It is brought to our attention in all 4 scripture readings of today’s lectionary.
Second Kings – 20 loaves of barley & some fresh ears of grain fed 100.
Psalm 145 – (17) The psalmist tells God, “You open wide your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature.”
Ephesians – Paul prays that all the saints may know the love of Christ so that “you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
And the Gospel according to John – 5 thousand sitting upon “a great deal of grass”, fed by 5 barley loaves & 2 fish.
As a church community, St. Andrew’s is blessed with an abundance of Love. It is evident this morning. It has been evident to me since I first came years ago. We acknowledge each other. We greet each other. We pray for each other. We hug, we chat, we check in. It is such a fabric of this church… I hope we never lose that.
As a church community, St. Andrew’s is blessed with an abundance of food. Every week we feed each other at our Sunday breakfast. We feed anyone and everyone who comes through the door, even if we don’t know them. We don’t care if they have money or not. We don’t care if they come to the church service or not. God has given us an abundance of food, and we share it with our community.
As a church community, St. Andrew’s has an abundance of grass… and trees and other natural resources. We have a beautiful courtyard and in the past we have prayed, played and fellowshipped in that grass. Easter sunrise service, parish picnics, wedding receptions. And this year, we are extending our reach, inviting the community to come enjoy our abundance with our Truckin’ at St. Andrew’s events.
God’s abundance blesses this church community. –PAUSE--
So… what about those who are lacking… Who have real needs beyond breakfast on Sunday morning, lacking resources that would enable them to live fully in a healthy, dignified manner? Persons and families who do not have appropriate shelter? Those who are food insecure?
Or as we heard at our last Truckin’ event, what about our immigrant neighbors in Amarillo who feel isolated, who want to share their culture & music with us, who want help to know how to parent in America, or how to start a business, not as a hand out or even as a hand up, but as an equal partner?
Where does God’s abundance at St. Andrew’s on one end of the spectrum, meet these needs on the other end?
Currently, we are collecting books for Amarillo’s youngest children. We are collecting school supplies for Wills Elementary students. We are gathering socks and toiletries for our visitors with need. We welcome children and feed their families at our yearly Trunk-Or-Treat event. During the holidays we gather presents and have a Christmas party for children of incarcerated parents. You, the members of St. Andrew’s are so generous in your giving towards these needs.
And these are all wonderful and necessary projects. Personally, I am so thankful that St. Andrew’s shares God’s abundance in these ways.
And today…I want to encourage…to challenge…
this community of abundance to ask ourselves, “What more can we do?”
What can we do outside of the walls of this building,
outside the perimeter of this campus?
I encourage us, challenge us, to dream big! Think crazy!
Because the needs are vast, and as Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminded us today, “every family in heaven and on earth takes its name” from God. We are all members of Divine family.
Right now, some of you may be thinking, “Come on, Tam. We can’t do it all. There is too much need just in Amarillo, let alone Texas, or the world.”
Trust me. I get it. I have told God the same thing myself.
But, as God reminds us, there is this power available known as the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit here to nudge us, to guide us, to grow the seeds that She has led us to plant.
Recently, I read an article in the Episcopal News Service about St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Perhaps some of you read it too. A quick summary of the article: St. Bede’s worked with an organization who identifies families in extreme poverty and who owe medical debt. Then St. Bede’s bought the debt at a fraction of the face value, much like a collection agency would do, and paid off the debt using donations. As a result, St. Bede’s grant of $15 thousand dollars cleared $1.3 million in medical debt for families who live in New Mexico & parts of Arizona. 782 households in all. They also notified the credit agencies to make sure the debt was paid, clearing the debtor’s credit history. St. Bede’s gathered these funds by setting aside 10% of donations and marked them for outreach, stating that “prioritizing service to others is our gospel imperative.” Our gospel imperative.
Some parishes have food pantries where donations can be picked up or dropped off 24/7. Others support clothing closets or have mobile shower units. The needs and possibilities are endless.
I am not suggesting that we do all, or maybe not even any, of these projects.
What I am asking, is that we each individually and collectively listen for and to the Holy Spirit. Where are you, where are we, as a church community, being led?
What will be the response of St. Andrew’s in the near and distant future to the abundance that God has given us?
Will we ask, “How can I set these 20 loaves before a hundred people?”
Will we exclaim, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”
Will we murmur, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”
What will we do with our share?
Will we resort to fear? Buy a safe? Build a wall? Be like the Rich Fool in Luke’s Gospel (12:113-21) and build bigger barns?
Or will we build a bigger table,
load it with abundance,
carry it out into the community,
and sit with them?
Brothers and sisters, that is communion. That is holy eucharist. And that is what we are called to do. Our gospel imperative.
Our epistle today declared it clearly …
at work within us,
Is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine…
My prayer today for this church community…
Let’s open wide our hearts to Spirit.
Listen to where we are being led.
Let Divine work within us.
And then.. then, let us take the abundance of God outside of these doors and outside this campus, into our greater community.
20 feeds 100.
5 & 2 feeds 5 thousand.
I challenge us today.
Let’s step further into our community.
Have the people sit down. Give thanks. Distribute.
I can hardly wait to see where Spirit leads!