Monday, 15 July 2013

Sermon July 14, 2013: WHich Wolf Will We Feed

There is a story from North American native Indians – I guess you could call it a proverb. 

An old Cherokee told his grandson: “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth.”
The boy thought about it, and asked: “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

The old man quietly replied: “The one you feed.”
That story is applicable to both the epistle and the Gospel for today.  In the Epistle from Romans, Paul is telling is that we have a war within us about which side we will serve – will we be slaves to sin or will we be servants to righteousness?  The Gospel tells of one of the well-known events in the ministry of Jesus when he feeds the multitude with five loaves and two fishes.  The multitude is satisfied abundantly with more than enough left over – more than they started with.  In effect which side in the battle will we serve – which wolf will we feed?  How will we feed our souls with material food or spiritual food?

The epistle (Romans 6:17) tells us that if we feed the evil wolf we are slaves to sin.  However, if we feed the good wolf we will be servants to God.  One interesting thing about this comparison is the Greek work for servant and slave.  The New Testament - when it was finally written down - was originally written in Greek. 
One of the things I remember from my course in Greek at seminary was that the Greek word Doulos means both slave and servant.  We have the same word being used differently – the translators used slave in one place – slave to sin.  The other is servant to God.  I’m sure they used the two different words in translation because of the context in which they are used.  There is a definite difference for the context of a slave and the context of a servant. 

When you are a slave to something you have little or no choice in the matter.  We don’t consider slavery much these days.  After all, slavery was defeated in the 18th and 19th century for the most part.  There was the great civil war in our neighbours to the south a hundred and fifty years ago that emancipated the slaves.  Unfortunately the United States is still dealing with many of the consequences in their relations between blacks and whites.  There are still two wolves fighting in many ways in that land.  Of course we Anglicans can be proud of the role of William Wilberforce an Anglican reformer who was the force behind the abolition of slavery in Britain in the 18th Century.  He was inspired in part by John Newton the author of Amazing Grace and a reformed slave ship captain.  However, slavery was an integral part of the world in Jesus’ time.  The first Christians including Paul accepted slavery as normal part of society. 
So today, how do we relate to slavery that Paul talks about?  Well even though physical slavery has been abolished in the Western world we have many other kinds of slavery.  We have many things in society that we can be enslaved by.  We can be enslaved to money or drugs or material possession or even power.  When we become enslaved to something like alcohol or anything else we lose our choices.  Someone who is addicted has lost control of his life. 

The addict may believe that that they are in control – I can give up x any time I want to - but in truth the thing they are addicted to is controlling them.  They have becomes slaves to sin.
When we think of sin we often mistakenly believe we are taking strictly about moral behavior – committing adultery or stealing or any of the ‘nots’ in the Ten Commandments.  However, I find that the best way of thinking of sin is ‘something – anything that separates us from the love of God and from leading the life that God intends for us. 

This brings us to the Gospel and the image of being fed by Jesus.  We have the wonderful account of Jesus feeding the multitude with a few loaves of bread and even fewer small fish.  The account presents Jesus feeding the bodies of those that gathered to hear him.  Their bodies were indeed fed by the bread and the fish but they were fed in another way.  Their souls and spirits were undoubtedly fed by Jesus.  That is why they were gathered to be with him.  They recognized that their spirit was not being fed by their present lives – by the religious leaders of their community.  The Gospel tells us that many had come from distances to experience Jesus.  They knew on some level that their spirits were hungering for the bread of heaven.   Just as we are fed by the body and blood of Jesus when we receive the Eucharist they ate and were filled in their bodies and their souls.
So the question remains which wolf are we going to feed in our lives?  The one that is Evil – the one that is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego.  Or are we going to feed the one that is Good – the one that is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth.” 

The boy thought about it, and asked: “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

The old man quietly replied: “The one you feed.”

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