Below you will find my most recent sermon text. Fodder included the following texts: 2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21.
“Six months wages would not have been enough.” Six months. And yet, a young boy opened up his basket with a couple of fish and little bit of bread and all of sudden a whole hillside of people being so equally convinced by his generosity decided to do the same. And just like that, with one little gesture, one little act of compassion in moment of need, not only was there enough to eat, there were leftovers…leftovers, yall.
Over the course of the last few weeks I have be honest, I have felt a little bit like I’ve been running on leftovers. It all started three weeks ago with a pilgrimage with nine (9) of our own in Ireland. In weather that left even the Irish complaining, we found our way traveling around like a band of pilgrims scouring the landscape looking under every bush and bog, across every peak and piste for the next glimpse of sun or God that we could find only to discover that the holy magic of pilgrimage is rarely found in the destination but always, almost always in the as we go-ness of the journey. The kingdom of God it seems is always right there, right over there waiting to witnessed to through our ability to pause and listen, in the opportunity to hush and rush to watch a sunset, in the testimony of a fog blowing throw through, or when all else fails, in the witness of a passionary getting fired up about something that moves them.
Yes, I’ve been living on leftovers, and they have been good…
And then there is this past week: #atlserve. Traversing the city with a group of 30 students and adults from HIEC and All Saints all across the city, yes, our city: seeking, serving, throwing parties, sharing stories, building things and simply being present to people that don’t have people to be present. Yes, this week, mission as we went became something more than just feel good work, it became a journey of taking out what we had, sharing with a few others, and just trusting God to show up and do the rest.
Oh, yes, and then there were those leftovers….
I have to be honest, I feel a little bit like a missionary come home from a journey this morning… in the itinerancy of my life these last few weeks a few things have become clearer for me. You know like: how easy it is for me/us to begin think that my/our way, in my/our little corner of the zip code, is THE way. Don’t get me wrong, I love our way, but as pilgrim and prophetic people, as a people following the way/actions of a traveling rabbi and his students, we must remember that Christ and the gospels always resist any one explanation and iteration – Jesus/Gospels always resist our thinking that they ought to only move like this or act like that, lest we somehow come to get confused and believe that we own our experience of God.
You see it wasn’t the rain or the exhilaration of the hike or the mere-diversity of my #atlserve experience that has left me feeling like I need to remind my family that there are more than ways than our ways, no, you already know that… it was the people… I tell you, right there in the midst of sowing seeds of presence and passion, kindness and compassion…across senior service centers in Atlanta and Freedom Schools in Peoplestown – among refugees in Clarkston, yes, even as we went to places we didn’t expect at times we didn’t anticipate, we found staring right back at us in all those places, people made in God’s great image trying simply to survive. We found God’s kingdom out there giving love, and ear, and hope, and help as we went – and it was almost like in our going, in asking, in our trying to do what we thought we needed to do, God just showed up…God showed up not because of us, but for us…
You see my friends it is powerfully good to be here, and powerfully holy to have our way of doing, saying, dancing (or not), eating, laughing, singing – but I’m even more convinced that there is reason Jesus sent the disciples out to do work (and it wasn’t to plant churches).
Jesus’ sending them out to do the work was so that as they went out, like Julia and Lucy and they’d came back home with story of righteously angry homeless woman in midtown who we had to pray down from violence because someone stole her food. Yes, Jesus sent them out so that when they came back telling us about this woman, everyone would have to listen and learn and decide what that meant that things were so bad that the hungry, right down the road were stealing from the hungry…
I am even more convinced that when Jesus sent out Andrew and Philip, it was when they came back like Christian and Ethan to tell us stories about how they swam in concrete pond with a group of refugee children living in a two bedroom apartment with their four siblings and their single mom who drives 4 hours a day to work in a chicken plant….that we might have a little more compassion for our immigrant brothers and sisters and we might pray a little louder for those modern day innocents fleeing violence in our city.
Yes my friends there is a reason Jesus sent them out..there is a reason Jesus sent them out with leftovers.
In the next few months I’m gonna be honest, I’ve got an agenda. In the next few months, my agenda is gonna be to invite and to pray. To invite and to pray that we might take our leftovers from our fair place of worship and that we might go..go to corners and cafes, to tables in neighborhoods and houses – go to ESL classes and afterschool programs – go to pubs and parks and that we might invite God to do some of that showing up in our midst.
Yes friends, I’m gonna invite and pray that somehow we might (re)claim our missional and prophetic as we GO-ness as people of faith – because like those full and cared for people in our gospel reading, I’m convinced that if we simply seek to be the consumers of the experience of God without risking to share it with others, Jesus will always resist our efforts attempting to make him King. And you know, I don’t want a king, I want a prophet.
So, go…go. Take these leftovers and go. Go with God, in God’s spirit. Go. Share some tables and some chats, and come on back home and tell us what you saw. ‘Cause friends, when we come back, oh, the stories we will share, oh the songs we’ll sing…oh the life we will be able to live newly…together..