Monday, August 01, 2005

a little extemporaneous preaching

I've reconstructed this sermon from some extemporaneous preaching yesterday at Shawnee. It was a wonderful day. On Saturday they had held a picnic in the park for anyone who came by, and they had hot dogs left over (hence the miracle of the hot dogs). I found out about it before the service, and it made the whole day so easy to connect to the readings. I sat in on their Adult study between services and what we talked about in there also connected to the Gospel and my sermon. Sometimes the Spirit is moving through and all you can do is get on board.

I'm very clear on most of what I said yesterday, but obviously this is not an exact replica of what was said.

Again, Tom Long's commentary on Matthew for WJK Press provided the initial insight this week. I'm finding that a very helpful resource this summer.

Proper 13A
Emmanuel, Shawnee
July 31, 2005

Can you put yourself in the place of Jesus’ first disciples? Can you imagine being one of those discples—one minute you’re sitting on the shore of Lake Galilee, trying to get the smell of fish off your hands before dinner, and the next minute you’re following this man, who has both an amazing presence but also seems a little bit crazy, up and down the hills of Galilee, healing people with diseases and demons, and telling these weird stories about the kingdom of God—stories we’ve been hearing over the past few weeks, about seeds, and weeds and wheat and baking bread.

And today, after a long day of teaching the crowds, just when you think he might send them all away so you can get some one-on-one time with him, and you make what seems like a sensible suggestion that he send the crowds away to get dinner, he looks at you and says, “you give them something to eat.”

Somehow between you come up with five loaves and a couple of fish, but surely that can’t be enough. And yet he takes, blesses, breaks the bread, and five thousand—wait, that’s not counting the women and children, so easily ten thousand or more, are fed.
It’s the miracle of the loaves and fishes (or is that the miracle of the hot dogs and buns?)

The church has gotten hung up over the years on the question of how did this miracle happen? Did people suddenly realize they had food on them and start to share? Or did something supernatural happen? But when we get hung up on that question we miss the point.

I’ve been a priest for a few years and Episcopalian for all my life, now longer than I care to admit. And I’ve been on the road quite a while now, and it seems to me the church is a lot like those disciples. We’re overwhelmed by the needs we see in the world and we want Jesus to fix it. Send them away. We don’t have enough resources. And yet Jesus says to us, “you give them something to eat.”

A couple of dioceses ago, I was on the diocesan ECW Board. And every year the board would raise $800 or $1000 for a worthy cause. And our summer board meeting was coming up, and Heifer Project was our cause for the next year. And I would be in the shower in the morning (notice that God’s voice sometimes comes through in the shower?) and this little voice would say to me, “you could raise more money than that.” Now I’m telling this story now to point out how good I am, but because it took an awful lot of mornings with that voice before I started to pay attention to it. So I went to the board meeting and said, “why don’t we raise $5000 for a gift ark for Heifer Project?” A gift ark is two of everything Heifer Project offers, two sheep, two goats, a hive of bees, etc. And because families pass on the livestock when they reproduce, hundreds of families can be touched by this gift.

We raised over $10,000, enough for two arks, in eight months. I thought we would only raise enough for one. And we raised another $10,000, for yet another group, the next year.

Why should we be surprised? Why don’t we trust in our God more? In a few moments we will come to the table for a meal, fed by one body, blessed and broken for us, that has fed us for two thousand years, and more to come.

When we take what we think are our meager resources, and offer them to God, things will happen beyond our wildest imagination. What resources are you holding on to, what can you offer, can you trust in what God can do?


At 2:39 AM, Blogger Lindsay said...

why do i love stewardship sermons so much....thank you.

At 5:39 AM, Anonymous Lorna said...

any chance you could post links to the lectionary readings and the commentary.

Our local church (though UMC) isn't liturgical and we don't use the lectionary. I can work out what Gospel reading it is ofcourse, but it would be most helpful.

I love the link you make between the miracle of the feeding from 'nothing' and how our budgets could be budgets of faith. Stepping out with what little we have is good, but expecting to be able to reach out with more is more in line with the God we serve.

At 7:56 AM, Blogger Emily said...

HI Lindsay and Lorna, thanks for the feedback. Lorna, I'll try to do a better job of posting the actual scripture. Tom Long's commentary is simply titled Matthew, and is part of a series by Westminster John Knox press. I haven't quite gotten the hang of all the HTML yet to make links, but I'm learning!

At 10:17 PM, Blogger Charlotte said...

Wonderful, wonderful! I missed church last weekend, so appreciate the chance to "hear" some preaching on one of my favorite gospel stories. (I'm all about the food.)

Lorna, here is a link to an online lectionary.

At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Lorna said...

Thanks Charlotte :)

At 8:10 AM, Blogger Emily said...

Thanks, Charlotte!


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