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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service; click on the video camera icon.
July 25, 2021
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Grace and peace to you from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Many of you know that a group of youth and adults from our congregation will be building a Tiny Home this week on our campus. The materials were delivered last week; we’re commissioning the group at the end of the service today. And the build begins tomorrow morning.
When it’s completed, the home will be picked up and taken to a storage yard, and it will ultimately become part of a Tiny Home Village, a community that helps people transition from homelessness into permanent housing.
I spent a couple of minutes looking at the materials after they were delivered, and there isn’t a lot there. It looked like a couple of stacks of building materials, but not enough to do anything with. Almost like a pile of neatly stacked scraps that are left over from another construction project.
But those “scraps” will become a space for someone to live for a time as they figure out what’s next. It will be a place of safety and security. It will be a place where they can experience abundance – an abundance of friendship and care and love from people who will work with them and help them navigate an incredibly complex system to get them back on their feet.
For many of us sitting here, it’s easy to take that abundance for granted. But abundance, specifically God’s abundance, is the lens through which we’re challenged to live our lives.
The story of Jesus feeding the crowd is the only miracle story that’s recorded in all four Gospels. The details are a little different in each one, but the overall event is the same: a crowd of people follows Jesus to a place where the amount of food needed to feed them isn’t really available; Jesus blesses the little bit of food that is available; everyone eats and is satisfied, and there are leftovers.
The leftovers are essentially scraps, but the disciples collected twelve baskets-full of those scraps. Enough for several more meals. The only thing that can be said about the event is that it’s a miracle, pure and simple.
But what’s different about this particular telling of the miracle is that, in John’s gospel, this event is the Lord’s Supper – the meal we celebrate when we receive Holy Communion. In the other Gospels, that meal takes place on the night Jesus was handed over to the authorities – at what was the end of his life.
But in this Gospel, the Lord’s Supper takes place in the middle of Jesus’ life, and he’s hosting an event of abundance.
When Jesus asks Philip where they might buy bread for the crowd, he answers with a very logical, human response: “Six month’s wages wouldn’t be enough…” And he’s probably right. But Jesus sees possibility in even just a couple pieces of fish and some small loaves of cheap bread.
Jesus took that little bit of food, gave thanks and blessed it, and the people in the crowd ate and were satisfied, and there was food left over. With Jesus, “not enough” is never the right answer – “abundance” is. Abundance is at the heart of his ministry, and its what continued it beyond the immediate events.
We talk about God’s abundance a lot. But the miracle of Jesus feeding the crowd challenges us to live our lives through the lens of God’s abundance – to trust it completely, and live in response to it.
And that can be hard. We know that perspective pushes back against the mindset of scarcity that sometimes has a vice-grip on us and the way we interact with the world. We’re led to believe that everything needs to be “all or nothing.”
That is, if we don’t have it “all” – however that’s defined – then we don’t have enough. Or that when we’re giving of our time, energy, or other resources, in order to make a difference, it has to be everything we’ve got – again, however that’s defined. When we get caught up in that, we’re caught up in the world’s definition of abundance. And God’s abundance is so much more than that.
God’s abundance frees us to see possibility in what we have and in what we give. And when we live through that lens, when we act from that posture, God’s abundance opens us up to do ministry in Christ’s name beyond these walls.
I’ve talked about this before, it’s a risky posture – it makes us vulnerable. But it allows us to share the abundance of God in our lives, and also to receive it from others. That’s how ministry in Christ’s name happens. That’s how God’s abundance works in our lives beyond worship today.
God’s abundance is what opens our hearts to the idea of building a Tiny Home in the first place. But it doesn’t end with the construction of it. It has led to gathering items for welcome baskets for people who will occupy either the one we build or other Tiny Homes. And it has led to an awareness of the partner organizations involved in the larger project. But God’s abundance doesn’t end there, either.
We don’t know where it will lead, but maybe it leads to us building another Tiny Home. Maybe it leads to the beginnings of advocacy towards establishing a Tiny Home Village on the Eastside. Maybe it leads to the beginnings of working to change the system to prevent homelessness in the first place.
As we think about the ways God’s abundance weaves into and works in our lives, we recognize that there’s no end to it. And it works through what we have and who we are – even if we think it’s just working with scraps.
For those of you who are here in-person, take a look at the communion cup you picked up on your way in. For you who are at home, look at what you have for communion in front of you. It isn’t much, is it? It doesn’t always need to be.
We know how transformational a bite of bread or a cracker, and some juice or wine can be for us – and in baptism, even just touching some water. Because each time we receive those things we experience the abundance of God’s grace and love.
We take it in, and it becomes part of us, and we carry it with us. And as we live through that lens, we share God’s abundance with others, and we also receive it.
It frees us to see possibility in what we have and in what we give. And as we live through that lens, when we act from that posture, God’s abundance opens us up to live in Christ’s name beyond these walls. Thanks be to God! Amen.