Sermon: 1st Sunday in Lent, 5 March 2017, St Alban’s

Lent 1

5 March 2017

Rev. Jane Chapman

Gen           2.15-3.1-7

Ps   32

Rom          5.12-21

Matt          4.1-11

One does not live by bread alone, but

by every word that comes

from the mouth of God

 

Pass a bread and cake-shop, especially soon after the breads have been taken from the oven.  Sniff their aroma.  Let your mouth water.  There are few things lovelier than the smell of new-baked bread!

How can I, how can we, approach God’s ‘word’ with the same sense of expectation?  How can our sense of God’s word so speak to us that the mouths of our souls “water”, key to us that something both delightful and fulfilling is being offered to us?

And how, after all, can we learn truly to hear God’s word…i.e. not simply to hear the sounds, but to hear both truth and meaning?

Even new-baked bread, if that’s all that is on offer, can pall after a while.  But, for us, there is an inexhaustible source of nourishment in scripture: nourishment meant for us to seek, to taste, to savour…in all, to learn and go on learning how truly to find and then absorb the word of God.

I’ve used the term “inexhaustible” because our reading makes it very clear to us that we are called to listen.  This is our task, our work for and in the Lord, our call to an ongoing engagement with God – and, specifically, with God-in-Jesus.

It is Jesus who brings us the New Testament:  Jesus, whose task it is to teach us the meaning of listening to, and engaging with, God’s word on a daily basis; Jesus, whose life experience breaks open the “bread of Heaven”, such that hungry souls can be fed with the essence of loving which is the infinite totality of encountering Jesus as the One Who Is.

Thus the nurture offered to us is inexhaustible…and often, thereby, appears too rich a feast to sit down to on a daily basis.  But if that is indeed our experience, it is possible that we are taking available mouthfuls on a far-too-hungry basis.

God, inexhaustible, unfathomable, always available, can often seem too vast, too overwhelming for us to feast upon.  But surely we can nibble…and nibble-to-savour.  No big gulps.  No fantasy that we can actually capture the essence of God.  The Word, this God, this Creator and Master is full only of loving.  The loving is available at all times, under all circumstances.  It is not offered to us so that we can roast our spiritual tootsies in la-la land. The Words of God are those that hold, that call, that promise and deliver the joy and the obedience of loving.

Why do I call it the “obedience of loving?”  Because bread from the mouth of God sustains, and sustains in relationship, a relationship that calls us all into a world characterised by the ongoing experience of learning both to love, and to be loved.

And so, this bread from the mouth of God becomes for us, not only participation but a need, a daily need, a blessing characterised by closeness, by mutuality, by the slow and gentle mutual loving and exploration of the ‘Other’ (capital ‘O’).  Do not deny the experience, the pleasure, that you, that we, can give to God by closing yourself to the sustenance of living inside God’s Word and God’s world.

Never imagine that love, that blessedness, that life, and humour, and gentle surprise are not always open to you as the words God speaks in the quiet of your soul… should you, should we, remain open to that loving.  Bask in the togetherness with God.  Gather up what gratitude, or pleasure, or loneliness, or fear…or whatever is your experience…and open both the eyes and the ears of your hearts to encounter the blessedness of being fed in the depths of your heart by “every word that comes from the mouth of God”.