April 10, 2016
Psalm 30 and John 6:1-14 (NRSV)
Will you pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.
It was last Friday at about 1:30. I had looked up at the clock and a surge of anxiety set my heart racing. I realized I was almost out of time! I had only two more hours before I needed to pick up Mark and head north to our all church retreat. It was 1:30 and I still had lots to do. I realized I needed to pick up the pace if I was going to get everything ready in time. So I began zooming around the office, pulling together the supplies that we would need, copying materials, and putting the finishing touches on the session I would lead.
Then it hit me. Here I was preparing for our time away — A time for rest and renewal and yet the manner in which I was preparing for the retreat was anything but restful and renewing. Instead of moving with peace and calm, I was running around fueled by anxiety. Instead of feeling grateful for the upcoming time together whose whole purpose was to help us to slow down, take some much needed time and rest, I was fretting.
And then… you can see it coming right? And then, I started to chastise myself and feel badly for this gap between how I was and how I wanted to be. I wanted to be serene and calm and yet I felt tossed about.
This was my story last Friday. I was caught up in feeling like I did not have enough time and that I was not enough of who and how I wanted to be.
But this story of “not enough” is not mine alone.
“Not enough” is the water in which we swim. It is the air we breathe. “Not enough” defines our age. Scarcity defines our time. It frames our reality and it is the lens through which interpret ourselves and our world. Turn on the news or open the paper and it is there. Listen to what people are saying and you will hear it. There is just not enough….
Call it out.
There is not enough what? _______________________
Time, money, love, support, food, clean water, energy, tolerance, hope…
Or let’s take it a bit closer to our hearts, “I am not _________”what” _______ enough? Call it out. Not …. Patient enough, loving enough, smart enough, committed enough, thin enough, strong enough, generous enough, disciplined enough. Faithful enough, organized enough.
Now what makes this message of scarcity so pernicious, this message of “not enough” so powerful is that to some degree it is true. I was running out of time last Friday. That was real. And it is real that many in our world do not have enough. Scarcity is real. People do not have enough access to healthy food, clean water, and fresh air. People do not have enough access to medical care, enough safety, and quality education. The air is filled with the groaning of so many who truly do not have enough.
But the problem arises not in that there are places of scarcity but the problem arises in how we are conditioned to respond to scarcity. If we are to address and resolve the problems of scarcity in our lives and in our time, we need to expose and resolve the paralyzing emotions that scarcity elicits in us and that in turn feed and perpetuate scarcity. And those emotions are fear and shame.
Scarcity remains to the degree that we are unwilling or unable to move beyond fear and shame and engage in what will be the remedy of scarcity and that is imaginative, generative, inspired envisioning and action.
And that is where the Gospel comes in. I think what made Jesus such a powerfully transformative presence in so many people’s lives and in the life of the world is that he had no time for fear. He had no time for shame. He had moved through and beyond the grips of fear and shame and invited all he encountered to do the same. And it is on the far side of fear and shame that the good work of transforming scarcity into having and being enough begins.
Let’s enter the scripture for today:
There were over five thousand people. They were hungry and time was running out. It was late. If something was not done quickly. I imagine Phillip, Andrew and the rest were a bit anxious if not down-right afraid at the great need before them. And when Jesus asked if they had the resources to feed the crowd, I imagine they felt ashamed that they just did not have enough or perhaps were not enough. If Jesus had called them to follow him and entrusted his ministry to them shouldn’t they be able to handle it? Shouldn’t they be—what? ___________ competent enough, smart enough, disciplined enough? And yet here they were confronted with a situation that was beyond them.
Phillip steps in offers a perfectly reasonable solution, let them fend for themselves. But Jesus has a different idea. Phillip offered what very likely may have been a fear based solution, yet Jesus counters with a faith based response. And what happens? Whether you understand the feeding in the scripture today to be a miracle like the manna in Exodus that rained down to satisfy a people in need, or whether you understand the miracle to be an invitation of generosity and hope that moved people to sharing the little that they had, that day, there on the hill side – However you understand it, scarcity was transformed into abundance. Not enough became, more than enough
It began with a child who saw a need and simply gave what he or she could. And that set it all in motion. The needs of our time will be resolved to the degree that we too come together and offer what we have. Not out of fear and not out of shame but out of love and hope. Love and hope have a multiplying effect whereas fear and shame kill and stifle. Where love and hope abide fear and shame cannot dwell and where fear and shame do not dwell the resolution of scarcity will arise.
And here is where we come in. Not you and me but us. Here in our life together we engage in what is truly a counter cultural practice of saying no to fear and no to shame. We come into this place, hearing the words “you are beloved!” Hearing the words “fear not.” We come into this community practicing what it is to release fear and shame as we pass the peace, and as we greets each other at the door, and as we hold each other as we pray. Here we learn to set down fear and shame and practice what it is to take up hope and love. And when we do? What happens? We too discover that there is enough and we are enough.
Today we enter into our stewardship campaign. It is a time when we each get to live into the miracle of abundance. Stewardship is the time when we get to practice the unencumbered giving of that child in scripture today. The child that recognized that what he or she had could help contribute to the thriving of all. That what he or she had to give was enough to help make it possible for all to have enough.
So let this church be a place where fear and shame have no footing and where instead we encounter the transformative power of love and hope. Let us share freely the gifts that we are and the gifts that we bring so that this place may be a gift to all who walk through those doors. Let this church be a place where all know that they are enough and that there is enough for all. May it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen