Our Pastor is enjoying a couple weeks of vacation so we had a retired Pastor fill in yesterday. Pastor Kaelberer began his sermon by laying out a metaphor to frame his lesson. He described the youthful joy he experienced when he and his buddies satisfied their hunger by getting Thrifty ice cream cones, for 5 cents each! These delicious cones of various flavors had the unique detail of a flat top, making them easier to stack several scoops high. Likewise, the joy of God’s blessings in today’s readings are being heaped upon one another, like scoops of ice cream.
The first scoop came from Psalm 23 which we recited responsively just after the Sacrament of Absolution. It may be the most familiar Psalm of all, from its frequent use at funerals and grave sites:
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He make me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me besides still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Pastor zeroed in on the phrase “I shall not want” and preached on the sufficiency of God’s provision for our lives. Another blessing was bestowed by this Psalm as we were reciting it responsively. Pastor would speak a verse and then the congregation spoke the next verse, which was bolded for us in the service booklet. I noticed that Mateo was reciting the entire Psalm and wasn’t looking at the words! I remembered that they memorized this Psalm in school last year. It was so cool to hear him boldly recite it! Especially because he was so proud of knowing the words that he didn’t seem to notice he was the only one reciting the Pastor’s part with him! What a precious moment.
The second scoop of blessing came from the prophet Isaiah and helped reiterate the metaphors of God’s sufficient grace and feasting:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
The epistle reading, and third scoop, is perhaps my favorite passage of scripture! I have come to these verses time and again for strength, insight, comfort and peace. St. Paul sure had a poetic way of illuminating the Christian life:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the Gold of peace will be with you. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Just now I realized that one of The Cambridge School rules probably came from this passage of Philippians! The fourth and final school rule is: Be content in all things. I can’t wait to share with Sienna and Mateo the biblical origins of this important rule!
I’ve been thinking lately about the joy of giving good gifts to our children, much as God must delight in giving good gifts to us. Since we haven’t been eating sugar for the past several weeks, as Pastor was concluding his sermon I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to treat the kids to ice cream today?” I shared the idea with the family and they loved it!
We talked about “theological ice cream” on our drive to the grocery store after church; how God gives us so many good gifts and indulging in delicious ice cream is a tangible way to remember the abundant blessings we enjoy.
Have you ever feasted or indulged to remind yourself of the bounty that God provides? I highly recommend it!