Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Church is Not Just a Building

For today's sermon, I referenced both the gospel, Matthew 16:13-20, and the second lesson, Romans 12:1-8.  The thing I find more interesting about the gospel is that it is not Peter the man who is the foundation of the church but Peter's confession.  And I also find it interesting that we often assume the church has been built.  


Just two weeks ago as Peter attempted to walk on water, we heard Jesus tell Peter “you of little faith, why did you doubt,” after Peter began to sink and had to cried out for Jesus to save him.  And now, just 2 chapters later we hear that Peter is the rock on which the church is built.  And unfortunately when we hear this, many of us think that the church is done being built. 

Yes, Peter went on after Jesus’ death and started the church.  Through himself and the other disciples telling people about Jesus, the church was formed.  People started to worship the risen savior, Jesus the Christ, who died on the cross for our sins.  And various worship practices were started, many of which we still use today, such as communing together as a group, and greeting one another in peace.  And as people told their stories about Jesus, they were written down and became the gospels that we still read from today, the very thing that we get today’s reading about Peter’s confession and him being the rock on which Jesus will build the church. 

And as the church, the fellowship of people who worshiped Jesus, grew, so too were churches were built.  Cathedrals, basilicas, chapels and church buildings were built in order to provide a space for the Church, the people of God, to worship. 

Our own church building, the room in which we are now in, was built a little over a 100 years ago. The basement was completed about 80 or 90 years ago and the community room was completed around 50 years ago.  Our church building has been built.

So as a result we see the church as having already been built; completed; past tense; finished. 

But that is because we in English often confuse the church building for the church, the people, the body of Christ.   

We see the church buildings completed.  They are made of wood, rock and glass, and other than basic upkeep or the hope of expansion, the church has been built, the church building that is. 

But the church is more than a building.  Bethlehem is more than this building here that we are now in, and the church is more than all the church buildings, great and small, new and old, through out the world.  The church, the body of Christ, the fellowship of believers, is something that cannot be contained by wood, rock and glass nor can it be made by wood, rock and glass. 

Instead the church is a living thing, constantly changing, constantly evolving, constantly growing.  And we are part of that church to which Peter was just the beginning.

Peter was and is the foundation to the church, the rock on which the church is continually being built.  But it wasn’t Peter the man, the disciple of Jesus, who is that rock, but Peter’s confession.  Peter confesses to Jesus “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  That is the foundation for the church, the body of Christ. 

And through this confession, and through Peter telling others about Jesus, even though at the time Jesus told him not to, other people came to believe the same thing and made the same confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and they told more people who then came to believe and tell others.  And so on and so on until us today. 

Because others have told us about Jesus, we have become part of the church, part of the body of Christ. And because the church is a living thing and we believe in a living God, we are not called to stay here stagnate and focus solely on the building and its upkeep.  Instead we are called to continue in Peter’s and the other disciples footstep and in their foundation and tell others about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the living God, who died to save us from our sins.  We are called to tell others that Jesus came for us and for them.  We are called to tell others that they too are loved with a love so great that at times it can be terrifying because God’s grace as been poured out upon us, even when we feel unworthy and there is nothing that we have done to deserve it. 

And like any living being, this living church that we share in has many different parts and roles so therefore we are each called differently.  As Paul so eloquently says in our reading from Romans today: For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually, we are members one of another.  We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.”  We each have been called to tell others about Christ in different ways. We have been blessed with different spiritual gifts so that we might call a variety of people into this church, the whole body of Christ. 

No one person is greater than the rest of this body of Christ.  Peter’s confession is the foundation, the rock on which the church is built, but our confessions, make up the walls, the ceilings, the tapestries, the carpet, the lighting, the chairs, the doors, and the windows on which this church continues to grow, continues to change. 

The church is not yet finished, for we are a part of it.


Monday, August 15, 2011

MMC: Rain Towards the End of Summer

Good Morning Bethlehem

I hope you are remembering your baptism with all this rain we are having and hopefully not slogging through a flooded basement cursing God  instead.  

A Few Quick Announcements
  • Yesterday we raised enough for 426 meals (or $106) for Kids Care Meals of Love.  If you were not able to be at our indoor picnic yesterday or did not have any money on you, we can still collect money this coming week.  All the meals will be packed by our youth and others at Hammonasset with the goal of packaging a minimum of 15,000 meals.
  • A special thank you to Victor M. for being our grill chef yesterday and to the rest of the M. family, Karin & Carl R. and Ellen G. for coming early and setting up the basement for our picnic.  And Johnny, Heloisa's grandson who cut his finger yesterday, is doing just fine.  No stitches, no broken bones and as Heloisa has said, he is already on to his next adventure. 
  • We are still collecting toiletries of all sizes for Americares in Danbury through the end of the month.  Any toiletry that you use on a daily basis is appreciated.
  • Rally Day is September 18 and as part of our Grow 2 Gather kick off we will be making 50 health kits for Lutheran World Relief.  There is a sign up sheet in the community room to bring towels, soap, toothbrushes, nail clippers and combs with specific amounts needed.  Please bring those items to my office so they do not get confused with the items for the giving basket.  
Book of Faith Puzzler
Last week’s  question was: Jesus also performs other miracles on the Sea of Galilee,(the first being walking on water) which of these is not one of them? A) Starts up a storm  B) a miraculous catch of fish C) a coin in a fish’s mouth D) calming a storm.
A miraculous catch of fish occurs in Luke 5:1-11 and John 21:1-14.  A coin appears in a fish’s mouth in Matthew 17:24-27 and Jesus calms a storm in Mark 4:35-41, Matthew 8:23-27 and Luke 8:22-25.  Jesus never starts a storm, at least such an event was never mentioned in the gospels.Congratulations to Susan K for winning this week's puzzler. 

This week’s question: In our gospel, Matthew 15:10-28, was Jesus being rude to the Canaanite woman? A) Yes, B) No C) We really don’t know.  Think you know the answer? Well hopefully you do because it is an opinion based question.  Email me with you opinion by noon on Wednesday to be entered into the drawing. 

Yesterday's sermon
Yesterday's sermon can be found here.  How do you feel unworthy of God's grace and how have you felt unwelcomed in church?  How have you made others feel unworthy and unwelcomed.  

And for those who were in worship, what did you think of our confession yesterday?  Was it a helpful exercise?  I personally saw God in the fact that many people wrote something down to being with and full sentences that were quite honest.  And as long as I'm asking questions, honestly what did you think of the sermon, did I cross any lines for you about being too crude?

Serving this Sunday
Confession time - it is pouring out, I'm at the house and I don't feel like running next door to check the sign up sheet for worship assistants, just to run back to the house, so these is all from memory so I apologize if I forgot that you have signed up to serve this week.

But those who I remember who have signed up to serve in worship this coming Sunday are:
Worship Assistant: Mark H
Reader:: ___________
Communion Assistant: ___________
Ushers: __________ & ___________
Bread baker/bringer: __________
Communion set up & clean up ___________
Offering counter: Nancy B
Coffee Hour Host: ___________

If you would like to sign up in any of the blank spaces, please let me know. 

Sunday's Gospel
This coming Sunday the gospel text is Matthew 16:13-20.  Jesus asks his disciples who people say that the Son of Man is and who they think he is.  He also renames Peter the rock on which the church is built.  If you were to describe Jesus to someone who did not know about him, how would you describe him?  Who would you say that he is?  An how are part of the church that was built upon Peter? 

Hope you all have a great week and stay dry!
Pastor Becca

Sunday, August 14, 2011

You are Welcome! You are Worthy!

Today was suppose to be our outdoor worship and picnic.  I say "suppose to" because it started raining at around 11pm/midnight on Saturday and as I write this at 5:30pm on Sunday it has not stopped raining or even let up from a steady downpour.  So we worshiped inside instead and had our picnic in the church basement.  It turned out to be a nice service even if the rain dampened our parade.  

But with an outdoor worship in mind I planned a few things differently than normal and decided not to switch them just because of the weather.  The biggest change was that I decided to base the confession on the sermon.  The sermon, which is below, talks about how we often feel unworthy to Jesus, and we,as Christians, often make others feel unwelcomed and unworthy.  Therefore after the hymn of the day I had people write on two different color slips of paper ways they have felt unworthy and unwelcomed and ways they have made others feel unworthy of God's grace and unwelcomed.  We then used what people wrote as a prayer of confession and asked for forgiveness and guidance as we struggle to change.  

The second thing that I planned differently because it was suppose to be an outdoor worship was I was a little more brash in my sermon than normal.  Now most people who know me, know that I don't have the cleanest language and I'm not afraid to make an off-colored joke or talk about a topic that some people find impolite to talk about in public.  And it is hard to just ignore that fact that Jesus refers to poop in the gospel text (Matthew 15:1-28 BTW I used the Message translation and a longer text than the assigned text for the day which was just verses 10-28).  However most people find hearing such things from a pastor while in the sanctuary a little off putting, but being outside and not in the traditional worship space can open people to hearing things that might seem a little impolite otherwise.  But I liked how my sermon turned out and based on what the message is I wasn't going to not refer to poop or ignore such topics as rape, sex, divorce, homosexuality and murder just because we ended up in the sanctuary due to weather.  So be forewarned - the word poop and vomit is coming.  Multiple times in fact.  And so is words like rape and incest.  But if you can get past that, which I hope you aren't that easily offended, I think you will enjoy the sermon and get a bit out of the message.  

Excuse me but was Jesus talking about poop and vomit?!   

This isn’t a text that we like to hear.  In fact it is one that we often want to ignore.  First we get this fairly graphic, at least by biblical standards, depiction about the digestion process, but also because we then hear about Jesus being out-right rude to this poor Canaanite woman. 

This doesn't mesh with our picture perfect Jesus. The Jesus who welcomed the little children and carried cute little cotton ball sheep.  The Jesus who’s picture hung in our Sunday School classroom, with a well groomed beard and mustache who looks freshly bathed.  The Jesus who we worship, the Jesus who we learned about as children didn’t talk about poop and was intentionally rude to someone.

I hate to break it to you but this is the same Jesus.  Jesus who healed the sick and multiplied loaves and fishes and walked on water is also the same Jesus who talked about poop.  Jesus of Nazareth, who died on a cross to save us from our sins is also the same Jesus who was intentionally rude to a woman who came to him begging for mercy. 

We often want to sugar coat the Bible.  Many pastors today will be ignoring the first part of this text today when Jesus talked about what defiles a person and focusing on only Jesus’ interaction with the Canaanite woman, and then they will say things like Jesus was just testing the woman or explain that he really wasn’t being rude.  Others will ignore this text completely and instead focus on a more Sunday School appropriate text.  But I think that is a shame. 

It is a shame to ignore the parts of the bible that we find to uncouth, too crude, or brash or vulgar for our taste.  It is a shame to do this because when we do we are subtlety and not so subtlety making a statement about who we want to be part of our worshipping community.  If you really dig into certain parts of the bible there is a lot that would not be accepted actions in our modern society, incest, rape, genocide, adultery, pre-meditated murder, stealing and the list goes on.  Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery and then told their father that he was mauled by a wild animal and died.  Abraham passed his wife Sarah off as his sister not once but twice in order to save his own sink, but as a result she was probably raped, not that it is ever referred to as rape in the Bible.  The people in the Bible are not always upstanding moral, role-models.  

And yet when we try to make them to be perfect people, or when we ignore those parts of the bible things that we find too vulgar, we are telling people that they are not allowed to be people in this community, this congregation, this church.  Instead in church, in worship, you need to be part of some 1950’s idealized perfect nuclear family, where the husband is the head of the household, the wife balances housework, child rearing and even a job and the children always obey their parents and never say an unkind word other than gee will-i-cers and golly gee.  But that is not who we are and that is not who we should pretend to be. We become no worse than those people Isaiah prophesied about "They worship me with their lips but their heart is not it in, they act like they are worshiping me, but they don't really mean it."  When we put on a facade to worship God, we are not truly worshiping God.  

We should not feel the need to put on a false fa├žade in order to come to church, in order to worship God.  God knows who we are, and what is in our hearts when we are worshipping, working, driving a car, or drinking a beer at the bar.  But we as Christians as a whole do this, and make a statement, often unspoken, but occasionally spoken, that if you are divorced, gay, sexually active before you are married or outside of your marriage, drink, smoke, a drug user, have tattoos, swear or any other modern taboo that you are not welcomed here and Jesus did not come to save you.  And not only do others feel unwelcomed, they also feel unworthy of God’s grace.

And yet that is exactly the opposite of what our gospel message says today.  First Jesus gets questioned about why his disciples eat with unclean hands, a taboo in first century Palestine.  And Jesus response that it is not what goes into a person that defiles it but what comes from the heart.  Breaking taboos will not make you a person unfit for God’s grace, it will not make you a bad person.  However if from your heart you treat others badly, you have evil intentions, murder, commit adultery, fornicate, steal, or lie it is then that you become defiled, unclean.  It is not how you treat yourself that makes you unclean, but how you treat others.  Jesus is saying that taboo breakers are not only welcomed, but wanted!  Jesus is telling others that it is okay to be yourself.  If you get to dinner time and forget to wash your hands first, it will be okay, the world will not end, nor will your salvation be in question.

And then Jesus goes and obeys the laws of the land and as a results treats a Canaanite woman, an outsider, one of those people who would be unwelcomed throughout Israel, as if she is the scum of the earth even though she is begging for mercy.  Jesus calls her a dog and says that he came only for Israel; that their sins are keeping him busy enough as it is.  Now I don’t know if Jesus was intentionally treating her badly in order to make a point or if Jesus was having just a very human moment, but either way the woman, in her great come back “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” remind Jesus that there is always plenty and that she too is worthy of God’s mercy.  And in doing do Jesus gives her more than she asked and heals her daughter.

See all are welcomed to partake in the Kingdom of God.  All are invited to worship Jesus.  And all should be welcomed here, in this place, in our worshipping space, both out here and inside.  And we are invited to come as we are, to come as who we are, whether we fit in better as an extra in a 1950’s sitcom, at a Harley rally clad in leather, or waving rainbow flags in Greenwich Village.  We are invited to be who God created us to be, and we are all worthy of God’s grace, God’s amazing mercy that is pour out upon all of us, even if we feel unworthy, even if we feel at times like poop or vomit or a dog.  Because we are worthy of God's grace and we are welcomed by God and hopefully we are also able to welcome all of God's children as well.   

Monday, August 8, 2011

MMC: Uncouth

Good morning Bethlehem

I hope you are doing well and enjoying this wonderful humidity that we are having. 

A Few Quick Announcements
  • Senior Lunch is Wednesday at noon.  We will be meeting at Heibecks/Blondie's across route 7 from Caraluzi's.  Just a reminder that this is a cash only establishment.  
  • Our annual outdoor worship and picnic is Sunday!.  Bring a side dish or dessert to share for the picnic.  Hamburgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers will be provided.  Bring your lawn chairs.
  • Check out the Pastor's library.  A few of my favorite or most well known books from my library are on one of the small tables in the community room.  Check them out and feel free to borrow any.  They are all ministry related but range from novels to memoirs to random musings to a summary of a national multi-year study.  
Book of Faith Puzzler
Last week’s  question was: Sunday’s gospel is Jesus feeding a large crowd of 5000 plus people.  This story is heard in multiple gospels, which is it NOT hear in? A) Matthew B) Mark, C) Luke, D) John E) it is in all 4 gospels
The feeding of the 5000 appears in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:5-15.  The feeding of the 4000 also appears in Mark 8:1-9 and Matthew 15:32-39. No one put in there answer for this week, so next week's winner will probably get two goodies. 
This week’s question: Jesus also performs other miracles on the Sea of Galilee,(the first being walking on water) which of these is not one of them? A) Starts up a storm  B) a miraculous catch of fish C) a coin in a fish’s mouth D) calming a storm. If you know the answer or even if you cheat and look it up, get me your answer by noon on Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing. 

Yesterday's Sermon
Have you heard the rumors?  There was a pool in the sanctuary.  Apparently we shouldn't have gone with the lowest bidder when getting the roof redone two years ago (kidding!) The pool was part of my sermon and can be found here.  In what ways do you want to be like Jesus?  In what ways are you not willing to be like Jesus?  When have you taken your eyes off of him?  When has Jesus saved you, even if you were not looking to him at the moment?

Serving this Sunday
For our outdoor worship, we don't need as many volunteers as a normal Sunday, but we still need a few.  The following people have signed up to serve as follows:
Worship Assistant: Ellen G
Reader: ____________
Greeters (aka hand out bulletins): ____________
Offering Counter: Frank C

If you would like to serve as a reader or greeter, please let me know.  We could also use a few extra hands early to set up chairs, our make/shift altar, as well as set up tables and the tent for the picnic.  

Sunday's Gospel
The gospel on Sunday is Matthew 15:[10-20], 21-28.  (The brackets mean those verses are optional and I'll decide later this week if I'll read the whole gospel or just the last few verses based on what I decide to preach on.)  The bracketed verses are of Jesus discussing that it is not what one consumes that defiles a person but what a person says.  Though through Jesus' sense of humor and blunt way of putting things this can be seen as a conversation that many 8 year old boys would love.  The unbracketed verses are of a Canaanite woman who begs Jesus to heal her daughter saying that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.  When have you had a conversation that seems a little uncouth or cheeky?  Have you still learned something from those conversations?  Did the fact that they were unexpected in wording help you better understand the point or at least grasp your attention more? 

Hope you all have a great week!
Pastor Becca

Wade in the Water

Yesterday was a fun day for me at Bethlehem.  I put a kiddie pool in front of the altar.


Why did I do such a thing?  Well beside it keeping me cool as I was able to walk through the water during my sermon, I had it as a prop for my sermon.  The gospel text was Matthew 14:22-33 when Jesus and Peter walk on water.  Therefore I was going to try and walk on water.  I didn't spend the entire sermon in the kiddie pool, just part of it.  

Now I have a date with a bucket to try and get the pool emptied.  Meanwhile you enjoy the sermon:

As many of you have figured out by now about me, I often have questions about what was going on through people’s minds during these bible stories.  So therefore I have two big questions about this text.  The first is: Why did Peter think he could walk on water?  Have any of you ever seen someone walk on water?  Have any of you ever walked on water yourself?  People have tried many times, with different methods like special shoes or running in an arch.  There is even a video out there that shows some guys getting about 7 steps in before they sink, but that video is a hoax. But let's try it now.  I'm going to try and walk on water.

Was Peter just caught up in the moment?  Was he challenging this being that he thought was a ghost?  Or did he want to be like Jesus.  He had been a good follower of Jesus, obeying his commandments, well at least most of the time, so couldn’t he do the amazing things that Jesus has done?  Couldn’t then Peter be like Jesus and cure the sick, multiply food and probably the most impressive of all, walk on water? 

I think Peter did want to be like Jesus.  Don’t we all want to be like Jesus?  Don’t we all wish that we could perform the miracles that Jesus performed?  Don’t we all wish that we could be like Jesus?  Always doing what is right.  Never causing sin, hurt and pain in the people that we love.  Never having to worry about things like money, food, housing issues or gas for the car because we know God’s plan for our lives and can put such trivial matters aside.  Don’t we all want to be like Jesus so that we too can be put to death on a cross and battle the devil so that other people’s sins can be forgiven? 

Then let’s admit it.  We really don’t want to be like Jesus, at least not truly.  We just want the cool parts, the miracles, turning water into wine, making the blind see and walking on water.  We don’t want to be like Jesus when it comes to challenging ourselves, when it comes to giving up of ourselves in order to first care for others.  We don’t want to be exiled from our hometowns or thrown out of the temple when people don’t understand what we are talking about.  We don’t want to be like Jesus when it comes to giving up of our lives.  Let’s face it, we have a hard enough times just keeping our eyes on Jesus.  Peter took his eyes off Jesus and started to drown.  We take our eyes off Jesus, turning from our faith, and start to drown emotionally and spiritually as the cares of this world get in our way.  We want to be like Jesus in many ways but as soon as we are challenged, we start to take our eyes off of him and it is then that we start to drown. 

Which brings me to my second question about Peter in this story: Why did Peter think he was going to drown and needed Jesus to save him?  Peter is a fisherman, he grew up on the Sea of Galilee, we hear of him swimming to shore after Jesus rose from the dead.  Peter was not afraid of the water.  Peter knew how to swim.  He wasn’t going to drown.  He could have easily swam back to the boat, even with all the waves and wind tossing him about. Peter had as much of a chance of drowning in that water as I have of drowning in these 2 inches of water in this pool. 

And yet he relied on Jesus to save him. 

And Jesus was there, he immediately reaches out his hand and catches Peter and brings him into the boat. 

Peter did not need Jesus to save him physically and yet relied on Jesus to save him.  And in doing so, it was then that Peter realized that Jesus is God and he is not and Peter truly demonstrated his faith. 

Peter realized that he cannot be Jesus.  Most of us realize that we cannot be Jesus.  That we are not capable of completely giving up of ourselves for other people.  That we are not willing to die a gruesome death in order to save others from sin and death.

And that is okay.  It is okay that we are not Jesus.  It is even okay that we often take our eyes off of him.  Because we don’t need to be Jesus.  We don’t need to be God.  In fact, it is impossible for us to be Jesus because we are not like Jesus.  Jesus was fully God and fully human and we are not gods, we are not even partially God, we are just fully human.  Imperfections and all. And therefore we cannot save ourselves.

When we realize that we cannot save ourselves, we show great faith.  It is then, when we are sinking, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, that we call out to God to save us.  And it is when we call out to God to save us that we are most humble and are best able to see that we are not gods.  

And even though we are not gods, Jesus still saves us!  Jesus still reaches out his hand and catches us when we are not able to walk on water.  Jesus still heals us with his touch when we cannot heal ourselves.  Jesus still feds us with the food he as multiplied when we are not able to multiply food on our own.  We are fed and forgiven through Jesus.  We are fed and forgiven because we cannot be Jesus and because Jesus was sent by God to save us, even when we take our eyes off of him.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

MMC: August Already

Good Morning Bethlehem  

Is it really August already?!  I hope you all are enjoying the summer and not yet thinking too hard about the fall.

A Few Announcements
  • The giving basket is collecting toiletries of all type and size.  Travel size shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, and body wash are especially appreciated.  All items will be donated to Americares clinic in Danbury.
  • Senior lunch is at noon on Wednesday August 10.  We will be meeting at Heibecks/Blondies on route 7.  Just an FYI that it is a cash only establishment.
  • The outdoor worship & picnic will be Sunday August 14!  Bring your lawn chairs and a side or dessert to share.  Hamburgers, hot dogs & veggie burgers will be provided.
  • Mark your calendar - Rally Day is September 18th!  Christian Education & Sunday School is going to take on a whole new look this year.  Watch for more information.  
Book of Faith Puzzler
Last week’s  question was: Sunday’s gospel consisted of 5 parables, which of the following is not another parable that Jesus told?  A) The houses on rock and sand, B) the lost coin C) the wise baker D) the ten talents.  There is not a parable about a wise baker, though Pastor Becca thinks that there should be.  Congratulations to Mark H for winning this week's puzzler. 

This week’s question: Today’s gospel is Jesus feeding a large crowd of 5000 plus people.  This story is heard in multiple gospels, which is it NOT hear in? A) Matthew B) Mark, C) Luke, D) John E) it is in all 4 gospels  If you know the answer or are willing to google it, submit your answer by noon on Wednesday to be entered into this week's drawing.  As of Monday morning no correct answers have been submitted. 

Yesterday's Sermon 
If you missed it you can read it here.  So do you think the loaves and fishes were multiplied or that the crowd shared food that they had?  Does it really matter which?  When is it hard for you to share?  What are ways that we don't share that might not seem too obvious?  How can we learn to share and compromise more?

Wednesday's Worship
This Wednesday at 7pm we will be hearing about Jesus walking on water and Peter trying to.  Bring your lawn chairs for an informal worship experience. 

Sunday's Worship
The following people have signed up to serve this coming Sunday.  
Worship Assistant: Mark H
Communion Assistant: ______________
Usher: _____________ & ____________
Counter: _________________
Bread baker/bringer: __________________
Communion set up & clean up: ________________
Coffee hour host: Ellen G

If you would like to sign up to serve in any of the ways that are currently blank, please let me know. 

Sunday's Gospel
We continue through Matthew's gospel, this time with Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus walking on water.  When have you tried to do the impossible?  When has God done the impossible in your life?  Peter started to sink after becoming afraid.  When have you started to fail at something after you have become afraid to continue or to succeed?

Hope you all have a great week and I'll see you Wednesday or Sunday
Pastor Becca

Multiplied or Shared?

Yesterday's sermon was based on the gospel for the day, Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus feeding 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish.  This story comes around often as it is in all four of our gospels and therefore is loved by many people.  However I have often heard people diminish the miracle saying that Jesus didn't actually multiple the loaves and fishes and instead the crowd had food on them and they shared what they had.  Well in the midst of debt ceiling crisis, NFL player & owner talks and drought in Africa, maybe we need to hear a little more about being encouraged to share.  

This is probably one of my most political sermons, while far from political propaganda.

It was dinner time and yet the crowds remain.

Here is a large crowd that unexpected followed Jesus after he heard about the death of his cousin, friend, and colleague in ministry: John the Baptist. The crowds had come out to see Jesus on the beach of the town earlier in the day and they were so moved by that experience, so drawn to the word of God, that they followed him, even when he wanted to be alone.

As they watched the boat sail over the sea, they walked on the shore, keeping sight of his boat so that they may catch up to him and continue to hear what Jesus had to say.

And now it was dinner time and the crowds remain.

And so the disciples come to Jesus and politely tell him, these people are probably hungry, let them go back to their homes or at least into the surrounding villages so that they can eat.

We do not know if the disciples said this because it had been a long day for them and they just wanted some peace as well. We don’t know if they said this because they themselves were hungry and only had a few loaves of bread and fish to eat among themselves that even divided 13 ways would have been but a small meal. We don’t know if the disciples told Jesus to send them away because they had compassion for the crowd or because they just wanted to be alone. We don’t know if some in the crowd came prepared with food tucked away in pockets and bags. We don’t know if some of the kids were crying out with hunger and getting crabby from walking so far and then standing in the hot sun all day without food. We don’t know if people were still listening intently to Jesus or if hunger pains were starting to distract them as their stomachs grumbled. We don’t know if moms were hading out small bags of fruit and bread to their families and they nibbled as they listened. We don’t know a lot about what really happened here.

But we do know that the disciples did have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish which they gave to Jesus. And Jesus blessed them and broke the loaves and handed the food to the disciples who passed out the food to some in the crowds, who passed on the food to more people in the crowd and more and more, until not only all the people had a little something to eat, but they had a lot to eat. And then they filled baskets with leftovers, 12 baskets in fact.

Isn’t that wonderful that all were fed? Isn’t it wonderful that food was provided in such an abundance that there was plenty left over?

And yet when many of us hear this story, we cynically try to pick apart the gospel. Oh well it wasn’t the same 5 loaves and 2 fish that everyone ate from but many people had food with them and they were moved by Jesus’ sharing what he had that they too shared what they had.

Well isn’t that still a miracle? Isn’t the ability to share a miracle?

If you have been paying any attention to the news over the pass two weeks you would think that if one person shares or compromises that there entire moral compass is corrupt and they will be thrown into some fiery furnace were there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We hear about the debt ceiling debate in the United States and the debt crisis in the Euro Zone and politicians bickering and arguing and walking out on agreement talks because they feel like they might not get their way and we all just wonder if these politicians ever went to kindergarten. Did we really vote into office the only people in the world who have never learned to share and compromise? Are they all only children and therefore never had to share the one package M&M’s that their mom bought for the 3 kids? Or did they never had the agreement that Billy gets to chose what show you watch first and after that is over it is Missy turn and then it is your turn to pick the tv show of choice.

And it is not just our political leaders that have a problem with sharing and compromising. Corporations and banks and even individual people hoard their money in order to get the biggest investment on their return and yet some of their employees struggle to feed their families, live in pest infested slums, or are not able to afford basic health coverage.

And it is not just others that have a problem with sharing and compromising, each of us are part of an entire system that is set up to give more to some than to others. There is enough food in this world to feed every person. And while America is facing an obesity epidemic as food is imported in from all over the world and food is thrown out in abundance every day in our homes, restaurants and grocery stores, there are people literally starving to death in the Horn of Africa as drought and war has plagued the people. We as humans have a problem with sharing and compromising.

We don’t want to give up anything that we see as rightfully ours in order to care for others. We don’t want to pay more than our share of taxes even if that means helping people who we take advantage of either knowingly or unknowingly in other situations. We don’t want to have to cut back on our consumption even if it means that as a result other people have to do without and possibly even starve.

No one would argue that if Jesus physically multiplied the same loaves and fishes enough so that everyone was fed that it was a miracle. So why when we as humans have such a problem with sharing do we think that if we explain this story away as the crowds just shared among themselves what food they have, that it is any less of a miracle?

Through God, through listening to Jesus and following his example of sharing with others, with strangers, with people who we know and with people we don’t know, with those who we deem respectful and those who we deem as undeserving of our respect, through following Jesus’ example, all the people were fed. What if after handing the bread and fish to the disciples, they just ate what was given to them before they handed some on to the people in the crowd? Would all still have been fed?

When we trust that Jesus will provide for us and when we follow his example of sharing with everyone, Jesus not only provides, but provides in abundance. And we are not just provided for physically but also spiritually as in sharing, we feel the Spirit working through us.

When we realize that when we hoard onto what we have, collecting as much as possible, even if it means treating others with disrespect to get it, we will only at the end have a finite amount. But when we share with others, when we give what we have generously to our neighbors, our friends, our family, our community, with strangers both near by and across the world, we are given so much more, and we are given in abundance. For there will even be baskets of leftovers.