This morning I heard these words spoken out loud.
Not once, but several times.
Some of them said our loud over and over again.
A place for all.
Loved…as in I am and you are.
Church (or another place to worship) may not be for everyone.
I know all too well how judgmental and insular and narrow churches can be.
But for me, one of the things I value about the church I attend is the language.
Words I don’t hear anywhere else.
Said out loud.
Words which stand counter to so much of what we hear
In the news.
And, on our social media feeds.
And, in the midst of our daily round.
Words which remind me and challenge me and turn me towards what I desire and hope for.
Not just for myself.
But for us and for all.
In our households, in our communities and yes in our churches;
And in our country and maybe even in our world, one of the age old questions with which we continue to grapple is this: Is there enough?
Is there enough for me?
Is there enough for you?
Is there enough to share?
Is there enough to pay for our health care or for education or to repair our roads?
Is there enough to be involved in another conflict in the Middle East or to fight ebola in Africa or to care for refugees fleeing Syria or gangs in Guatemala?
Is there enough?
How you respond to that question depends on a multitude of different factors.
Your bank account.
Your credit card statement.
Your political leanings.
Your business sense.
All of which matter and all of which come into play.
But, this morning we are in church, once again daring to stand face to face with the Gospel.
Daring, for a moment, to allow the imperatives of the Bible to stand alongside all the other ways we think about life and world and our place in it. And, added to all the other questions we might ask, like:
“Is it practical?’” or “Does it align with my political views?”
Here, we risk the question “Is it faithful?”
So, as you consider your life and how you respond to the question “Is there enough?” consider also the Gospel and this story from Matthew.
Wherever Jesus went, the gospels tell us, great crowds gathered around him.
One day needing to get away for a while, Jesus went by boat to a deserted place to have some time to be alone, but even there the crowds found him. I am sure you know how he felt. Weary to bone from work and errands and family responsibilities, all you want or need is a few minutes to yourself, but then the phone rings or the child cries or the urgent email shows up in your inbox and you are back at it again. And, so it was for Jesus. The crowds show up clamouring for everything and anything Jesus could give. And those few moments of quiet turns into a day spent healing and teaching and touching and listening. Towards the end of the day, Jesus’ disciples whisper in his ear, “Jesus, send the people away so they can return home or go into the villages and buy the food they need.” To which Jesus replies, “You feed them.”
Can you picture the scene?
Ever expectant crowds. Weary to the bone Jesus. Incredulous disciples.
“But Jesus,” the disciples stammer.
“All we have are five loaves and two fish. Barely enough to feed ourselves.”
“Give them to me.” Jesus replies.
Then, asking the crowd to sit down, Jesus gives thanks for what he has, gives the five loaves and two fish back to the disciples and tells them to share what they have with the others. You probably know or can guess the end of the story. Everyone ate and had enough with food left over. Those who were fed, the Bible says, were 5000 men. And that count didn’t include the women and children. (Matthew 14: 13-21)
There are, at least, two ways to read and to understand this story.
The first is that what happened is an out and out miracle.
Five loaves and two fish suddenly become enough to feed 15,000 or more people.
The local food pantry would love a miracle like that.
While I believe a miracle did take place, I don’t think that was it.
I think the miracle was that once the gathered crowd saw Jesus giving thanks and sharing what little he had, they took the risk of sharing as well. Some in that gathered crowd may have been so poor they had no food. But most, I think, would have been more like you and me who, knowing where they were going and what it would be like and having their family with them, would put together a package of food to take along. No one, even those who gathered around Jesus that day, wants to be stranded a long way from home with hungry, whining and crying children. The five loaves and two fish that day were multiplied, but not by some outside divine intervention, but because I dared to add what I had to what Jesus had. And you did the same.
Maybe, I should just end here and say “Can you believe it?” and leave it at that.
But there is a bit more I would like to say.
Two things actually.
The first is practical and the second is a reminder.
The practical is that this is the time of the year when we are asked to think about our financial support of this congregation for the coming year. George spoke about it this morning. Dave Hardy will speak about it next week. A letter has been or will be sent in the mail. You may also receive an email reminder or two. Please do more than file it away or allow the email to sink to the bottom of your inbox. George and Dave and others volunteer their time to plan for the future and manage our funds responsibly. You can help them out by being thoughtful about your response. And, while we may not like to think or to talk about money in church, it is the currency which enables us to do what we are able to do from pay staff and to pay bills, to have a place for children and youth, to support service learning trips to Nicaragua and Appalachia, to doing our part to make sure that those in need have enough food to eat and a safe place to sleep during the winter.
All we do.
All we are called to do and be…
Does not just miraculously happen any more that food enough for a few is transformed into food enough for all. No one of us does all this alone. The only way it works is that together we decide there is enough and what you give is added to what Shodie and I give which is added to what George and his family give which is added to what Dave and his family give and so on and so on and so on.
And, added to all of it we will trust in the guidance and blessing and abundance of God.
Is there enough?
Can there be enough?
You and I are the ones who decide.
Which leads to this reminder. Actually reminders.
Of times this congregation took risks of sharing knowing the need and trusting that somehow there would be enough.
- Twenty plus years ago, knowing there were those in our community who were hungry, Bedford Presbyterian took the lead and helped to launch the Mt. Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry which now provides much needed food to more than 200 households each week.
- Ten years ago, knowing there were individuals who slept outside during the winter, this congregation launched the Emergency Shelter Partnership which is now a coalition of 20+ congregations and community organizations which provide a welcome, food and a safe place to sleep for between 15 and 20 people each night during the coldest five months of the year.
- 18 months ago, several women began thinking about the prison down the road and the inmates who were there. Out of their dreaming and praying they began to imagine a program which would become Woman2Woman. But more than just another program. Something more which would connect those on the outside with those on the inside building bridges between in and out and forming relationships which break stereotypes and build hope. Now more than 80 women are a part of that community. 40 live behind razor wire and locked doors. 40 others cross that divide to be a friend.
The list goes on and on from what happens in the circle of this community to what happens in the communities out there. But, one more reminder as we continue to think about the question “Is there enough?”
Just about two years ago we became aware of a high school senior who was kicked out of his house because he had a dream of going to college rather than finishing high school and going to work. A family from this congregation took him in. Others gave time and money to help make sure he could pursue his dream. Kevin is now in his second year at Bates and doing very well. But, as all that was unfolding we became aware that there were others like Kevin who had similar dreams who because of financial situation or cultural expectations tamped down those dreams. So, for a year now we have been working with other community leaders and school personnel on establishing a scholarship to support students in dreaming of and reaching for more.
All of you…
Are the seed of that dream.
What we learned as we got to know Kevin and the seed money we committed has sparked the interest and support of others in the community. And, while there is more work to do, this coming spring one or two students who dream of an education will go to college with the support of those funds.
Is there enough?
A complicated and challenging question to be sure.
But here we are.
Face to face with the Gospel, which, I think, points us in the direction of Yes.