Items filtered by date: August 2017
26 August 2017

Isaiah 58:1-7

A Spirituality of Sharing

August 27, 2017   Feed the World Sunday


          On this Feed the World Sunday, the sermon is called “A Spirituality of Sharing.”  It comes from the prophet Isaiah.  His people were complaining that the old ways weren’t working any more.  Isaiah’s people went to the Temple.  They held their sacred fasts.  Eating nothing for days on end, they called upon the Lord.  And nothing happened.  It didn’t work.  And so in verse 3 they cry out to God, “Why do we fast, but you don’t see?  Why do we humble ourselves, but you don’t notice?”  They tried ever harder to get noticed by God—bowing their heads to the ground, wearing the roughness of sackcloth, lying in ashes.  These were religious practices that went back to the Babylonian exile, when in terror and anguish they sought to appease an angry God.  But now in better, more prosperous times, they couldn’t seem to connect with God.  The old ways weren’t working any more. 

          The analogy is imperfect, but we too live in relatively prosperous times, and yet people today also have trouble connecting with God.  For so many people these days, the old ways just aren’t working any more.  And their lament to God is reminiscent of Isaiah: “Why do we go to church, but you don’t see?  Why do we pray and believe, but you don’t seem to care?”

          This hungering for connection with God often goes by the name “spirituality.”  Organized religion is passé; spirituality is cool.  People try all kinds of things to satisfy this hunger—everything from Eastern religions to self-help books, everything from huge megachurches to small support groups.  I’m not trying to be judgmental; these are all fine things to try.  But they do all have one thing in common with the kind of fasting Isaiah condemns:  they’re all focused on me, on meeting my needs and satisfying my spiritual hunger, while one’s neighbor’s hunger goes unnoticed.  “Look,” says the Lord in Isaiah, “you serve your own interests on your fast day. . .  Will you call this a fast day acceptable to me?” God asks.

          Well here, says the Lord, I’ve got a spirituality for you  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?  When you see the naked to clothe them, and not to ignore the needs of your own flesh and blood?  Then you’ll call, and the Lord will answer.

          Your own soul is fed, according to Isaiah, by feeding others.  The eternal is discovered by tending to everyday needs.  The presence of God is found in the daily embrace of the poor, the homeless, and yes, even our own kin.1 This is a spirituality of sharing.  It is not hard to understand or complicated to comprehend; it is just, well, hard to do.  And the farther we are removed from living in poverty ourselves, the harder it is to do.

          A food pantry director once told me about a woman she knew who rented a small, rundown house for herself and her three children.  When a friend’s husband abused her, she let that friend and her children stay with her.  When she learned of another family sleeping in a car, she brought them into her home too.  This woman doesn’t go to church—when would she have time?  If she prays or believes in Jesus, she doesn’t ever talk about it.  But according to Isaiah, her fast is most acceptable to God.  She is one of the most “spiritual” people you could ever find. 

          Sometimes whole churches get in on this spirituality of sharing.  When a small African-American church building in Ferguson, Missouri, got damaged in the unrest there in 2014, the Vineyard Church here in Columbus raised money and sent teams to rebuild that church.  Now that’s an acceptable fast.  I once served a church that was part of the Interfaith Hospitality Network.  Several times a year they fed and sheltered homeless families for a week at a time.  I still remember one church member objecting, “Is this really what our church building is for?”  “Yes,” says Isaiah, “it is. What more holy purpose could a church be put to than sheltering the homeless poor?”  That’s an acceptable fast.  And today at 10 am, this entire building will be set up for food-related ministries—making sandwiches and preparing a meal for Faith on 8th homeless shelter, putting together bag lunches for neighbors at CRC, writing letters to government officials about hunger issues, packaging thousands of ready-made meals for destitute people in Haiti.  “Should we really be doing that instead of having worship?” someone asked me on time.  “No,” I replied, “doing that is having worship.”  That is an acceptable fast.  I’ll hope you will stay for this 10 am worship.


          I always feel personally convicted by this text from Isaiah.  When I served at Maynard Avenue, I overheard to neighborhood kids talking.  These were boys I was happy to have play in our yard, but I was reluctant to let come in our house, though they sometimes asked to come inside.  As I overheard them talking that day, they were discussing which people in the neighborhood were really their friends.  About one man, they disagreed.  One of them thought he was too grouchy to be their friend.  But the other child said, “Yeah, but he let me in his house.  We watched TV and he gave me a Mountain Dew.”  That settled it for them.  What I knew is that man had a frightening criminal record, and there’s no way they should go inside his house.  But their criteria for friendship was straight out of Isaiah—he let me in his house, he gave me something to drink.  After that, my door was a little more open to those boys. 


          Have you ever had trouble connecting with God?  Are the old ways just not working any more?  Well, here from Isaiah is a spirituality for you:  Is it not, Isaiah asks, to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?  When you see the naked to clothe them, and not to hide yourself from your own needy relatives?

          It is a spirituality of sharing.  Your own souls are fed, according to Isaiah, by feeding others.  The eternal is discovered by tending to everyday needs. The presence of God is found in the daily embrace of the poor, the homeless, and yes, even your own kin. 

          Then you shall call, promises Isaiah, and the Lord will answer.  Then you shall cry for help and God will say, Here I am.  Here I am. 


          Here is one last thought for Feed the World Sunday:  After the Dalai Lama delivered a lecture, a member of the audience asked him what the answer to world hunger is.  The Dalai Lama responded, “Sharing.”2  Amen.


1 Walter Brueggemann et al., Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV, Year A (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 128.

2 The Christian Century (July 12, 2005), 7.


20 August 2017

Matthew 19:13-15

Let Them Come

August 20, 2017     Maple Grove UMC


          Why, do you suppose, were people bringing little children to Jesus?  Well, Matthew doesn’t tell us why, but we can figure it out.  Surely it was because they could tell how much Jesus loved their children--that he loved them with a special love, an unconditional love, a life-changing and soul-healing kind of love.  They knew they wanted their little ones to be blessed by this man, by Jesus.

          It’s not so different today.  You brought your children here today to be blessed in the name of this man, Jesus.  You brought your grandchildren, for all I know you brought other people’s children to be with Jesus.  Today, and at least once in a while, you abandon the soccer fields, you give up sleeping in, you call off dance lessons, you kiss your one day off farewell, and you bring your children to Jesus.  And you know why—it’s that love, that unconditional, life-changing, child-blessing love. 

          That’s why they brought their little children to Jesus.  But the story isn’t that simple, is it?  Once they got there, his disciples tried to keep them away from Jesus.  Why would they do that?  Why would his disciples try to keep people away from Jesus?  Well, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we?  I’m sure they did it only for the best of reasons.  They wanted to make sure Jesus spent his limited time and energy on the right kind of people—respectable people, important people, grown-up people, you know, people like themselves. 

          They took it as their job to be gatekeepers for Jesus.  They thought it was their job to stop (the Greek word is kōluō) the wrong kind of people from hanging out with Jesus.  This is not the only time this word kōluō shows up in the New Testament.  One time one of the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop (kōluō) him, because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38-39).  Makes sense.  But Jesus said, “No, no, do not kōluō him.”  Jesus didn’t need them or want them to be his gatekeepers.

          Jesus criticized religious scholars who heaped up moral burdens on other people.  He said to them, “You aren’t entering the kingdom yourselves, and yet you want to kōluō others from entering (Luke 11:52).

          Several times in the book of Acts, people who were outsiders to Israel—an Ethiopian eunuch (8:37), a Roman soldier (10:47), a whole herd of Gentiles—asked what could prevent (kōluō) them from being baptized.  The truth is, the disciples could think of many reasons not to baptize these unwashed outsiders.  But they Holy Spirit made Peter go ahead and do it anyway. Later Peter had to defend himself:  “If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder (that is, kōluō) God?  Well, it turns out he couldn’t kōluō God . . . as much as he might want to.  Jesus doesn’t need us or even want us to be his gatekeepers.


          Now I’m going to pick a little bit today at some of the ways disciples of Jesus still today try to kōluō others, still volunteer to be his gatekeepers.  But I want you to know that I’m not picking at you, or not only at you.  I’m just a recovering gatekeeper myself; I’ve got plenty of kōluō in me.  I used to be a stickler about baptism.  You know, a child really ought to be baptized into the church community where they will be raised.  Parents take some pretty momentous vows when they bring their kids for baptism.  So I would say to parents, “You know, you haven’t been in church the last few years, does this mean you’re going to start being in church now?”  Or I’d say, “Grandma lives here in Columbus but you live three states away?  Are you really going to raise your child in this church?”  But who am I to kōluō God?  If parents want to bring their kids to Jesus, let them come.  I’m just a recovering gatekeeper.

          Cathy Davis and I wrestle with this whenever we offer Confirmation.  Families will say, “I want my son or daughter to be in Confirmation, but she’s got soccer games half the Sundays you’re meeting, or he’ll have to leave early because he volunteers at COSI.”  And my first thought is, “Choose church for a change!”  And then I think, but who am I to kōluō God?  If parents want to bring their kids to Jesus, even just once in a while, let them come.  If I pick at gatekeepers here today, please know I’m one of them myself. 


          In the Gospel reading today, it was little children the disciples were trying to keep away from Jesus.  That may sound strange, since in the church today we practically bend over backwards to get children to come.  But back then children were not thought of the way we think of them today.  Children were a burden, to be kept quiet and out of the way, until they were big enough to work and contribute.  We know better today.  And yet . . .

          Bishop Will Willimon tells about the pastor he appointed to what was a dying urban congregation, just a handful of elderly people left.  But the new young pastor noticed children passing by the church all day, and had an idea.  She talked to one of her parishioners, an old lady who’d once played piano with some of the greats of jazz music, and asked if she’d come and play at church on Wednesday afternoons.  The pastor recruited a few other ladies to make peanut butter sandwiches. And on Wednesday afternoon she rolled the piano outside, turned on a sprinkler, blocked off the street for kickball games.  That was a year ago.  Today, the bishop says, nearly a hundred children crowd that church every Wednesday afternoon.  On Sundays, Sunday school rooms are full.  The children have brought their parents.  It’s like resurrection in that church.  And then, Bishop Willimon concludes, “the administrative board met and asked the bishop to move their new pastor.  ‘It’s just not the same church,’ they said.1

          It breaks your heart, doesn’t it?  Oh, Jesus said, let the little ones come to me.  Don’t kōluō anyone.  Let them come. 


          Of course, “little ones” aren’t just children.  It’s anyone who might get left out, excluded, turned away, forgotten.  My preaching professor says one of the best sermons he ever heard was at a service in a nursing home.  The preacher read from Matthew 19, about parents bringing their children to Jesus.  “Great day in the morning,” the professor thought, “of all the scriptures to read—the average age is 117—and she reads, ‘Bring the little children.’”

          The preacher closed her Bible and said, “I still can’t get over the fact that Jesus’ disciples said, “Get those children out of here.”  But I guess I can understand it.  I mean, they make noise.  They have to be cared for.  Sometimes you have to get up and go out with them.  They take everybody else’s time.  Besides that, they can’t give anything; they can’t teach a class; they can’t sing in the choir.  They’re mostly powerless.  I understand that, she said.  And then after a long pause she went on, “But Jesus said, let the little ones come to me.  Don’t kōluō anyone.  Let them come.2 And we all know what she meant, don’t we?  And what Jesus meant.


          For centuries the church tried to kōluō women--not just tried to, did.  Oh, women were allowed to come to church--to cook and clean and watch the babies.  But they weren’t allowed to preach, or teach, or lead, or even to be an usher.  It breaks your heart, doesn’t it?  But Jesus said, let the people come to me.  Don’t kōluō anyone.  Let them come.


          Our own Methodist Church has split, several times, over race.  In 1787 Rev. Richard Allen led black members out of St. George’s Methodist Church in Philadelphia after blacks were physically removed from worship for refusing to sit in the balcony.  That was the start of the AME, the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  And in 1844 we split into the Methodist Episcopal Church North & M.E. Church South over slavery.  And 173 years later, here we are with people parading around asserting their superiority to blacks and Jews.  And other people making excuses for them, or equating them with civil rights protestors.  And Jesus wipes the tears from his eyes and says, for the love of God, just let the people come.  I don’t need or want any gatekeepers.  Don’t kōluō anyone.  Let them come.


          So sometimes, like today, we’re the parents in this Gospel story, bringing our children to be blessed with the unconditional, the life-changing, soul-healing love of Jesus.  It’s good to bring our children to Jesus.         Sometimes, sadly, we are the disciples, volunteering as unwanted gatekeepers of Jesus, still being healed of our need to kōluō others. 

          But sometimes, we’re the “little ones,” the weary and lonely, the sick and the dying, the outcast and unwanted.  Sooner or later we’re all just “liilte ones,” aching to hear for ourselves what Jesus says to all:  Let them come, he says.  Don’t kōluō anyone.  Let everybody come.  And that is the good news of Jesus Christ.


1 William H. Willimon, ”The Danger of Fishing with Jesus,” The Collected Sermons of William H. Willimon (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 166-67.

2 Fred B. Craddock, Craddock Stories, ed. Mike Graves and Richard Ward (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001), 148.



18 August 2017

“Coming In to go Out”

What are you doing at Church?  Even better, why are you here?

Tom Raines (President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources) conducted a Twitter poll of church leaders and church goers from around the country asking them to share some of the reasons people give for not going to church.  Some were ones that you’d might expect: “The church is full of judgmental hypocrites,” “they don’t sing the music I like,”  or “the church is not relevant to my life or the world today.”  But others were perhaps more interesting:

-        We were out of peanut butter.

-        My wife cooked bacon for breakfast and the entire family smelled like it.

-        We got burned out on church so we’ve been taking a break for the last seven years.

-        Both my girlfriends attend that church.

-        I couldn’t get the lid off the peanut butter.

Before I get back to the question I initially posed I would like to address first, what or who is the church?  There are no shortage of opinions on this topic.  Some vary in forms that make the church out to be a voluntary organization or a group of superstitious people with likeminded superstitions.  St. Paul addresses this question extensively beginning in 1st Corinthians 1:1-2 St. Paul writes, “to the church of God in Corinth, to those that are sanctified (growing or becoming) in Christ Jesus, called to be Saints, together with all those, in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ.”  In Galatians 1:2 Paul writes to all of the churches in Galatia where he refers to an assembly of people, not a building or structure where they gather.  Is this an image that initially comes to your mind when we think of Church today?

More often in scripture the term is used more broadly, referring not only to a small subset or congregation but all Christian congregations across the earth.  It is in this sense that we understand it in our liturgy today.  When one is baptized into the church the pastor states that “according to the grace given to you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church.”  This is also how Paul refers to it in Acts 20:28 where he says we are to, “shepherd the Church of God that he ordained with the blood of his own son.”

Again in Ephesians, Paul addresses the church in Ephesus calling them “the saints (or holy persons) who assemble themselves to worship God the Father and his son Jesus Christ.”  The point here is that Paul is referring to the universal church who finds its identity in Jesus Christ and purpose from the Holy Spirit.  He is not referring to one family or congregation, or dare I say denomination to use a modern term, and instead through all of Paul’s letters paints a picture of an assembly where there resides:

-One Spirit who brings life to the church (Romans 8:9)

-One Hope, that in all who receive this Spirit, know that to die is not to be lost, and to know the certainty of Christ’s presence in our world today. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

-One Lord who has taken possession of our lives and lives in our hearts (Ephesians 2:6)

-One Faith that enables every Christian to testify with Paul that, “the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

-One Baptism, washed of our sins and born of the Spirit

-One God who is Mighty to Save and lets us know that we are his children.

To sum up the answer of who is the Church, we see in scripture that the Church is all people whom God called out of this world, who responded in faith to his Son and live with the promise of salvation both now and to come. 

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I’ve been to church, and all of that sounds nice, but it does not reflect a reality that I know.”  I ask you again, “what are you doing here?”

During year A of our lectionary we focus on Mathew’s Gospel and as we have seen over the past weeks you can start to pick out some themes as we progress through the year:

  1. Jesus us the fulfillment of Israel's scriptures.
  1. Jesus is the new authoritative new teacher of the law: Mathew states the upholding of Jesus and the Law.  In MT's gospel Jesus gets mad at the Pharisees not for following the law, but instead they didn't follow it well enough and is the new authoritative source for reading the law.  Jesus wants us to read the law but in Mathew's gospel trough Jesus as the new teacher of the law.  Not to dispose of it.  As Pastor Glenn has shown us, Jesus has a perspective on the world where weeds are permitted to grow with grain, where seed is scattered with reckless abandon, and abundance abounds.
  2. A third theme focuses on the coming Son of Man and judge…from a perspective only Jesus could show us.

Matthew chapters 9-13 in particular center on Jesus ministry as a healer and include:

  1. Jesus healing of a paralytic man
  2. Jesus “calls” Matthew
  3. The healing of Jarius’ daughter
  4. The healing of the two blind men
  5. And where Jesus heals the hand of a man

Our Gospel reading today (Matthew 9:9-13) is the second story in the sequence I have listed and at first is seemingly out of place. It is a story about a man that is “called out.”  The truth is we all have a call story. A binding element in Matthew’s story and Jesus’ healing of the paralytic man is 9:12, we see that sin is at the heart of Jesus’ healing ministry.  In the case of the paralytic man, sin was likely associated with the man’s physical condition.  In the case of Matthew it was his profession.  In either case they receive forgiveness from Jesus is spite of how they felt or what they were told, not because of something they did but instead because of what Jesus saw in them.  Moreover, for the tax collector, this acceptance by Jesus was not just extended to one of Jesus’ many followers but to one of the twelve.  In other words, among those commissioned by Jesus to heal others is an individual who was once “sick” and in need of a physician.  Could it be that Matthew truly knows what it means to be healed?  It is in this context that it makes complete sense that Matthew’s “call story” is placed in the middle of Jesus healing ministry.  This makes Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:8 even more real for Matthew and us today, “you received without payment, give without payment.”

Perhaps now you are asking, “what is it you want me to give?  Money, time, mission work; do you want me to volunteer for something?”  To these notions remember that “volunteers, volunteer for voluntary organizations.  Disciples of Jesus Christ offer themselves to the Holy Spirit to be used for the mission of God.”

As members of Christ’s holy Church we come into this place to see what God has for us and in turn share our story with others.  When we look at Matthew’s “call story” in context we see it is truly a healing story.  The truth is that all of our “call stories” are healing stories in some way.  We were all broken and then made whole in Jesus Christ.  Knowing now what it means to be called we can now see ourselves as a church as a people that are healed or called out, not because of what we have done but because of what Christ has done and what the Spirit continues to do through our church.  Freely we have received, so freely we share the hope, faith, and love we have as members of the Church of Jesus Christ. 

We are called to live intentionally about how we point to and reflect God’s love as people who are brought into this building to be sent out to offer healing and forgiveness to all of God’s people.  Who is the church?  We are called, we are healed, brought together in the name of Jesus Christ and sent out into the world to share God’s forgiveness with a hurting and broken world.  Share love today, tell your story…Invite someone to church.    

18 August 2017

Matthew 14:13-21

Bread to Share

August 6, 2017


          Jesus sees things a different way from the rest of us.  After we heard his Parable of the Sower, someone told me, “No decent farmer is going to just keep throwing seed out there in places where it probably won’t grow.”  That’s true; but Jesus doesn’t see it that way.  After the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, someone said, “Yeah, but if you leave the weeds alone, pretty soon they’ll take over.”  I know that’s true and you know that’s true, but not Jesus.  He sees things a different way from the rest of us.  Jesus thought a yoke could be light—you saw how heavy that yoke was we had in here; he thought a cup of cold water was enough to make a real difference in the world, when we all know it’s not.  Jesus saw things a different way from the rest of us.  And his mission is to get us to see things that way too.

          In today’s gospel reading, there he goes again.  He thinks that if we will share our five loaves and two fish, it will be enough for everybody.  Silly Jesus!  He just sees things different from the rest of us. 

          Of course, as it turns out they really did feed thousands with those five loaves and two fish.  So maybe Jesus isn’t so silly.  And maybe we ought to at least try out his way of seeing things.  

          So how did it happen, that miraculous feeding?  Some have suggested everybody ate only the tiniest bites of bread and fish, that it was not an all-you-can-eat buffet but a kind of symbolic meal.  But that’s clearly not what it says.  Others suggest that once the disciples started sharing, other people were inspired to share the food they had hidden away and it turned out there was plenty there all along.  I’ve always liked that reading—after all, which really is the greater miracle, multiplying loaves or getting people to share?  And of course many people simply believe that when Jesus took the loaves in his hands, one loaf somehow suddenly became a hundred.  But that doesn’t really explain anything, does it? 

          That’s because to ask Did this really happen? or How did this happen? is to ask the wrong questions.  The real question is Do we have eyes to see how this story happens all the time?  As Megan McKenna has put it, this is not a story about something Jesus did a long time ago; this is a story about how life is for followers of Jesus in a world of need.1

          When Jesus looks at the world, he sees that if people will only share what they have, there will be enough and baskets full left over.  Jesus sees a world where abundance, not scarcity, can guide our every decision.  Now deep in our hearts we suspect Jesus is wrong about that.  But he is Jesus, after all, so let’s try humor him and see what might happen. 

          It turns out that the whole Bible is a story of abundance. In Genesis 1, God created heavens filled with stars, seas teeming with creatures, and plants producing of their own kind.  And God called it very good.  When the people of Israel were hungry in the wilderness, God provided manna to eat—they couldn’t horde it or store it up, but every day for forty years there was enough.  During a famine the prophet Elijah asked a poor widow to share her very last morsel of bread; she did, and her jar of flour and jug of oil never ran out (1 Kings 17:6-16).  Elijah’s successor, Elisha, took forty barley loaves and fed the entire country (2 Kings 4:42-44). 

          The Bible is a lesson in abundance . . . but we are slow learners.  Perhaps that’s why the Feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle story reported in all four gospels—the Bible wants to make sure we see things the way Jesus does.  And probably that’s why just one chapter after today’s gospel reading Jesus does it again—this time feeding 4000 people with seven loaves (Matthew 15:32-39).  And fresh off the Feeding of the 5000, guess what the disciples say when Jesus wants them to feed the 4000?  Do they say, “Okay, Jesus.  It worked before, so it’ll surely work again.”  No, fresh off the Feeding of the 5000, when Jesus wants them to feed the 4000, they say, “But where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?”  Jesus sees a world of abundance, but in our perpetual fear of scarcity we are such slow learners.


          Ultimately our fear of scarcity leads to unattractive consequences.  On a personal level, our fear of scarcity leads to never-ending anxiety.  I’m like the disciples—I want everybody to have enough to eat, really I do, but what if there’s not enough, I worry?  What if we run out?  What if more people show up?  What if I don’t get some? What if this, or what if that? 

          At its worst, this fear of scarcity leads to downright selfishness.  Since we’re not sure there will be enough, we’d better keep all we can for ourselves.  And once you start down that road, no amount ever feels like enough; even the fullest of pantries can’t alleviate our fear.  No one intends to be selfish, but fear of scarcity leads us to places we never meant to go.

          That’s on the personal level.  At the level of the church, this fear of scarcity leads to timidity, to a smallness of vision.  It’s hard to take on big ministries, if you’re afraid people won’t support them.  It’s hard to reach out and care for new people if we’re always worried about ourselves.  Sure, Jesus fed 5000 people with twelve disciples, five loaves and two fish, but we’re not sure Jesus can do anything like that through us . . .  Fear of scarcity leads to timidity, a smallness of vision. 


          The good news is that there’s a whole different way of seeing—Jesus’ way of seeing things. Instead of fearing a world of limited resources, Jesus invites us to see a world of God’s abundant gifts and endless possibilities.  It’s a way of seeing that leads to big dreams, bold plans, and extravagant sharing.  It’s very exciting, but also risky, a little scary. 

          Fuad Bahnan, an Arab born in Jerusalem, was the pastor of a small Christian church in predominantly Muslim West Beirut.2  In 1983 the Israeli army pushed north into Lebanon.  Leaders of Pastor Bahnan’s church were worried the Israelis would take Beirut and try to starve out any Palestinian fighters there.  So they decided to buy vast amounts of canned goods and store them at the church, just in case. 

          Their fears came to pass.  West Beirut was entirely cut off.  No one could enter or leave.  No food was allowed in.  The leaders of the church met again, to decide how to distribute their food.  Two proposals were put forward.  One was to distribute the food first to church members, then as supplies permitted, to other Christians, and finally, if any was left over, to the Muslims.  The second proposal was just the opposite:  to distribute food first to their Muslim neighbors, then to other Christians, and finally, if any was left, to members of their church.  The meeting lasted six hours.  It ended when one elderly woman, well-respected, stood up and cried out, “If we don’t demonstrate the love of Christ in this place, who will?”  The food was distributed first to Muslims, then to other Christians, and finally to themselves.  In the end, there was enough for all of them.2  They had learned to see with the eyes of Jesus, a world of abundance, in which five loaves and two fish really can feed us all.


     The question for today is not Did this really happen? or How did this happen? The question for today is not even quite Will we share our bread, our time, our money? though it has implications for our sharing.  The question is Can we see the world the way Jesus sees it?  Where seed is scattered lavishly whether it grows or not.  Where weeds are allowed to grow with the wheat.  Where yokes can be easy and even a cup of cold makes a difference.  And where five loaves and a couple of fish are enough to invite everyone to sit at our table.  Where not fear of scarcity, but God’s miraculous abundance guides our every decision. I want to learn to see the way Jesus sees.

1 See Megan McKenna, Not Counting Women and Children: Neglected Stories from the Bible (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994), 16-17.

2 Michael L. Lindvall, The Christian Life: A Geography of God (Louisville: Geneva Press, 2001), 125-26.


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