Pentecost +10

The mid 80’s was a golden era for television, at least by some standards. Three of my favorite shows, favorites of 10 year old boys everywhere (and boys of every age, really), were the Dukes of Hazzard, CHiPs, and the A-Team, which was deemed to violent (or violently stupid) in my house, so I used to watch it in reruns with my sister’s father-in-law. One commercial that ran on a practical loop during that time was the Vicks44 commercial, the one with “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.”

“The original commercial first aired in 1984…the actor in question was Chris Robinson, who portrayed Dr. Rick Webber on the daytime drama General Hospital from 1978 until 1986. The ad campaign was successful enough that the Vicks execs re-cast it in 1986 (with All My Children’s Peter Bergman, aka Dr. Cliff Warner) after Robinson was convicted of income tax evasion in 1985.”1

Apparently, playing a doctor on TV was enough to make two ridiculously handsome soap opera actors credible experts in treating one’s cough and cold symptoms. Vicks sold a lot of cough medicine, once again proving not that people fall for actors as doctors, but that people want to put their faith in something, or someone, that they can trust.

Faith is a word that “appears often in the Bible and is frequently mentioned by believers. As with all words and with human language itself, meaning derives basically and primarily from the society that uses the word. In the United States, faith or belief has a strong intellectual character. It is considered primarily to be an act of the mind.

“Furthermore, faith usually indicates (to Americans) that a person believes something or someone on the basis of authority. Thus, any person, including an actor or impostor, who wears a white laboratory coat with a stethoscope tucked into its pocket is thought to be “believable.”

(But) In the Middle Eastern world, the words “faith”; “belief”; “fidelity”; and “faithfulness” describe the social glue that binds one person to another person. These are not acts of the mind so much as sentiments that spring from the heart, the seat of thought in Middle Eastern psychology.

“These terms really describe the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted values known as loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. John underlines this aspect (rather than the intellectual one) by his favorite phrase: “believing in” or “into” Jesus.

“In today’s episode, people come looking for Jesus but for the wrong reason: they don’t want to miss out if he is going to offer more to eat (having just been fed by five loaves and two fish). Given the subsistence diet on which first century peasants lived, one might say Jesus was very insensitive to scold them for seeking him because he fed them. Jesus tried to move their thoughts from perishable food to that which “endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give to you?” Yet it is difficult to think lofty thoughts when one’s stomach growls from hunger.”2

So much of what we do as a people, as Christians, as a community, as a nation, is to combat the problem of hunger. Through preparing meals, giving to the Good Neighbor Food Pantry, and my discretionary fund, we do a lot to combat hunger in our own community. But as Mother Teresa said,

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.”

Jesus addresses this poverty today, reminding us that He wants us, loves us, cares for us, feeds us with the Bread of Life, His own Body and Blood. He claims loyalty, commitment, solidarity with us, Emmanuel, God with us, the Word made flesh and dwelling with us, and in return we do the work of God, claiming the faith, the loyalty, commitment, and solidarity with Jesus.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, but trust me on this one.

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