So this week begins yet another Berrien County Youth Fair with many of our young people participating with showing animals and crafts and much more. Seems like ages ago now when I took cows and pigs through our local 4-H to the Wyandot County Fair in Ohio, and the nostalgic memories overflow just at the thought of it. After all, there is something special to a fair: something about its utter simplicity that gets us. There's no extravagance to it, no monstrous advancements in technology to change its style over the years. But the idea that small town America and beyond can come together in celebration of the Creation, God's creatures great and small, working with our hands, a love of community; it reels us in every time.
It's the youth taking pride in caring for their animals, it's watching children enjoy the rides, it's seeing friends in a distance and exchanging the biggest of hugs, it's the tractor pulls and the music at concerts. But, let's be honest, it's the food that has a rather alluring power over everyone who crosses through that entrance gate. No matter how much we realize the enormous amounts of salt and cholesterol and oiled-up grease, nevertheless the smell wafting in the wind at just the right angle latches onto us and hauls us in no matter how long the line is for the funnel cakes and the french fries and the burgers. And little do we care that that food won't fill us up for long, forcing us to move onto the next booth in a few hours time. We just can't get enough of it, and as much as your appetite is heightened to the max right now in anticipation of what you can start eating soon enough, it will be even worse next Sunday when it all comes to an end. We just can't get enough of it.
But as much as the utter simplicity of a county fair can reel us in year after year, God is using even more simplistic means to grab us into God's very self, this God we obviously can never get enough of in this life. And yet God uses nothing more than bread and wine to entice us to taste and see the goodness of the Lord, what God did for us. And no, it will not physically fill your stomach to the point you won't be lured in by the greasy food all week. But Jesus, the host of this meal for the entire world, says this bread of life and cup of salvation will fill your soul: the entirety of your existence will never be hungry or thirsty for eternity. And for whatever reason God is still only using a piece of bread and a few drops of wine to pull it off: far too simple for us human beings to accept.
Because we should have to do something to be worthy of that walk up the aisle, for someone to bring us that holy Communion. We should have to put in as many hours of service as the young people preparing for this week in order to deserve our reward of God's most precious sacrifice. And yet that's not how this God works. That's now how God's grace operates. None of us did anything to deserve what we are about to receive. God simply, but not so simply, wants to be so immersed into our life that Jesus will give His body, His blood to go into our mortal and frail and imperfect selves.
In reality, the fair has a way of reminding us of that too. We are let known by how long we can actually walk through all the displays and buildings in comparison to what we could do all the fairs before; that we are not as young as we used to be. Some of the people we always looked forward to see sitting on the bench across from the arts and crafts building are no longer there anymore. The nostalgia overflows our memories of the good 'ole days, when, in our minds at least, life seemed to be so much simpler. Nevertheless, the fair keeps on welcoming us back year after year into its own way of utter simplicity of life, creating new memories, experiencing more fun times that can still be had by new people just as worthy of our love as those before, molding and shaping the same sense of community, just with different faces.
The act of Communion tends to do an eerily similar thing. We walk past all these pews and we remember the people who always sat there and no longer do. We stand and kneel beside some new faces and some we still recognize after all these years, and yet God is only concerned with meeting us just the way we are now, and becoming a part of our life yet again, no matter where we are on this journey of faith, no matter how little we can walk, no matter how strong our memory, no matter what.
Because all Jesus wants out of this meal is to abide in you, and you in Him; abide in you to the point that you will not escape Jesus' voice saying, "You are forgiven! You are a child of God!" You will be so latched onto this Christ that you cannot escape His love, that no matter how lonely your soul may feel the Lord remains a part of you for the rest of your life and beyond. In the end, the food at the fair this week will not fill you up for long, but this bread and wine will overflow your soul with the very Jesus Christ who died and rose again for you, just as you are, now and forevermore. And for that, we give thanks to this God of everlasting life indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon