Exploring the Word:
Sermon – August 3rd 2014
8th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)
By Roland Legge
What an amazing story. Can you imagine being asked to feed about 10,000 people? Remember while the story says 5000 men, it also says there were women and children. So I would estimate there would have been a minimum of 10,000 people. Now that is a lot of people to feed with five loaves and two fish!
Can you imagine being one of the disciples asked to do this? I think I would tell Jesus that he is not being practical. So I would have gone along with the rest of the disciples asking the people to go into town to find their own food. Now that makes sense to me. What would you have done?
It doesn’t matter to me if this story was based on fact or whether it is a metaphor. The important point for me is that Jesus calls upon each of us to help bring in the Kingdom of Heaven. To change lives for the better. Sometimes it feels like I am being asked to do the impossible, kind of like trying to feed 10,000 people with five loaves and two fish. I say to Jesus you are not being reasonable. How can you expect me to make a difference in the world? Jesus says, that not unlike the story of the loaves and fishes, our faithful living is multiplied beyond anything we can imagine when we do the work of Christ. So while are our acts of justice, love and compassion may seem small and insignificant they do impact our world making it a better place.
If you think about it for a minute there are probably things you do in your life because Jesus has called you do so. I can think of things I do because I feel called by the Spirit to faithfulness. I am a minister when at one time of my life this seemed to be impossible because it was going to require me to do things I was not comfortable nor felt competent to do. Today, I feel called to learn and share the Enneagram, a very powerful spiritual tool, even though it requires me to go to school in my middle years of life. Something I had some fear of doing. This was a fear of failure. There are also people I feel compelled to connect with, even when if left to my own devices I wouldn’t bother to do because of my own prejudices. How has your faith influenced your choices in life?
I love this story by William H. Willimon who shares a story of him meeting a person in a place that he didn’t expect to meet him…
So I walked into a church in the inner-city. This church serves breakfast every morning of the week to people who are homeless. There they are, serving breakfast to around 150 of the homeless every day. Other churches pitch in to help them with this task. Still I’m surprised, when I walk in one morning and glance in the kitchen and see a man whom I had met elsewhere. I recognized him as a member of one of our city’s most affluent congregations. I spoke to him and he, looking up from the dishwater, spoke to me. I thought it was rather remarkable having a man like him, from a church like his, there, washing the dirty dishes of homeless people.
So I attempted to engage him in conversation. “I think it is great that you are here,” I said.
“I am glad that you think it is great,” he mumbled as he continued in his work.
“I am curious, have you always enjoyed ministry to the homeless?” I asked.
“Who said that I enjoyed this?” he replied. “Frankly, I mostly can’t stand the homeless people that I’ve met here.”
“Really?” I said.
“Have you sat down and talked with our guests here? A lot of them are homeless for a reason. A lot of them are half crazy,” he continued.
“Well I guess that makes it all the more remarkable that you are here, washing dishes for the homeless,” I said. “Why are you here?”
He looked up from his work at the sink, and said to me, with a tone of exasperation in his voice, “Because Jesus put me here. That’s why.” Then he continued in his work.
It’s a heck of a way to get the job done, but it’s uniquely Jesus’ way.
Isn’t it amazing what Jesus can get us to do! That Jesus can be so irritating!!
Jesus calls us over and over to change lives. To change our own lives. To inspire those around us to change their lives. To become more and more like who Jesus calls us to be. This is not easy work.
How are we changing lives through the ministry of Foam Lake United Church? In the weeks and months ahead Jesus is calling us as a congregation to focus on this. Isn’t transforming lives what we are really about? Too often congregations focus too much on keeping our organization and building going. We forget who we really are called to be. I invite each of you to pray and listen for what Jesus is calling us to be about. One thing some people will need to change is our expectation that people will come to us. We too are called like Jesus to go out of our building into the community to share the Good News in words and action that God has given us everything to live well.
In our culture we focus a lot on whether something we do is successful. I think we need to remember that Jesus was not focussed on success, but on faithfulness. As your minister there are a lot of things I do and I have no idea if it makes any difference. Also what the world considers signs of success such as money and power over, are not Jesus’ concerns. Jesus wants to know if we have been faithful. The Spirit calls on each of us to trust that the Spirit will take what we have offered and use it for the glory of God. We may not see the change because it was too subtle. We may not see the difference because it will be years before it is noticeable and probably happen after we have died. We need to have faith that God will multiply our love, sowing seeds of change around our world.
Christianity has moved in a full circle. We are coming back to our original purpose. Along the way we got sidetracked when we became part of the ruling/civic structure that put the emphasis on holding on to the status quo. Now more and more Christians and congregations are returning to the ancient way that says we are here as the faithful whether individually or as congregations to mend the world. This is never an easy change to make, but the rewards are amazing when dwindling congregations find new life in birthing love, peace and justice to all they meet and seek out.