THE ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST: Proper 13A
August 4, 2002 ~ St. Peter’s, San Pedro ~ Susan Russell firstname.lastname@example.org
Nehemiah 9:16-20; Psalm 78; Romans 8:35-39; Matthew 14:13-21
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul was convinced. He was convinced that nothing could separate him from the love of God … and so nothing did. And out of that conviction came the power and energy … the drive and chutzpah … to not only claim the blessing of the love of God which transcends life and death and everything in between for himself … but to proclaim it with such power and passion that his leadership helped transform a tiny band of disciples into a worldwide communion of faith … into the Church.
And two thousand years later, Paul’s great words of comfort and reassurance written to the Christians in Rome contain the essence of the promise we share as Christians in San Pedro this morning. We gather to celebrate this awesome inheritance we are offered as God’s children …this gift of a love so great that nothing can separate us from it … not life or death or anything in between. And if we are convinced that nothing can separate us then, like Paul, nothing will … and we, too, can go out with power and passion and claim that blessing for ourselves as well as proclaim it in a way that draws others into fuller relationship with God and each other.
That’s our call as the baptized … as the Body of Christ. Remember those words from the Baptismal Covenant: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? Remember as well the answer: I will with God’s help. For it is only with God’s help that we do any of this … ANY of us … and that is a fact I am particularly aware of on this particular Sunday, as I conclude my ministry here at St. Peter’s as your Associate Rector and prepare to undertake this new work ahead of me.
There’s a poem I know I’ve shared from this pulpit before … but I think it bears revisiting this morning. It came to me from a parishioner at St. Paul’s, Ventura in a card when I was leaving to go to seminary. It’s another one by that prolific poet … “author unknown” … and it is entitled “Crocus:”
It takes courage
to be crocusminded.
Lord, I'd rather wait til June
like wise roses
when the hazards of winter are
and I'm expected
and everything's ready for roses.
through hard frozen ground and snow;
sticking their necks out,
because they believe in spring
and have something personal
and emphatic to say about it.
Lord, I am by nature roseminded.
Even when I have
studied the situation here
and know there are wrongs that need righting
affirmations that need stating
and know that my speaking out
might even rock the boat,
Well, I'd rather wait til June.
Maybe things will work themselves out
and we won't have to make an issue of it.
Wrongs don't work themselves out
Injustices and inequities and hurts
don't just dissolve.
Somebody has to stick her neck out,
somebody who cares enough to think through
and work through hard ground
because she believes
and has something personal to say about it.
Could it be that there are things that need
to be said, and you want me to say them?
I pray for courage. Amen.
Another way of saying, “I will with God’s help.” Because Lord knows part of me would much rather wait until June … does indeed wonder why we have to rock the boat … to continue to bring up issues some would rather were left alone … to ask questions they would rather be left unanswered. But wrongs don’t work themselves out … injustices don’t just dissolve. Some of us are called to be roses … and others seem to have “crocus” written somewhere on our job description. We can try to resist that call … but like the bulb buried deep in the ground hoping to wait until June, at some point we find ourselves with our necks sticking out … because we believe in spring … and have something personal and emphatic to say about it!
Because we are convinced, like Paul, that the blessing we have received in the love of God in Christ Jesus is not ours for the keeping … but for the sharing. And in God’s amazing economy of grace and abundance, the more we give away, the more we have. All our lessons this morning focus on that central characteristic of this God to whom we belong: the abundance we are offered as God’s people … who were fed even in the wilderness … in those wonderful words from this morning’s Psalm:
So mortals ate the bread of angels; he provided them food enough.
“Food enough.” The question becomes how much IS “enough?” No matter how much I have the answer is usually “more than I’ve got.” It’s been impossible to pick up the paper or listen to the news lately and not be aware of those in corporate America for whom “enough” never was. And the damage done to so many lives because of that kind of profligate greed … the “endless pursuit of more for me” with utter disregard for the needs of so many … is a perversion of capitalism that cries to be confronted and rooted out of our corporate environment – and thanks be to God there appear to be an increasing number of “necks sticking out” working to do precisely that … to speak about against the greed threatening to consume us all.
Greed is about me having everything I want. Abundance is about everyone having everything they need. And it’s about trusting that … with God’s help … that is possible: as impossible as it sometimes seems.
That’s the lesson for me in today’s Gospel according to Matthew … the wonderful story of abundance in the feeding of the five thousand (besides women and children.) The disciples were faced with an impossible task … feed all these people with five loaves and two fish … and operating out of fear of running out, they were prepared to offer nothing … to send the people away. But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” … and they did. After he blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples they gave them to the people … and all ate until they were filled – and then some.
That’s the Gospel we have to proclaim … the Good News we have to tell a hungry world starving for it. We have “food enough” in this Church for everyone yearning to be fed. We have love enough and blessings enough and pews enough … what we need is chutzpah enough to be as convinced of what we have to offer as Paul was … and then to go about the work of inviting others to “come and see.” If we can get about that work together, the 20/20 vision of doubling the size of the Episcopal Church in 20 years will be as simple as feeding five thousand (besides women and children) with five loaves and two fish. At least it will “with God’s help.”
Yes, there will be those who say, “Send them away … we don’t have enough” … but that my brothers and sisters is not the message of today’s Gospel. The God who gave us food enough in the wilderness has given us blessings enough to share. The Savior who fed the hoards with a handful calls us to follow him and do the same. And the Spirit who dwells within us will sustain us as we go. Even when we have to stick our neck out. I’m convinced of it.
Convinced enough to stick my neck out. Convinced enough to join with a bunch of other “crocuses” from around this great church of ours in the work of “Claiming the Blessing” for those who cannot yet claim it for themselves … for those outside the church who do not know that the “Episcopal Church Welcomes You” sign includes them … and for those inside the church who have not experienced the abundance, grace and power offered by the inclusive love of our Risen Lord.
Convinced that someday … with God’s help … the words of our Presentation Hymn this morning will be a reality rather than just a prayer:
Drawn by thy quickening grace, O Lord,
in countless numbers let them come
And gather from their Father’s board,
the Bread that lives beyond the tomb
Nor let thy spreading Gospel rest
till through the world thy truth has run
Till with this Bread shall all be blessed,
who see the light or feel the sun.
A Gospel worth proclaiming and a blessing worth claiming. Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.
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