Exodus 16:2-15 † Psalm 105:1–6, 37–45 † Philippians 1:21–30 † Matthew 20:1-16
The president of Seattle University, Stephen Sundborg, was talking with a group of faith leaders last Tuesday. The 7000 students who were returning to campus this weekend were on the mind of this university leader who has watched students come and go for 20 years now. And so were the challenges he sees the younger students facing in particular. The culture they have been raised in, he suggested is so overpowering, so ubiquitous, so non-stop, that it sometimes seems inescapable. It is so “thick” that “I’m afraid we don’t think our own thoughts anymore, and we don’t even realize that the thoughts we have are not our own,” he suggested. It constantly whispers its assumptions, this culture—in the technology that brings us non-stop media, in the wall-to-wall messaging that keep us from thinking for ourselves, in the forms of alignment that keep us in our bubbles of reason, in the striving and the acquiring.
President Sundborg is a Jesuit priest, steeped in Ignatian spirituality. At the center of this spirituality is the Examen[i], the simple daily practice of replaying the events of the day to become increasingly aware of God’s presence, and of our own spiritual centers, of the Spirit’s voice that speaks from the center of who we are. Ignatius understood, in other words, that a deeper knowing of ourselves leads to a deeper knowing of God and of the culture of heaven as it compares to the thick cultures that shape our mindset and compete for our loyalties.
Culture, it turns out, is a pretty good modern translation of what Jesus meant when he talked about the Kingdom of Heaven, as he does setting up the group of parables Matthew strings together, including over these several weeks of Sunday readings.
Genesis 32:22-31 † Psalm 17:1-7, 15 † Romans 9:1-5 † Matthew 14:13-21
We have not yet run out of bread when serving communion here at St Andrew, at least not in the time I have been here. Once or twice, I’ve seen the server looking nervously down the line to note how many more were to come and how that measured with the chunk of bread held in their hands. I have been in that spot myself and known that feeling of continuing to serve and trusting we’ll make it. I have come really close once or twice. There is one occasion that is imprinted on my memory and that gets to the grace of this table. It was a busy Sunday. I was getting to the end of the bread I was holding. I think it may have been a week where we expected to need more bread than normal and I was hoping that Chuck had brought two loaves instead of one. He’ll do that when he thinks we might need more. I was pretty sure he had, but just a little worried.
You see I hadn’t set eyes on any extra loaf for myself. I like to see and know for sure that the things I will need will be there. Maybe you know that need. So my anxiety grew and I wondered what I’d do and I kept going hoping, not short changing anyone, knowing that above all, the thing that brings us to this table is the claim everyone gets a piece of bread. I was getting to the last couple of pieces of my bread. There was just no way to split it between what I remember as being a dozen or so people still in my line. Mostly the choir I think, smiling, moving towards me one at a time. Then I felt this presence to my left and I turned. I kind of knew in my bones that it would show up. I am pretty sure that’s why I just kept going. I turned my head hopeful, and there was Julie Kae. Smiling, you know that way she does, with her hands outstretched, gently holding what I needed, you know the way she does. Looking at me saying, of course I noticed, of course I’ve got you. Another beautiful loaf, broken ready to go.
St. Andrew Sermons