A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
I am sure that it will come as no
surprise to you that putting on a show like ‘Into the Woods, Jr.’ is a major
undertaking. We began planning last spring, auditioned the cast during the
summer, then began rehearsals in August. We rounded up props and costumes,
designed and built the set, dressed the set, designed the lights, the sound,
the projections, and rehearsed some more.
During the course of the
preparations, we had conversations about those for whom theater is their life
and their passion. We talked about how most actors, actresses and production crew
work on multiple shows at the same time. In fact, my brother-in-law, Jorge, who
designed our set, lights and projections was here for our tech rehearsals but
was not here for the performances themselves. He was actually in Massachusetts this
week working on another show.
Now, I do not live and work in the
world of theater, but I was involved with the planning of another production as
we were preparing for our performances of ‘Into the Woods.’ It was only the
planning and logistics stage, but there were numerous conversations and text
messages regarding the location of the production, who was going to perform
which task, and then assembling the ‘To Do’ lists.
I was not working on the logistics
for next year’s production. I was not working on the plans for the Christmas
pageant. In fact, my guess is that many of you were planning the very same
production. Thanksgiving Dinner.
We plan and plan for our annual
feast. Who is going to host, what is on the menu, who is going to prepare which
dish. What are we having for dessert. Days and days of planning for one meal.
We work and work, and then tuck into a sumptuous feast. We dig into a
cornucopia of side-dishes, and then retire to the couch resting up for dessert.
And then we are hungry the next day.
We spend far more time planning the
meal than we likely spend on the giving thanks part of the day. When I was a
younger and more impatient man, I found myself grow irritated when my mother
would say, “Now, BEFORE we eat, let us go around the table and share something
that we are thankful for.” BEFORE we eat. Naturally, we all begrudgingly
participated with the give thanks portion, then quickly moved on to the “give
me the mashed potatoes” portion of the day.
Do we spend as much time as we ought
giving thanks to God? Do we bundle all of our thanks-giving into a singular
event? Do we even do it at all?
A colleague of mine, someone with
whom I attended seminary, began the spiritual practice last year of listing
three things for which she is thankful every day. And to keep herself faithful
in that discipline, she posts her list on Facebook. Her decision to share
publicly helps to keep her accountable.
I am embarrassed to admit, that
while I think that her practice is a wonderful and healthy thing to do, I have
not yet adopted the practice. But I should. It is a good practice … a healthy
practice … to do every day. Having a thankful heart is actually good for us.
There are health benefits to living thankfully. Doing the practice of recording
our daily thanks helps to build up our gratitude “muscles.” It trains our
hearts and our minds in much the same way that physical training creates muscle
memory. It enables us to repeat the act without even having to think about it.
In our scripture passage this
morning, we encounter some folks that could use a little gratitude practice.
They seem to be of the “what have you done for me lately” mindset.
Let me take a brief step back.
Chapter Six in John’s Gospel is action packed. It begins with the account of
the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. That event took
place the day before the story that we just read. Then after Jesus fed the
multitude with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, Jesus walked on the
Sea of Galilee and met the disciples on the other shore. Those to miraculous
events immediately precede this encounter that Jesus had with the crowd.
Now, in their defense, perhaps there
were those in the crowd in Capernaum that had not been present at the miracle
of multiplication. Perhaps they did not see Jesus walking on the water. And
they do not have the benefit of hindsight as we do. They do not know how the
story turns out. Jesus knows that he is the Bread of Life, but they have yet to
Having given them some plausible
deniability, we must also acknowledge that some of them had been present and
had fed on the miraculous distribution of bread and fish. Jesus called them on
it. Jesus called them on it. “I fed you yesterday and now you come to me
wanting more bread?!” They were acting as if Jesus was some sort of First
Century fast food drive-thru. Whenever you get hungry, just hit Jesus up for some
In this moment, we know what Jesus
knows … the people missed the whole point. The miracle of the loaves and fishes
was NOT the bread and fish themselves, it was not even the ACT of
multiplication, rather it was the person that performed the act. As we saw, the
bread and fish only filled their stomachs for a few hours. The miracle was
really in the food for their souls.
And then the people did what people
still do today, they quoted scripture to make their point, but missed the real
lesson of the story. They said, “Oh yeah, our ancestors ate the manna in the
wilderness. What sign will you give us? Prove your point to us, Jesus.”
“Give us a sign. We need a parade or
something with marching bands and a big float that says, ‘He is the One. He is
Jesus helped them along the way. He
said, “Yes, you are correct, Moses led the people through the wilderness, but
it was GOD that provided the manna. Yes … Moses was the agent of the gift, but
God was the giver of the gift.”
Even with that explanation, the
people missed the point. The true gift in the wilderness was not the manna
itself. Yes, the manna fed the people, but the real gift was their faith. With
the gift of manna, God fed the people’s faith. The manna filled their stomachs
for a moment, but it was their faith that sustained them in the wilderness. It
was their faith that held them during their difficult days. It was their faith
that was the real bread.
In the same way, the real bread in
the miracle of multiplication was the faith of the people. When they asked
Jesus ‘what work does God require?’, Jesus said simply, “Believe.” “Believe in
the one that God sent.” Not ‘believe in the things that he does, believe in who
The bread of earth will grow stale.
The Bread of Heaven will not.
The bread of earth will crumble to
dust. The Bread of Heaven is eternal.
And the only thing that we need to
do to attain it is believe. Believe.
One does not earn favor with God by
performing good works. The equation is backwards. One does good works because
faith in God creates a loving heart. Faith in God creates a heart that lives to
love and serve our neighbors. We do not have to work for the Bread of Heaven.
That food, the Bread of Life, is freely given. The works come because we ate the
Sharing in the Bread of Heaven will
give us good health. Sharing the Bread of Heaven promotes the genuine existence
of God, it makes God manifest in the world.
God is love. The Bread of Heaven is
God is holy. The Bread of Heaven is
In the practice of our faith, we
live in God.
In the practice of our faith we
share in God’s holiness, we love as God loves.
May our lives express our gratitude
for all that God has done for us. Even more, let it express all the God IS for
us. May our lives manifest who Jesus IS for us.
Let us do more than name that for
which we are grateful. Let us live out our thankfulness. Let us live thanks.
Congregational ChurchUCC, SACO MAINE12 BEACH STREET | SACO, ME 04072207-283-3771