more important.

The church is often referred to as a "hospital for sinners." And it is that. But for any hospital to be affective in caring for its patients, it needs staff people--both paid and volunteer--people who are there, not to be attended to, but to tend to others. I don't mean to imply that any of us reach the point where we don't need to be patients in the hospital for sinners, but to point out that some of us also have a roll of being workers in the hospital. Ideally, every member of our congregation sees himself or herself as both a patient and a worker in the hospital. We should understand that coming to church--or more properly, when the church gathers together--it is not just to get something out of the service and fellowship, but also an opportunity to give and make use of our gifts and talents.

Jesus said to them, "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." There are two points to made here: First Jesus is saying don't work for the things that do not last, but work for the things that endure. How often we crave something until we get it and the satisfaction it brings is only short lived. In another place, Jesus said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupts, and where theives can break in and steal them, but rather, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...Where your treasure is, there is your heart also."

Second, I think Jesus is saying "Don't work for the food that perishes, but seek the food that endures which is freely given by Jesus himself. We work hard and long seeking the good life. At the end of our lives, when faced with our own death, will we say, "Gee, I wish I had spent more time at work." The Grace of God is freely given. But we still measure a person's worth by the worldly things he has not by the condition of his soul.

Finally, Jesus tells them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." The bread that endures is the bread we don't have to work for. And it is also the bread that will satisfy all our hunger and thirst.

Jesus is that bread. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He tells us, "I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly." And he tells us, "Come unto me all you who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls."

Thanks be to God.