Richard's Food for Thought

Knowledge Is Food For the Soul-Plato

Food for Thought-What I Learned from Dean Richard Hays — August 4, 2015

Food for Thought-What I Learned from Dean Richard Hays

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In December of 1983, my maternal grandfather died of pancreatic cancer. His death was a long, slow, and painful. Although I was young, I remember it clearly and the toll it took on those in my family who arranged for his nursing care and attended to his needs when nothing more could be done. It was a devastating illness. These early memories came to the fore recently when I learned of Dean Richard Hays’ diagnosis with the same illness. Dean Hays has been a with the Duke University community for many years, a scholar or the early church, and shepherd of the growing divinity school community. My heart sank.  Medicine and treatment have changed much in the intervening years. Hope and healing are realities which people of faith willingly embrace. We do what women and men called to witness and serve have always done; we remain hopeful through our prayers and re-telling the stories which define us as a people.

Dean Hayes taught me to tell and re-tell the story of Jesus. Despite the costs or collateral damage, people like me needed to tell the sacred story of Jesus Christ. Richard Hays taught me that Jesus’ story is one in which we participate. A participatory story best told in community where our ethics and morality are best shaped by the retelling of Jesus’ final meal with his earliest disciples. The dichotomies and divisions plaguing the Church (who’s in and who’s out) can be unified by the very story of Jesus’ life (and death) itself. For me, after each lecture, I kept hearing this question, “Will we take these ideas to their logical conclusion?”

Richard Hays takes the Gospels and their greatest interpreter (Saint Paul) to their logical conclusions. He taught me what Jesus meant and what the earliest church knew he would become: the definitive moral standard for how faithful people live in community. When it came to violence, there would be none (on our part). The whole community of believers, the entire body of the faithful was called to embody his practice of loving one’s enemies. If you’ve truly given all authority under heaven and on Earth to Jesus, turning the other cheek makes all the sense in the world. We are participants in Jesus’ story. Richard Hays taught me this.

The world is not yet redeemed. Despite the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes on Ocracoke Island I am not ready for redemption. I relish the continued opportunity to work in the kingdom being built around me. As we wait and work, we participate in the ongoing acts of redemption, love, and witness to God’s faithfulness in our world. This is how Jesus’story continues to be told. It’s what I think Dean Hays wants all of us who’ve been through his classes to keep doing, as best we can.

Get Well, Dear Brother in Christ.

Food for Thought-Dying Was Possibly Part of the Deal — June 20, 2015

Food for Thought-Dying Was Possibly Part of the Deal

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Dying was possibly,
Part of the deal,
When I signed up,
To follow Jesus,
Not for meetings,
To hear people squeal,
At mediocre praise choruses,
And marvel at sound bites poorly delivered,
but to die,
if need be,
part of following Jesus,
is being called to die,
that’s one the big reasons,
we knew it when,
we knew it then,
martyrdom was what he asked,
to bear a cross,
and die with him,
it’s become too easy,
to live this,
Americanized sin,
21st century Christianity,
Sanitized worship,
A deodorized Jesus,
No different from Santa Claus,
Where no one remembers,
Or gives a moments pause,
At what he said,
Or what he taught,
How he lived,
From the day he commenced,
Forgive and you will die,
The kingdom of heaven,
Making no earthly sense.

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Benediction To Be Delivered at Ocracoke School Graduation 14 June 2015 — June 14, 2015

Food for Thought-Benediction To Be Delivered at Ocracoke School Graduation 14 June 2015

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May you leave this place bearing the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of those who brought you to this moment. May you always remember the lessons learned, the friendships cherished, and the dreams nurtured by this place. May your pilgrimage be sustained by faith, hope, and love.  May God bless your journey in darkness and light, in storm and calm, and may you know that you are loved.  Amen.

Food for Thought-A Prayer for Memorial Day — May 22, 2015

Food for Thought-A Prayer for Memorial Day

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Today is the day,
we remember those who died,
beyond the places only sacred stones recall,
we mourn their loss and sacrifice made,
those who passed in distant lands,
and those who bled,
on these very sands,
In Christ there is hope,
In hope we pray for tomorrow,
That the violence of yesterday,
May give way to peace today.

In Christ,
Amen.

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-A Prayer To Be Delivered At the Dedication of A New Baseball Field — April 24, 2015

Food for Thought-A Prayer To Be Delivered At the Dedication of A New Baseball Field

Excelsiors You are the God of base hits, pop flies, stolen bases, home run moments, and missed opportunities. For in Baseball we see glimpses of our better selves and your grace; urging us to keep moving forward to the next base, when we would rather stand safely in the past. You call us, like outfielders, to be constantly aware of our surroundings and the actions of those around us. You tell us, like a good coach, we work better when we work together. May these lessons be heard and remembered in this place. May the summer sun which warms the faces of each player, remind us of the love you hold for each of us in your well worn heavenly Baseball glove. May the spring rains which will nourish this grass, remind us a community has sought to grow young people strong in body, mind, and spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Food for Thought-Christ is Risen, Walter Scott is Dead — April 9, 2015
Food for Thought-Prayer for Holy Saturday and Easter Morning — April 4, 2015

Food for Thought-Prayer for Holy Saturday and Easter Morning

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We wait in the rain and gray of a Saturday that seems to never end. Our broken hearts, numbed by the images of your suffering, seem to re-shatter each time we move our bodies. How can we live without you? Grant us a steadfast hope which is more than any understanding we possess. May our lives be replanted and renewed beyond the fetid air of death that stalks our souls. May the promises you made in life be more than words we remember at your death. May the festering wounds of this week be healed and offer strength for the journey, not simply proof for those who doubt. Create within us space for wonder, amazement, joy, and love. For if we are not moved by love, we do not see the risen Christ or hear your words of comfort-the reality of the resurrection does not become real.

In Jesus Name,
Amen

Food for Thought-Maundy Thursday Sermon (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) — April 2, 2015

Food for Thought-Maundy Thursday Sermon (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

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It’s been one of those weeks.  Jesus has been all over the news, in one way or another.  Whether in documentary form, docudrama, or the news; his name and his presence have been invoked at every turn.  Jesus seems to be everywhere.  Yet, is it him? Certainly, people are talking about him.  I’m not so certain everyone is on the same page.  It’s easy to talk about Jesus.  However, it is very difficult to gather in a small room and sit down at a table, face to face with Jesus.  With that degree of intimacy, we cannot hide.  We are forced to be honest with Jesus and ourselves about the meaning of this evening. We come here not to speak, not to put words in his mouth, or to talk on his behalf.  We are here to listen to him.  What does Jesus want to tell us on this night?

He wants to tell us, “It’s going to be ok”.  Why does he want to say this? We are never more vulnerable as people of faith than we on Maundy Thursday. This is the night when our worlds will spin so far out of control.  They’re already headed in that direction.  Our natural instinct will be to reach for something to control, a decision to make, or a person to hold onto. Those things that we think we know and rely upon aren’t going to be there.  To this table, where we are gathered, we bring this crumbling charade of control.  Beside the chalice of wine and plate with the bread we dump our garbage, junk, mess, and general personal chaos.   Jesus, on this night, when the world seems to be spinning out of control, you see us for who we are and what we are.   We are never more vulnerable than when we come before you at this table. We are a mess.

For some reason, despite the mess we’re in (and the mess you’re in) we are here together.  You’re with us, at this table, in the midst of our overwhelming messiness.  Jesus, we can barely understand yesterday.  We have no way to put words or thoughts to the immensity of tomorrow’s events.  Yet, there is something about the present which you are telling us to transform into a new way of living.  It’s all wrapped up in what’s on the table.  In the good memories we take in and the bad we leave behind; this table is the place where we realize the ugly memories of our lives do not define us in the eyes of Jesus.   We do, in remembrance of Jesus.  It is not, “what we have done”.  It is at the table where we see Jesus most clearly; can we embrace the aching vulnerability to make that same sense of clarity a two way street?

How do I know Jesus wants to tell us, “It’s going to be ok”?  John 15:12 and beyond seems to answer this question clearly.  Jesus tells his disciples to love one another as he has loved them.  They are to take care of each other and love one another. In verse 15, he goes one step farther, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends.”  He calls them friends. In the hours before his death Jesus calls his disciples friends.  It’s a strong enough statement to be recorded in John’s gospel.  We are friends.  We share this table.  In our vulnerabilities, flaws, darkness, and light, this is the space where the memories of yesterday become the ministries of tomorrow.  This is where everything gets left.  Take nothing home but the grace of God.

Food for Thought-Where Was God When Germanwings 9525 Crashed? — March 28, 2015

Food for Thought-Where Was God When Germanwings 9525 Crashed?

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I wish I knew. I don’t say this lightly. Some people aren’t going to like this but I’m going to say what’s been bothering me since I first heard the news on Wednesday. If I as a pastor can’t speak my mind, then who can? I’ve been wrestling with this question for three days now. Amid the discussions about mental health and cockpit security, the “God” question has been foremost in my mind. From the moment we realized the passengers and crew were aware of a serious problem (via the in-flight recorder) they too must have known their own deaths were imminent.

Why did God allow 149 innocent people to perish on the side of a French mountain? This question can be posed in any number of ways involving tragedies ranging from disease, famine, and natural disaster. Why does God permit any of these things? For the moment, I only want to talk about the plane crash.

I hear accounts of miracles on almost a daily basis. Listening to stories of God’s divine intervention and miraculous actions are not new to me; they are part of my work. Earlier this week, a man came to the church to tell me the story of his fiancé, crippled in an automobile accident last year now slowly regaining the use of her limbs. This he assured was a miracle and a response to his unceasing prayers. God had intervened on the night of the accident and saved the life his beloved. Now, she might walk again. I hope so. I prayed with him for over 30 minutes about his life and the life of the woman he hoped to marry.

I read in scripture that God actively intervened to deliver the Israelites from military catastrophes and social disasters. Jesus healed people day in and day out of his three year ministry.

It would seem easy for the God who divided the Red Sea, raised Lazarus, and is doing miraculous things for nearly everyone I encounter on Facebook, to cause the electronic lock to fail on the interior of a cabin door of an A320 about to crash in the French Alps so the pilot might save the lives of 149 innocent people. For some reason, that miracle doesn’t occur. That would be a miracle I would love to weep about, hold up to the world, and point to the mysterious workings of a great and wonderful God. I can’t do that; because my God, the God who worked that way in Exodus, Joshua, Matthew, and Mark is not working that way on a Germanwings flight over the French Alps. I don’t know where that God is now. I would like to know where that God has gone. How can this God be credited with so many things in my world (pre-mature babies born safely, people healed of cancer) and no one hold the same God accountable for the unspeakable terror of which Flight 9525 is only one example.  Some will call such statements heresy.  I call it a fair question, especially at Easter.

Perhaps that idea of God died en route to Dusseldorf.  Like a modern day version of Calvary on a Good Friday that never ends, God has fled the scene we are left to pick up the pieces. So we wait, for redemption, deliverance, and meaning from torn up doctor’s notes and aviation experts.  Woven in between the frantic words of explanation is the one truth of Holy Week: God can die and we must acknowledge this reality.

Food for Thought-A Lewis Carroll Inspired Collect for Holy Week — March 25, 2015

Food for Thought-A Lewis Carroll Inspired Collect for Holy Week

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Almighty God, as we prepare to step through the looking glass of our lives into the topsy-turvy world of resurrection living; fashion our hearts and minds for the Mad Hatters of Maundy Thursday, the Damnable Dormice of Good Friday, and the blank stares of the March Hare on a bleak Saturday afternoon.

As we recall your tea party, a celebration of life and living of gifts and giving; may we say what we mean and do the things we remember not for a queen or king but you, our friend, in whom we believe. For much we have heard and some we have not seen and yet we still, even today, say we believe.

Amen.

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