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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Epiphany 2 – Year B

The word of the day is fatness.

Yes, Fatness.

Book of Psalms, Chapter 63, Verse 5: “My soul is content, as with marrow and Fatness.”

I have lost some Fatness recently… Some.

Not really all that much — maybe fifteen pounds’ worth.

If I were in the United States military – I’d need to shed another 25 or so, before I could be in any kind of fighting shape.

But I’m just a priest, and hey, I’ve always had some Fatness.

When I was really little my best friend’s sister called me “Chubby Cheeks.”

When I was at Summer Camp one of the skinniest kids I ever knew teased me by calling “flab.” He convinced a couple guys that this was hilarious, and even some of the fat kids called me “flab.”

In the fifth grade when fancy blue-jeans were all the rage – I wore “husky” sizes from Sears.

Yeah, I’ve known about Fatness since the day I was born.

As a kid it made me feel embarrassed, like I wasn’t as good as other people. It made me resent myself sometimes.

In times of anxiety over Fatness, especially when I was a child, I was often tempted to believe that “God doesn’t care about my body, only my soul.”

Of course, that just isn’t true. But apparently, a lot of clergy believe it is. Recent studies indicate that three-quarters of all clergy are either overweight or obese. I went to seminary. It’s true. Clergy – generally – are fat.

Which is really too bad. Because the Fatness that the Bible talks about does not make waistbands grow bigger, or hearts grow tired.

Quite the opposite.

A heart fat with Christ is a heart that never grows tired.

A heart fat with faith is one, which probably knows something about self-denial, self-control, and self-restraint.

A heart fat with the Will of God, is one which understands the meaning of life. And that meaning is this: we are put here on this earth not for our own purposes, but for God’s.

Biblical fatness stands in opposition to the image-thin values of the World of Human Willfulness. It stands in contrast to the illusive shadow-chasing that most of do in this life in an effort to create “security.”

Biblical fatness is one of those paradoxical promises, which so typify the teachings of the Mosaic Law, the prophets, and their fulfillment in Christ.

And the paradox is this: eating will only make us hungrier, and drinking will only make us thirstier.

Unless … we seek the food and drink of God.

The food and drink of God is that divine ambrosia that feeds all of God’s children forever – and that food and drink is the doing of God’s will.

The doing of God’s will, the living and breathing of God’s Word.

Being the will of God. Being doers or the word, and not hearers only.

You all probably remember the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. The central object in the movie is the ancient golden box which Moses used to carry around the Law. In the movie the evildoers are trying to capture the Ark, because they believe it has magic power to conquer the world.

Of the course the Ark is described a little differently in the Bible.

In the Bible the Ark is described as a golden box, in which the people of Israel were to place the Law of God. They were instructed by Moses to carry the Law of God with them wherever they went – to literally follow the box in the same way they were to follow the Law of God.

The Ark of the Covenant became a symbol of God’s presence with the People of Israel. It became a symbol of God’s Grace – for it was the vessel which carried the Words of Life and Wisdom.

In the days when Samuel was a young boy, the Ark of the Covenant was kept inside a special tent – what they called a tabernacle – and this was in a town called Shiloh. God instructed the guardians of the Ark to follow it in righteousness and in spirit. The ark was not to be used for selfish motives.

The guardian of the Ark was an old fellow named Eli.

Samuel was an acolyte of sorts, and he slept on the floor near the Ark itself.

In today’s reading, the young Samuel hears the Word of God for the first time. The Word of God is said to be rare in those days, and of course Samuel is himself only a boy. Furthermore, the message he is given to repeat to the world is … harsh … and it has to do with his boss. Fearlessly, the boy tells Eli what God has said.

It’s not in today’s readings, but later on in the book of Samuel we see how the prophesy comes true. The leaders of Israel are corrupt. They misuse the authority God has given them, and the nation become weak. Philistines attack the Israelites, and out of fear for their security, Eli’s sons violate God’s will, and they take the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them – believing that it will somehow magically destroy the Philistines.

And this is where they sin. For Moses’ laws make it very clear that the Ark – the Word of God — is not to be used in this way – it is not to be wasted in selfishness and fear.

Eli’s sons use the Ark of God as if it were a weapon of last resort – in fear they turn to God’s Word as a kind of weapon of last resort — and this act of corruption backfires horribly upon them.

And the Israelites are be vanquished, and the Ark is stolen.

Like old-man Eli in First Samuel – you and I are also keepers of an ark. You and I are given an ark to protect. This ark we have is blessed to hold God’s grace. And this ark is your body, and mine. Your life, and mine. God has chosen us to be the vessels of His Word in this world of flesh and blood.

God cares what we do with our bodily vessels, and he cares that we use them to spread his Word – by what we say – but much more by what we do.

We are not called to satisfy our own wishes for security and comfort. Our bodies are not our own. No, they belong to the Body of Christ. And we are called to follow the Word and the Will of God. It is already inside your heart.

Jesus put it there for you.

Open up the Ark which God has tabernacled inside of you. Open it up, and witness the power God has placed within you. And when you hear God speaking to you – say to him, “Speak Lord, I am listening..” And then you will be a priest whose heart is fat with the contentment. Amen.

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