Carolyn’s Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – 8/12/12

Sermon Pentecost 11 year B

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Creator, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

There is a lot of complaining going on in the Bible stories we hear today.  A lot of complaining.  The word they used in the Bible meant grumbling or mumbling, or muttering under your breath.

When I was little, the word we used was mumbling.  My parents would tell us about something that was going to happen.  They expected it would be something we wouldn’t like. For example, they would tell us play time was over and we needed to start our homework.  And then they would say, “and I don’t want you mumbling about it either.” And that would be the end of the discussion.

You are all familiar with mumbling.  It is when we look down and say things under our breath, like when I was little:

I don’t want to come inside and do homework.

I don’t want to eat my vegetables.

I don’t want to get up and get dressed up and go to church today.

I don’t want to go back to school this week.

Or now that I am an adult:

I certainly don’t like that very much.

That’s not how I would do it.

They might think that’s a good idea, but it’s not.

Or, I don’t want to go to work today.

I am sure that if I missed your favorite, you can fill in the blank.

Because we all do it.  We all have our list of things to mumble about.  And none of us likes it when other people do it.   We aren’t very tolerant of mumblers.  We want people to tell us to our faces when they don’t like something. Or like my parents, we want them to keep their mouths shut about it.

Elijah was alone in the wilderness when he started his mumbling.  He had been running for his life.  He had just won a contest with the prophets of Baal.  He proved that the LORD was the most powerful God. He killed all the false prophets and then he made it rain and ended the drought.

Queen Jezebel was angry that he had killed the prophets of Baal and she threatened his life.  Instead of being the hero who defeated the false prophets and ended the drought, Elijah ends up alone in the wilderness sitting under a tree. He is depressed so he starts mumbling to God.  He asks God to just let him die.

The Ephesians in our second lesson must have been doing a lot of mumbling.  Today they hear a detailed list dos and don’ts for getting along in a Christian community.

They need to start speaking the truth to each other.  Tell each other what they really think and feel.  Say things that are useful.  Stop being bitter. Be kind to each other.  Forgive each other.

And in today’s gospel lesson, the Judeans are mumbling about Jesus.  They think he is getting carried away.  Who does he think he is anyway?  They know his parents Mary and Joseph.  They have known him since he was a little boy.

We can understand their attitude.  Many of you have lived around St. Paul most, if not all of your lives.  You know just about everyone.  You know their reputations. You know what pranks they pulled in high school.  You know who they have dated.

You know their families.  And you know their family’s reputation.  So if you hear something that doesn’t seem to fit, you start talking among yourselves about it.

Well, it looks like the people in these Bible stories are complainers.  They all do a lot of mumbling.

Not to defend them, but some of the complaints are legitimate.  After all, Elijah was running for his life. I think most of us would be upset if an evil queen were trying to kill us.

The Ephesians were forming a new church.  They were dealing with all the challenges that come with working with lots of different people.  They all came from different ethnic groups, different social classes, different educational levels.  They spoke different languages in their homes.

They came together with many different ideas about how things should be done.   It is very easy to see how they might break into little cliques and start mumbling about the others who are different.  It is understandable that a list of rules would be helpful for them.

Where is God the midst of all the mumbling and complaining that we and Elijah and the Ephesians and the Judeans do?  Where is God in all of this?

Our first thought might be that God, our Heavenly Father, would be like a parent and just lay down the law and say he didn’t want to hear it.

That isn’t what God does at all. Our God is gracious even when we are mumbling and complaining. Even when we are depressed and mumbling about wanting to give up and die.  God is gracious.

God’s sends an angel to Elijah, not once, but twice.  The angel brought him fresh water and baked him a cake.  You have to love that!  Angels bake cakes!  And that food gave Elijah strength for his journey all the way to the mountain of God.

God is gracious to us even when we are mumbling against each other.  Even when we are angry and can’t get along.  God loves us. Even when other people seem to be getting on the last nerve we have left.  Even when those other people have very different ideas from ours.  God loves all of us. Even when it is obvious to us that we have a legitimate complaint because we are sure we are right and they are wrong.

Even then, God loves us.  Like the Ephesians, we get a letter with clear instructions.  God understands that we get angry and we mumble.  But God reminds us that there is a better way:  a kinder, forgiving way.

And what does God do when people are mumbling about Jesus? When they say Jesus cannot be the One who came down from heaven? When it is hard to believe in Jesus? God loves us even in our doubts.

In all these times, God not only loves us, but feeds us.  Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

When we mumble and complain;

when we get depressed and irritable;

and even when we doubt who Jesus really is –

God is gracious. God loves us.  God feeds us.

God gives us the bread that strengthens us for our life’s journey.  That bread is the body of Christ.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.  Happy are they who take refuge in God.  Amen.

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