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The sermon for week August 04, 2013

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McDonalds of the Soul

Mark 8:14-21

Comedian Jim Gaffigan tells a set of jokes about McDonald's. He says, “I have kids so we eat at McDonald's a lot. [PAUSE] Yeah, I just love the silence that follows that statement. It’s like people are saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t know I was better than you?!’”

“No one admits to eating at McDonald's,” Gaffigan says, “but they sell a billion burgers a day. And there’s only 300 million people in this country... and I’m not a calculus teacher… but I think everyone’s lying!”

He goes on to say, “We all know better, right? We’ve read the articles, seen those documentaries. It’s the same message: ‘Look, McDonald’s is really bad for you. It’s very high in fat and calories, and we don’t even know where the meat comes from!’ and we’re all like ‘That’s disgusting… I’ll have a Big Mac, large fries and a two gallon drum of Diet Coke.’

Cause there’s a McDonald’s denial, and we all embrace it. You know? No one’s going in there innocent. We’re walking into a red and yellow building with a giant M over it. ‘What is this, a library? I’ll get some fries while I’m here.’

I’m not doing this bit justice, but I love it.

At the end of talking about the judgment of McDonalds he ends with this: “I’m sure some of you are like, ‘Sorry, white trashy guy, I don’t eat McDonald’s.’ I have friends that brag about not going to McDonald’s. ‘Oh I would NEVER go to McDonald’s. I’m tired of people acting like they’re better than McDonalds. You may have never set foot in a McDonald’s, but you have your own McDonald’s. Maybe instead of buying a Big Mac, you read US Weekly. That’s McDonald’s. It’s just served up a little different. Maybe your McDonald’s is telling yourself that Starbucks Frappucino is not a milkshake. Or maybe you watch Glee. It’s all McDonald's. McDonald's of the soul.” (Gaffigan)

How can we name three people that have dated Jennifer Aniston? George Clooney got a haircut, why should we care? Legions of people watched for the birth of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s baby, why is that? McDonald's. It’s all McDonald's of the Soul.

Now how does this relate to today’s scripture?

Disciples are once again in a boat, they only have one loaf of bread, and Jesus says, “Beware the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” The disciples think this is some backhanded rebuke about them forgetting bread, and then Jesus reminds them of the two feeding stories. The Pharisees and Herodians have been sworn enemies of Jesus from the beginning. They’d just asked Jesus for a sign, and he refused. They have constantly questioned, blocked, accused, and argued with Jesus throughout most of his ministry. They have stated that Jesus has gone insane, he uses satanic powers, he can’t be a religious teacher since he shows disregard for training his disciples in piety and careful interpretation of the Law. He hangs out with the wrong crowd, eats at the wrong places, and simply doesn’t follow the rules.

Jesus speaks in metaphor about yeast. Yeast frequently carries negative overtones, since it was thought to create decay in the dough (Collins). Bread at that time was made to be as dense as possible so that it carried lots of belly-filling carbs and nutrients for someone who might eat once a day if you’re lucky. Putting yeast in would lighten the bread, and the Israelites thought would make it less filling, and not as good for you. Sort of like the first century McDonalds. What Jesus is saying is that the Pharisees and Herods create decay in society through how they live their lives. They are the yeast which divides the bread; they fracture what should be whole.

Jim Gaffigan points that out, points out our hypocrisy around the concept of “McDonald's of the Soul.” He has friends who won’t eat at McDonald's because they are better than that. They live to a higher standard. And they judge and condemn others based on that stance. Yet they have some sort of McDonald's in their lives, some sort of nonsense that’s bad for them or that just brings comfort. And I think we all have our McDonald's. Everyone of us. That’s not the sin. The sin comes in when we condemn others. When we ignore the log in our own eyes and point out the speck in others.

I have my McDonald’s moments, and I have my condemning moments, too. Where I forget about my guilty pleasures and happily judge and condemn others for their poor taste in music, movies, books, cars, hobbies… you know, life. I have times where I fracture what should be whole.

Another comedian, Louis C.K. speaks about this McDonald’s of the Soul in another way. Now, mind you, he’s a little less family friendly than Jim Gaffigan, for those of you who might check these guys out later, but he successfully describes the massive separation between what we believe and the way we act. Here’s my cleaned up paraphrase of what Louis had to say:

I'm on the plane. I'm in first class and this soldier gets on the plane. I see soldiers fly all the time because that's how they get to the war. They fly on a crappy airline. You think they get to go on a cool green plane with a red light. No, they just go on Delta. And they just wait in line to go to a war. And they always fly coach. I've never seen a soldier in first class in my life. And they're always nice. They're always, "Oh, yes sir. Thank you very much, ma'am." It's like having an extra flight attendant. They help everybody put their stuff away. They're awesome.

And every time that I see a soldier on a plane, I always think, “You know what, I should give him my seat. It would be the right thing to do. It would be easy to do and it would mean a lot to him.” I could go up to him, "Hey, son, go ahead and take my seat." Because I'm in first class, why, I'm in first class because I tell dirty jokes for a living. I’m a professional jerk, that's what got me my seat. I mean, this guy is giving his life for the country and he’s flying coach?! That ain’t right.

And I feel great for having this thought. I have never once come close to doing this, but I give myself a big old pat on the back for thinking this. “You know what, you’re a good person for thinking that.” And then I sit in first class. (C.K.)

That is McDonald's of the Soul right there. That’s the yeast of the Pharisees. Acknowledging a division and then doing nothing to stop it. Thinking that you’re a good person because you have good thoughts. No, sorry, unless the thought is attached to an action, that’s not good enough. The Pharisees thought well of themselves, too. They had the right intentions, sure. They were motivated by good, I’m sure their thoughts never wavered from God once, but their actions… Their actions weren’t up to par. We heard last week of their drive to exclude, to wash their hands in a ritual way to find who is in and who is out. And they thought very well of themselves. It’s not enough to think well of the military, we must actually give up our seats. It’s not enough to hang up our flag, or wear our pins, we must spend time with them, help our vets heal from the horrors of war.

It’s not enough to think good thoughts; we must do good in our lives. We must seek to bring together what is fractured.

Jesus says to the disciples, “Don’t you remember the baskets? How we had 12 left over? How we had 7 left over? Remember that?” The early church Fathers and medieval scholars, including Erasmus, speculated on the meaning of these numbers. They thought that the 12 meant the 12 tribes of Israel. So Jesus was sent to feed the Jewish people. And the 7 are the 7 Kingdoms of the pagans which suggests that Jesus was sent to feed the pagans too (Collins). Seven is also a whole number, like Sam said in last week’s sermon. The meaning of this is Jesus was sent to bring together all people. All. People. Bringing together what is fractured and separated.

Jesus is the living bread, our nourishment both physically and spiritually. Through Jesus’ life, the hungry are fed, the poor are advocated for, the outcasts are given a spot at the table and welcomed as children of God. And it’s not just praying for them, although we do that too, we pray together; but we actually DO these things. We’re not interested in the yeast of the Pharisees which says “all are welcome” and there’s this big asterisks by the all and it’s in tiny legal print that outlines who exactly is welcomed and who isn’t.

I was at the Chautauqua Institution recently for the new clergy program. The preacher for the week was Barbara Lunblad, professor of preaching at Union Seminary in NYC. She stated in her sermon on Monday, July 22, “’I’ and ‘me’ are more popular words than ‘we’ and ‘our.’” And she pointed to the recent Farm Bill.

Farm bills have traditionally had two parts, one to subsidize farming and the other to provide aid to Americans in distress in the form of food stamps, formally known today as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The farm subsidies are full of fraud and these mostly go to wealthy corporate farming. Recently, these corporate farmers have had their funding increased beyond what the president had asked for. Meanwhile, the other part, the SNAP program for those in need? That was completely cut. Not lowered… cut.

Here is the yeast at work. Here is dividing things that should go together. When asked about this, one congressman from Tennessee quoted 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” You can prove almost anything with a bible quote. He didn’t know that many people who get food stamps work more than one job and they can’t make ends meet on their salaries. Plus this congressman ignores HUGE parts of the bible which speaks about feeding the hungry. 2 Thessalonians is pretty far back in there, he has to skip all that "welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and feed the hungry stuff" that is all over the place, including the time when Jesus himself states “You fed me when I was hungry.” in Matt 25:35. It is also interesting to know that the congressman is a farmer, one who had received $3.5 million over the years in federal agricultural subsidies.

Lundblad said, “Someone has suggested that we get everyone who is on food stamps to invade the floor of Congress. About half of those people would be children. 10% would be elderly, many would be in wheelchairs and on oxygen.” Maybe we should have a constitutional amendment stating that no laws would be enacted without listening and sitting down with those whom the law would affect. You know, talking to non-wealthy farmers and people on the SNAP program. Or maybe before they talk about funding for Planned Parenthood, they talk to.. I don’t know. Women?

We can’t act like we’re divided or apart from one another. That’s the yeast of the Pharisees speaking, that’s the temptation. Living the life Jesus offers us means that we live it together. We are called to give up our McDonald's… or at least be honest about our McDonald's and not condemn others for theirs.

Today, after the service, we will have paper and envelopes out on a table for those of you who wish to do good. To write your representative and ask them to restore SNAP for people whose crops may not have done so well, those who can’t make ends meet. But before then, we shall go to the table. We will ask for forgiveness for living separated lives and we shall seek unity in the sacrament today. And in the sacrament, we’ll be reminded of what Jesus said in our scriptures today, "I have given you everything you need to do this work. Don't be anxious that you don't have enough. I multiplied the loaves. I will nourish you physically and spiritually. Welcome everybody. I know this task seems so big, but you're not doing it on your own. Trust me."

And so, we will.

Works Cited
C.K. Louis. Live at the Beacon Theatre.

Collins, Adela Yarbro. Hermencia, A critical and historical commentary on the Bible. Fortress Press, 2007.

Gaffigan, Jim. Mr Universe.

Talbot, Mary Lee. Morning Worship on Tuesday July 23, 2013. The Chautauquan Daily, Religion. Page 9.

A quick video about SNAP, please click here.

Find your representative by clicking on this link.

Sylvania, West Toledo, and Perrysburg (District 5):
Rep. Bob Latta
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Toledo, Oregon, and Point Place (District 9):
Marcy Kaptur
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

7th Congressional district of Michigan:
Tim Walberg
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

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