Saturday, January 31, 2015

Soul Food Sunday, the Super Bowl, and the Kingdom of God

Sadly, we have to cancel services tomorrow because of the inclement weather.  I hope everyone will come to Soul Food Sunday next week Feb. 8th, 2015.  It is as close to the heavenly feast as we will ever get here on earth.  Nonetheless, here's my sermon for tomorrow, and in case you are wondering, I edited this sermon with Rev. John Adams at Krug Park on Friday.  I got to try the Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, and the Zymaster No. 5.  Both are delicious but they are completely different.  I could smell the coffee aroma of the Yeti while the glass was still sitting on the bar.  It's taste is dark and rich like a a great french roast coffee.  The Zymaster is bright and herbal, but not bitter.

The readings for the sermon are 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, and Mark 1:21-28.

“Food will not bring us close to God.”
May only God’s word be spoken, and may only God’s word be heard. Amen!
So when St. Paul writes, “Food will not bring us close to God,” it’s obvious he’s never been to Soul Food Sunday here at Church of the Resurrection.  I mean truly if it is even possible for a meal to rival the Eucharist as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, it’s Soul Food Sunday.  Truly in both the spiritual sense and in the hardening of arteries sense, we are brought in closer communion with God through Soul Food Sunday.  Truthfully, I can’t tell you how glad I am that this reading is not happening next week on Soul Food Sunday. 
However, it is quite interesting that we have this reading, where Paul writes about idolatry is falling on Super Bowl Sunday. 
Now, y’all do not get me wrong, I love football.  I never played organized football, but even in my “band geek” days I watched the game closely, and remain quite enthralled by the sport.  But, let’s be honest.  We are in God’s house, and it just will not do for us to lie to ourselves.  Football is an idol in America.  It is even beginning to compete with soccer as a worldwide phenomenon.  In addition to idolatry the super bowl brings a host of other sins along with it.  Did you know that wherever the super bowl is held that city becomes a hot spot for sex trafficking the week of the game?  Not to mention that worldwide some estimate that over 10 billion dollars will be gambled on this one game.   Last, but the one I actually practice every year during the game is gluttony.  How much fat and cholesterol-ridden food and alcoholic beverages will be consumed tonight in celebration of the game.  But that is not the gluttony that I am bothered about.  The real gluttony is the NFL’s gluttony for profits, which we have seen exposed a lot this year.  Despite the commissioner’s critics calling for firing, despite his active mishandling of domestic violence situations while being quick to fine players for wearing the wrong color shoes or wearing the wrong brand of head phones, despite all this the commissioner remains safe in his job because the owners are pleased by the billions of dollars of profit he has brought in.   The abuses that go along with a glutton for profits, so prevalent in American Corporate culture, is no more evident than in the NFL. 
So, what makes Soul Food Sunday so great and the Super Bowl the height of idolatry?  Could it be argued that I am contradicting myself by praising one and critiquing the other? 
Well, it will come to without a shock that Paul and Jesus give us answers today.  It’s almost like I was setting us up via rhetorical devices to make a point.  Anyway, Paul writes, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”  Here he is talking about the knowledge of God, but cautions that being “puffed up” by ones own knowledge is dangerous. He’s counseling against arrogance.  Paul contrasts arrogance with love writing that “Love builds up.”  Soul Food Sunday builds up.  It builds up community because so much love is put into the food that people are literally consuming love.  It builds up because I can thing of several people who are currently members whose first impression of Church of the Resurrection was Soul Food Sunday.  It builds up because it is really easy to invite someone to Soul Food Sunday who has never been here before.  It builds up this community because it is an evangelism tool that enables us to share our best selves our love for God and each other.
Jesus exorcises the demon in our gospel reading today, but what wraps around this miracle in the text is even more important. This story sets up an ongoing and increasing conflict in the Gospel of Mark between Jesus and the ruling classes, in this case the so called “scribes”.  Jesus’ critique is ultimately about economics.  Being ritually pure enabled one to participate in the society in the Jesus’ day.  If you couldn’t participate, you couldn’t make a living.  The scribes were one of a handful of classes involved in the temple system that controlled access to purification rituals.  They were ones who could say who was clean and who wasn’t.  Overtime this power had gravitated not to the most devout but to the economically powerful.  Sound familiar?  Similarly the excesses of the super bowl are endemic of an unequal power structure.  For example and in addition to the things I have already mentioned, the NFL will fly members of both political parties to the super bowl and I promise you they won’t be sitting in the nosebleeds. 
On the other hand, everyone who shows up to Soul Food Sunday gets fed.  It doesn’t matter if you have been a long time member, or a first time visitor, the mayor or a junkie walking in off the street, everyone is welcome to Soul Food Sunday table.  Not only welcome, but please take a plate home with you too.  That expression of abundance, this holy sacrifice of time, talent, and treasurer to lay on a spread, the gift of those who labor to set the table and clean up afterward, these holy endeavors are emblematic of the kingdom of god. 

Now, let me be absolutely clear.  I am not saying you can’t enjoy the Super Bowl.  However, we do need to be aware of all that comes with the game and the NFL.  Furthermore, we should be just as excited for Soul Food Sunday in particular, and for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in general as we are for the Super Bowl.  So, I will tell the world, and I hope you will too, to come practice the Kingdom of God at Soul Food Sunday.  Amen!

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