Sermon for 8/31/14 Matthew 16:21-28

I am fiercely independent. If you haven’t figured that out about me by now well then, my big secret is out. I like to try and do as much by myself as possible and asking for help is uncomfortable for me. For some reason, I think that asking for help means that I am weak and I hate this idea. It’s not usually until I am close to drowning that I realize I’ve taken on too much, my boat is sinking, that I usually reach out and ask for help. I wait until it is almost too late. And I don’t know why I do this. It’s not like I gain some kind of reward for this type of attitude. In fact, the only thing that usually happens when I try to take on too much without asking for help is that I get irritable, snarky, and pretty much all around unpleasant to be around. Why would I want to expose anyone to this? I could save myself the headache by asking for help from the beginning. Now, I am getting better in knowing when and how to ask for help. But, I sometimes find myself slipping quite easily into my old habits. Now, I am sure that none of you do this, right?

I think what it comes from is the hope, the desire, the longing, to appear in control. Everything in our lives are built around the principle that we desire to put off the perception that not only are we the ones in control, but we are in control of a fabulous life! After all, the commercials, print advertisements, even radio advertisements would have us think that if we are not amazing, fabulous, and in control then certainly our lives must be horrible and lacking and wouldn’t a new car fix all of those problems?? Many of you know that I love social media (things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like). I find it to be a great ministry tool. However, these outlets allow us to expose what we only choose to expose. It is very easy to live a perfect life when you only expose half truths.

What I mean by that is that we don’t always tell people the dirty stuff in our lives. A few weeks ago, I talked about how we automatically answer “how are you?” with “fine” without even thinking and without admitting that “fine” may be pretty far from the truth. On the internet, it is easy to appear to be something you are not. Here is an example from someone who is my friend on Facebook. She writes “dinner stewing in the crockpot, the children are playing quietly together, the laundry is finished, hubby is napping, and I’m just about ready to settle down to another amazing chapter of my Bible! I love my perfect little life.” And I want to say “oh just stop it! We all know the truth!” And I am sure I am just as guilty of it myself. It is all an attempt to remain in control, remain in charge, and remain independent. I know this probably won’t surprise a lot of you, but this is all pretty much opposite of what Jesus asks of us.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” I hear this and I want to respond “but Jesus, if I deny myself that means I am not the one in charge!” And it’s as if I can hear Jesus laughing and responding at the same time “exactly!” I hear this and I want to say to Jesus “but Jesus, if I deny myself, that means that I will be risking people finding out that I have scars, that I have issues, that I have troubles, that I am, in fact, not perfect.” And again, it’s as if i can hear Jesus laughing and responding at the same time “exactly!” Being a follower of Christ, being a disciple, as all of us are called to do, is actually counter-cultural to everything we know. Being a follower of Jesus means that we need to get into the very difficult habit of realizing that we are not the ones in charge.

I share a lot of my personal experiences with you all for a few reasons: 1) I believe in being as open and honest as possible with you. Yes, I am a Pastor, but that doesn’t mean I am perfect. And 2) I want you to learn from my mistakes. Here’s the thing, there was a time in my life where I pretty much let God know that I was going to make a go of things by myself. I didn’t outright say “there is no God” but my faith life lacked in a major way. I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t going to church, and my actions were very far from someone who might be labeled as a “disciple.” I really thought I knew better for my life than God did. So, off I went. And while I will spare you the nitty-gritty details, I’ll just say this: it didn’t go well. I was in college at the time. My grades were horrible; my behavior was destructive to my physical, emotional, and mental well being; and my attitude was one of party now, serious stuff later. It was terrible. Things were going so well for me (sarcastic) when I was the one in charge of my life.

Now, I pray that you haven’t had an experience like this, but if you have, you know how humbling it can be. Friends, there is only one Lord, and we are not him. There is a reason we come back to this place week after week. There is a reason we sit, Bibles open, reading and praying as often as we do. There is a reason that we come to the table hungry and to the font longing to be cleaned. The opportunity to encounter the risen Lord, the opportunity to encounter God in all of God’s glory, the opportunity to be infiltrated with the Holy Spirit is just too tempting an offer to miss. I have asked you this before, but I ask you again, when we pray “thy will be done” do we mean it?

These words are dangerous but they are the first step in starting to deny yourself. They are the first step in reminding ourselves that we are disciples of the one who loves us so much that he would be nailed to a cross so that we never have to feel the pain and suffering of hell. “Thy will be done” sounds good when we say it, but when we put it into action, it can be difficult if not impossible. When you deposit your paycheck, do you do so saying “thy will be done?” When you sit with a loved one who is sick or dying, do you do so believing “thy will be done?” When you plant in the spring time, do you put your seeds in the planter while saying “thy will be done?” It’s not as easy when we try to put it into action.

My brothers and sisters, being people of God means that we are people of God 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It means we are people of God in times of joy and in times of sorrow. It means we are people of God in times of plenty and in times of want. It means we are people of God when we are well and when we’re not well. Christ doesn’t ask us to deny ourselves as some sort of form of punishment. Christ asks us to deny ourselves because when we start to weed out all the junk and noise in our lives, it allows us to draw closer to the one thing that can actually give us life.

I want to give you a task this week; homework if you will. I want you to choose an everyday activity that you do but before you do it, I want you to just take a brief moment, close your eyes, and say to yourself or out loud, “thy will be done.” And I want you to see if you perform that task any differently. If you’re really up for a challenge, call me, text me, or email me and let me know how you incorporated this into your everyday lives this week. Letting Christ be in control of your life is not a sign of weakness; in fact, it is the ultimate sign of strength.

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Sermon for 8/24/14 Matthew 16:13-20

Who do you say I am? Jesus asks us a simple question that couldn’t be more complicated if he tried. I’ve thought about this question all week long. And maybe you would think as someone who basically is paid to tell people about Jesus that the answer would come to me quite easily. Truth be told, sometimes answering the question “who do you say I am” is like answering the question “what does the color blue smell like?” And sure, when I confess that “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth” I believe it! But, what in the world are we saying? And so I thought and thought about what it might mean to try and tell someone about Jesus; someone who maybe had never heard of Jesus (for whatever reason). Who would I tell them Jesus is; what would my personal confession be?

At the same time, I’ll be honest with you friends, I’ve been struggling this week. See, in my preaching class at seminary we were taught that you should write your sermons with your Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Now, with the diminishing life of newspapers, I often write with the Bible in one hand and the internet news outlets or my twitter feed in the other. And many times this week (probably too many) I sat in disbelief as I continued to watch the unraveling of a city that looked, at times, like a war zone. And this city wasn’t in Iraq, Syria, Israel, or Palestine. This city is in Missouri.

If you haven’t been watching the news let me sum it up for you as best I can. Almost 2 weeks ago, an 18 year old African American male named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer (who is white). A lot of conflicting information has come out since. Surveillance showing that Mike stole cigars from a gas station–or did he? Reports that Officer Darren Wilson gave warnings and felt provoked–or did he? What has followed has been daily and nightly protests and conversations surrounding race and race relations in this country. And I wonder, in the midst of all of this, who do we say that Jesus is?

If I say that Jesus is God’s love letter to us (which in a way, I believe he was) what does that mean in the midst of so much pain and suffering? If I say that Jesus is the one who comes to take away the sins of the world, why are we still having conversations surrounding race? If I say that Jesus will make all things and people equal, how can I say that while still reading that 1 in every 15 African American males will end up in prison versus 1 in 106 white males? How can I confess that Jesus is the Lord of justice when almost 46% of black children (under the age of 6) live in poverty versus 14% of white children?

Maybe you can understand why I struggled this week. See, because before Ferguson, I lived in a bubble. I knew that we had issues surrounding race, poverty, and economic injustice, but those were in places like LA, Miami, Detroit, or New York City. My home state of Missouri was best known for…um…well, maybe Branson. (Although lately, I’d like to think we’re known for the amazing winning streak the Royals are on.) And the more and more I read about the situation in Ferguson the more I realize that this could have easily happened in Clinton. Let’s not kid ourselves, brothers and sisters. Issues surrounding race, poverty, and economic injustice are just as alive and well 10 miles down the road. And so I struggle. Who do I say that Jesus is?

And then I thought of Kyrie. This sweet little boy who is so innocent. He, much like many of the other younger members of this congregation hopefully know nothing about Ferguson. He knows nothing about race issues, or poverty, or economic injustice. The only color he is partial too is most likely green (I’m guessing). What he knows of Jesus and who Jesus is will be promised to him in these waters today. Today he will be claimed as God’s beloved, belonging to God for eternal life. I don’t want to speak for Kyrie (because he doesn’t know that many words) but perhaps if he could speak he would just say that Jesus is “papa.” And our desire, so often, is to keep our children shielded and protected from the evil and hate in the world (and rightfully so). But we know that we can’t be with our children at all times and so we teach them right from wrong and pray for the best. However, when our children first learn about the darkness that exists in the world, who will they say that Jesus is? Who will Kyrie say that Jesus is?

Your assignment this week is to ask yourself “who do you say Jesus is?” Then, when you figure out your answer, think about how you see the world through that answer. If I say that Jesus is my savior who died on a cross to forgive my sins then that means I need to be better at forgiving myself. If I was created in God’s image then that means so was Mike Brown and so was Officer Wilson and in the kingdom of heaven we are all seen as equals. My life is no more valuable than Michael Brown’s life. And Michael Brown’s life is no more valuable than mine. If I say that Jesus is love then that means hate will eventually have no say in this world. If I say that Jesus is a God of justice then hate and economic injustice are not gods, no matter how much people attempt to worship them.

If I say that Jesus accompanies those on the margins, then poverty is not god, no matter how hard we attempt to place people in poverty and keep them there. My brothers and sisters, when you start to see the world through the saving and redeeming action of the cross, you start to see that there is no room for inequality, injustice, hate, and fear. Do we need to have conversations surrounding white privilege? Desperately. Do we need to have conversations surrounding poverty, race, and inequality? You betcha. But when we start with the basic working principle that Jesus died on the cross for everyone, with no exceptions; and when we start with the principle that Jesus loves everyone, with no exceptions; and when we start with the principle that we are all made in God’s image and that we are all worthy in God’s eyes, then the conversations seem to get a little easier.

These waters that will splash Kyrie today once splashed you too. Kyrie has been called and claimed by God and so have you. The pain and the hurt in this world are very real. We long for Jesus and we long for a time when he will return to banish all of the sin, pain, and hurt in this world. But for now, we get a brief encounter with Jesus in these waters. Who do I say that Jesus is? Hope, love, forgiveness, welcome, promise, grace. Who do you say Jesus is?

Sermon for 8/17/14 Matthew 15: 10-28

We are creatures of habit, you and I. There is something strangely familiar and a little comforting about routine. Many of us can probably do many things throughout the day without thinking about every single step it takes. One of the things I can do without engaging much (if any) of my brain is making my morning coffee. This is a good thing that I don’t need my brain for this because I feel like I don’t start functioning without my coffee. But we all have these things in our lives. I’ve even talked with people who say things like “I was on my way to such and such and missed the turn completely because my car is so used to going to that other place.” Our habits are what keep us going. Our habits are what keep us sane. Our habits give us comfort and familiarity.

The only thing that could disrupt this little happy habit nirvana is a little 6 letter word that strikes fear into the hearts of man, woman, and child. CHANGE. I feel like if this were a dramatic or suspenseful movie, this is where the music would play “dum-dum-duuuummmmm.” Not change! Anything but that!

And I could put on my best pastor voice and say “but change is good! Change is healthy!” But most will, inevitably, want to curl up in a ball, have a good cry, and complain “I don’t want to change!” Maybe I’m over exaggerating.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know change is hard. In some certain circumstances change is actually a bad thing. Chris and I have dear friends from seminary and their teenage son has high functioning autism. However, change is one of the worst things that could happen to this young man; it leads to a major meltdown. If you have a loved one with memory issues like alzheimer’s or dementia, a routine may be keeping them safe and so change is out of the question.

But for the rest of us, whether we like it or not, change does and will happen. Whether we like it or not. There seems to be this idea that Lutherans are known for despising change. I’ll let you in on a little secret here, friends. We don’t have the market cornered on despising change. Remember our silent enemy “WADITW” or “we’ve always done it that way?” He doesn’t just live here. WADITW takes up residence at every church. And again, it can be completely life giving. There is something to be said about tradition. At the same time, encouraging something to live means letting other things die. Sometimes we have to let go of the identity we have in order to fully live into the identity that God is calling us to.

Believe it or not, Jesus was a man of habit too. You only need to read the Bible to see that he did a lot of the same things: fed people, cured people, taught people. These weren’t bad habits, obviously. But, since he was both human AND divine, it’s easy to see how he would be a creature of habit, just like us. The Canaanite woman comes to Jesus, begging, we can assume, for her daughter (who is tortured by a demon) to be cured. And while she doesn’t ask for her daughter to be cured, I doubt anyone would have shared that kind of information with Jesus and not expect him to cure whomever was ailing.

And Jesus’ first reaction wasn’t “sure, whatever you ask for” but instead “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” What Jesus could have been saying was “helping you might mean I have to change who I am helping and I’m not a huge fan of change.” Was Jesus testing the woman? Was he testing those around him? We will never know. We only know what was said. The woman was Canaanite, Jesus told her he only helps those from Israel. It would be like going to Genesis in DeWitt and being told “we only take patients that live in DeWitt.” But this woman is persistent. She begs him again “Lord, help me.” To her credit she was persistent. This woman challenges Jesus to change. That’s pretty bold. Maybe, just maybe we need that challenge too.

I love stories about how churches welcome new visitors. Now, I know this would never happen here, so it’s okay if we laugh at this. But, a visitor will come along and take a seat. Then the regular church member will come to the same pew and the visitor will say “hello, I’m new, my name is such and such” and the regular church member will usually respond with “hi. You’re in my pew.” That really doesn’t make someone feel welcome.

Sometimes the same discussions surround helping others in our community. We are often leary, and we have a right to be, of course. What if someone tries to take advantage of us? What if we help this one person or organization and they tell others that we help…then we’ll be overwhelmed with requests for assistance? I will say it again, brothers and sisters. In order to grow into who God is calling us to be, we have to let other pieces of us die. That means that we may be called to serve people or communities that we’ve never served before. But, if that is what God is calling us to then are we dare going to say “no” to God?

Change means serving those undocumented children who cross the border from war torn countries hoping just to find a meal and a place to sleep that isn’t bullet ridden from gang violence. Change means serving those whose darkness we can’t even imagine; people who, like Robin Williams, have thoughts of self harm all too often. Change means serving our veterans, whether we agree with the war or not. Change means serving those who don’t look like us; like unarmed African American teenagers like Mike Brown. Change means being willing to literally tear down walls and make room for the mission that God is calling us to. Change means we say “I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I’m willing to give it a try.”

We can’t be afraid to change. Jesus was challenged and he changed. We have our own set of challenges here that are not unlike the challenges that other congregations face. We have a smaller number of young people involved. We have many of the same people doing the same jobs over and over. But, at the same time, we are also trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead us where we need to go. This is a great time to be the church. We have the ability to accomplish things that government organizations and other non-profits can’t: we bring Christ to people. We are God’s hands and feet in this world. We are bread and wine for a hungry world. We are good news in a world that hears nothing but bad news constantly. We can tell of salvation for a world that desperately needs saved. We can be a place of welcome for those who are lost. We can be a place of shelter for those who need it. We can be listening ears for the hurt.

Change doesn’t have to be some kind of gigantic boulder. It can be as small as a crumb under the table that the dog would normally eat. Trust me, if you bend, you won’t break.

Sermon for 8/10/14; Matthew 14:22-33

How many times a day do we ask someone or get asked “how are you?” If you are in a busy workplace, you may get asked this question several times a day. But, if you spend the majority of your time alone in the office (or on the farm) you may not run into anyone throughout the day (like what happens to me on occasion). But, nonetheless, we seem to use the phrase “how are you?” without much thought. It has almost become as second nature and complacent as “hello.” And the response, almost always, without fail is “good” followed normally by “how are you” with the same response. And then we go about our days. When was the last time you either 1) took the time to ask this question and wait for a response other than “I’m good”?” Or 2) you answered honestly?

I’m not asking you to answer out loud, but think about how you might honestly answer when someone asks you “how are you?” What would you tell them? Would you tell someone that you’re well–because you really are feeling well. Or maybe you’d just say you’re well because you don’t feel like going into it right now. Maybe you would be honest and say “I’m tired” because you are. But then maybe again, you’d answer “I’m good” because you don’t need more suggestions on what to do for a better night’s sleep when what you need for a better night’s sleep is an infant that will sleep through the night. Maybe that’s just me.

Would you answer “I’m hungry” because although you’ve had your fill of food this morning at breakfast, your soul is hungering for something and you just can’t seem to put your finger on what your soul needs. Or would you answer “I’m good” because you don’t want someone to try and feed you more food? When someone says “how are you?” would you respond honestly with “I’m lost” because you are? Maybe you’re lost because you’re grieving the death of a loved one. Maybe you’re lost because you’re stuck in a job you don’t like but you can’t afford to be without the pay or benefits. Or, maybe you’re lost because you are feeling like your marriage is failing but knowing how to fix it is almost impossible. Or would you just respond “I’m good” because you fear someone would respond with “you’re lost?!? What can I help you find??”

I have a theory–and it’s just a theory, so I’m willing to entertain the fact that I could be wrong about this. When someone asks us “how are you” we automatically respond with “I’m good” because we don’t want people to know any different. We don’t want to give people the idea that our lives are anything but perfect. It’s like having a house with beautiful landscaping only to have the inside of the house infested with mice. As long as the outside looks good, no one will have any idea what is going on in the inside. It’s the same with us. If we answer “I’m good” no one will know, or find out, what demons we are battling. Because here’s the thing, we seem to think that if people find out we’re not perfect then that could ruin everything. And then what?

So, I want to give you a challenge today, my brothers and sisters, I want you to start answering honestly. And I want you to know that I am taking this challenge myself and it’s not going to be easy. See, this is a little weird, but follow me here. If any of you ask me “how are you” and I answer “I’m good” it’s because I don’t want you to worry about me. I don’t feel like you should do that. I am your pastor, I should be worrying about you. I don’t want you to think that I am unable to be your pastor just because things are not well in my life. So, I answer “I’m good” out of habit. I think it is similar to asking your doctor the same question. You doctor doesn’t want you to be concerned about the job he or she is doing so they would probably respond with “I’m good” because they’re supposed to be taking care of you, not the other way around. Yes, our challenge is this: start answering honestly. And if we’re going to start answering honestly, let’s also take the time to hear the response to “how are you” instead of rushing to the next thing. And if we’re really going to take the time to stop and listen, let’s resist the urge to “fix” the other person.

This is a big challenge, I’m giving you, isn’t it? Don’t worry, you’re not doing this alone. I am going to try doing this more myself. And why? Why should it even matter? What will change in the world if we start answering “how are you” with honesty instead of trying to cover things up? We may not be able to change the entire world, but we might make some small changes in the world around us. See, the disciples were in a boat that was more than just rocking. These were waves that could have easily over-taken them. The disciples really were just one bad wave from drowning; I think some of us may know how that feels.

Then, in their darkest hour, literally, the darkest hour (it was probably somewhere between 2am and 5am) Jesus appears. They were tired, they were scared, they thought they were seeing ghosts. They were in a dark place and Jesus was there. And Jesus speaks to the disciples, “do not be afraid, I am here.” See, Jesus had sent them out into the ocean, perhaps even out into the storm. And here he is to assure the disciples, and us, that he is with them; there is no need to be afraid.

Now, I want to make it very clear here, brothers and sisters, that Jesus does not make really terrible things happen in our lives so that we may know him more or so that we may know him better. What I want you to know is that Jesus makes it okay to say or feel more than “I’m fine” because it’s in the darkness that Jesus finds us. It’s easy for us to see Jesus in the light. But, in the darkness, when we think we’re seeing ghosts or perhaps we’re battling demons, Jesus is there too.

When you are at your lowest point, Jesus is there. When you are at your highest point, Jesus is there. When you’re just average, Jesus is there too. It is when we are honest with ourselves, and everyone around us in expressing how we are that we allow Christ to shine through. Because we were made by God, in God’s image, and God didn’t mess up. When we claim what we are, we claim whose we are. When we claim what we are, we also claim that we are not the ones in charge. When we claim what we are, we also claim that what defines us is something as simple as 1 man, 2 boards, and 3 nails.

How am I? I am tired, honestly. We’ve been sleep training Ellen and it has its ups and downs. How am I? I am feeling a bit more stressed than usual. Chris goes back to school soon and he will start musical rehearsal soon, which means I will take a lot more of the parenting responsibility on myself. How am I? I’m worried. I’m worried about our budget. I’m worried about attendance. I’m worried about the people who are members that I haven’t met yet. Now, I’m not worried about any of these things because there is something wrong with them, but I am worried about them because it is something all pastors worry about, trust me. How am I? Not alone. How are you?

Sermon for 8/3/14; Matthew 14:13-21

I make no mistake in thinking that I am blessed. I am reminded daily that I am living better than many people in the world. Now, I say this not to sound haughty like “look at me! Aren’t I awesome?!” but to say that I am not blind to the fact that I have every day resources available at my fingertips. I turn on the faucet and not only do I get clean water, it’s whatever temperature I want. If I’m hot, I can turn up the ac. If I’m cold, I can turn it off or I have my pick of several blankets with which to cuddle up. My biggest problem really is which one of my 100 plus channels will I watch tonight? I have food in my refrigerator, food in my freezer, and food in my pantry. If none of that satisfies me, I could easily go out and grab something. In so many aspects, I am blessed. I am able to afford the medication I need. I am working a job I love with people I love in a place I love. I live in a beautiful home that I don’t even pay for. This is not exactly Robin Leech type stuff, but I really do feel like I live a life that some might classify as “rich and famous.”

Don’t get me wrong, we have our troubles. We have car repairs, doctor bills, and don’t even get me started on student loans. But really, we are blessed. And it’s easy to read the newspaper and watch the news and see stories of hunger and think “oh those poor people” and keep cutting into my steak. But the fact is that “those poor people” are not just overseas in countries affected by war and drought. They are here. Right in the United States, right in Clinton County, right in Elvira, Goose Lake, Commanche, Charlotte, and Andover. You only need to be here on the second Tuesday of the month to know that the idea of working poor and food insecurity is a real thing. We currently feed around 30 families or so through our food pantry. 30 families–not 30 people. 30 families. Here are some more sobering statistics:

*  in 2012, 14% of people in Clinton County were classified as “food insecure.” That means that “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.”  Acceptable shorthand terms for food insecurity are “hungry, or faced with the threat of hunger.” Food insecurity can also accurately be described as ‘a financial juggling act, where sometimes the food ball gets dropped.’”

*  Among low income families, sometimes the basic necessities get put off or delayed. For example, 64% of low income families reported skipping or delaying paying utility bills. 74% reported skipping washing dishes or doing laundry. Among these same low income families, 4 out of 5 families who could not afford these basic necessities were also found to be food insecure.

*  The Clinton school district is 9th in the state for free and reduced lunch. And according to research, Clinton county is in the top 10 counties of people who are food insecure.

*  The statistics are even more sobering if you are Hispanic (⅓ of Hispanic households with children has experienced a food insecurity) or if you live in a rural area (20% of rural households with children is food insecure).

*  In 2011, the average SNAP (formerly known as the food stamp program) benefit was $133.85 per person per month, or less than $1.46 a meal. That means the average family of 4 would need to budget to feed themselves dinner for $5.84.

 

I don’t tell you these things to make you depressed, although maybe that is how you’re feeling now. I think it is important to talk about hunger when we have this scripture in front of us of Jesus feeding 5000. Now, let’s look at that again. Yes, it is Jesus that multiplies the fishes and loaves so that all may eat, but this wasn’t a miracle, friends. This is what Jesus did and who Jesus was. It is almost as if we should EXPECT Jesus to do this. But, read the text again. Let’s start at verse 15 “When it was evening, the disciples came to him [Jesus] and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’” Now, I want to pause right here and say that the disciples were really trying to be logical, most likely. “Look Jesus, it’s late, there’s nothing here, these people are probably hungry so let’s send everyone home.” And “Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’” YOU give them something to eat. It’s as if Jesus responded, “this is a problem for all of us!”

Let me put this into a context that we might hear in a conversation surrounding hunger in our current day. The disciples (that might be us, by the way) might say “well, those people need to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” And then Jesus would respond “how can they do that when they can’t even afford boots?! Those people, who by the way, are my people too, aren’t even wearing shoes.” The miracle here, friends, wasn’t that Jesus fed hungry people. As I said before, this is just what Jesus does. What the miracle was here is the way he chose to go about feeding these hungry people. Jesus responded simply “you give them something to eat.” God’s work, our hands.

Let’s be honest here, brothers and sisters. I know that it just is easier sometimes to turn a blind eye. I have been guilty of it myself. I think (perhaps even a little too often) “oh, someone else will take care of that problem.” But here is the harsh reality. We were all created in God’s image. All of us, with no exceptions. When we turn a blind eye, refuse to help be part of the solution, or just think that someone else will take care of it, we are denying God. Ouch. That stings a bit, doesn’t it?

At the same time, I know that the problem of hunger is very large. There is no way that we can conquer it all. I understand that. And I don’t think that God asks us to conquer these problems on our own. Being aware of the issues is the first step. If you can’t afford to donate towards the cause, donate your time. Call our representatives and let them know how important the issues of hunger are to you as a Christian. If you have the time, see if Rich and Nancy will let you tag along next time they go down to the food bank.

When we are fed at this table, it’s not enough to be fed and walk away thinking “gee that was nice.” We are fed by God, with the body and blood of Christ so that we can go and be Christ to other people. Communion isn’t a snack time. Communion is grace. We need to, no, we are expected to show this grace towards other people; “other people” who belong to Christ just as much as we do. In the kingdom of heaven, no one will go hungry. There will be no such thing as people dying because of hunger or lack of water. There will be no such thing as food stamps or WIC. But we’re living in an already but not yet world. God makes Christ known to us already in the breaking of the bread. But the kingdom has not yet come.

This table is set. Come hungry. Come anxious. Come willing. Then leave so full and stuffed that the only logical response is to share this grace with others. This meal is waiting–you feed people.