A woman gives of herself – her time and talent – to her church in a suburb south of Boston. There she volunteers as a youth group leader. This year she’s leading a Bible Study for teens. They met several Sundays ago in the church library, a room that happens to be adjacent to the high school. She read from the gospel of Matthew the story of Jesus’ transfiguration – how he went up to the mountain with Peter, James and John and, she read, “He was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” She continued reading and when she was finished a young woman in the group said to her: “Ok. But get me from here to there,” and she pointed toward the window in the direction of the high school.
Get me from here to there.
That is my call, from week to week – to get you – us - from here to there. To move us from the Word of God to the work of God in the world.
That is our call, the Church’s call, day by day, to get from in here to out there.
To move us from church to wider community. To move us from church to school, from church to the grocery store, from church to your desk at work, from church to the dinner table, from church to the real-life worries that keep us up at night. To move us from faith to awareness, from awareness to concern, from concern to action.
If we cannot make this move, then our worship is in vain; then our faith is in vain.
This Lent we’ve undertaken such a journey to translate the Word of God into the work of God in the world. A pilgrimage guided by miracle and informed by loaves and fish. This morning we put one foot in front of the other and continue our uphill climb in the hills of Galilee.
We move from gathering to worshiping,
From worshipping to reflection,
From reflection to awareness,
From awareness to action.
From the transformation of the self for the transformation of the world.
Three weeks in, are you familiar with story of the feeding of the 5,000? Has the scripture yet escaped from the page and found its way into your heart – from here (mind) to there (heart)? Do you know it well? Well enough to bring it to God in prayer? Well enough to bring it out there? Well enough to share it with a friend? Well enough to see the miraculous love and abundance of God at work in the world?
There are many entry points into this story. There are many paths that will take you from here to there by way of this miracle. And, we have entered this story from several different angles already.
On the first Sunday of Lent – as the Sunday storm swirled outside, faithful and few we gathered across snow-covered streets – to introduce our Loaves and Fishes mission. We placed our first set of fish in our felt sea – 20 to be exact, representing the first $125 that the Canton Rotary Club donated to further our mission to feed our sisters and brothers in need.
We entered the story, that morning, by way of Jesus’ commandment to the disciples: “You give them something to eat.” Jesus does not feed the 5,000. The disciples do. The grace of God working through the people of God.
God has entrusted us to be the body of Christ - the hands and feet through which God’s work is done in the world. God does the feeding, but the resources are human.
There, in that entry point we were reminded of the power that we possess to transform the world – that our gifts, our donations, our assistance, however small, have power that we can never fully see; that we can feed the multitudes, that we can satisfy hunger. When Jesus tells the disciples to feed the 5,000 they thought it was impossible. The needs were so great, the resources so few.
Have we not felt the same? Have we not doubted? We, of little faith. Have we not focused on what we lack rather than all that we have? Have we not seen the obstacles rather than the possibilities? Have we not seen the glass have empty rather than awoken to its fullness?
Last week we released 82 new fish into the wild of our felt sea, these representing the $516 and 2,050 meals that we purchased to packaged and boxed and brought and stocked on the shelves of local food pantries. In so doing, we offered those fish from the week prior companionship and communion – after all, the sanctuary turns into a vast and cavernous abyss when we empty out of here and night comes. Surely the fish get lonely.
Last week we delved deeper into this scripture, chapter and verse and we entered by way of love.
We entered in the hour of Jesus’ grief, just after he receives word that his dear friend and cousin John the Baptist had been killed, he looks upon the crowds that had gathered in the place where he went to be all alone – he sees the people and he has compassion for them. In the midst of his own grief he is deeply concerned for the people. They are hungry. He is concerned. Out of his concern compassion is born. Are you deeply concerned?
Are you deeply concerned for the 18,000 children in Norfolk county who are food insecure, which means they lack access to enough food to meet their basic needs, which means they go to bed hungry, which means they often don’t know where their next meal will come from. Are you concerned enough to exercise compassion? Are you concerned enough to give of your time and resources to ease their suffering?
From this angle it may be that this great miracle story of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 is not so much about loaves and fish as it is about love, multiplied and shared. It may be that the great miracle story of First Congregational Church’s feeding of the 5,000 is not so much about meals of macaroni and cheese or rice and beans as it is about love, multiplied and shared. Love. Endless and abundant. Moving us from here to there.
Week three of our pilgrimage, we continue the uphill climb in the hills of Galilee to get from here to there:
From the Word of God to the work of God in the world.
Moving from reflection to awareness,
From awareness to action,
From the transformation of the self to the transformation of the world.
On this communion Sunday, we enter by way of the bread - blessed, broken, given and received. How does bread get us from here to there? From the Word of God to the work of God in the world?
Bread/food is our most basic human need. Far out in this deserted and isolated place near Galilee, in this wilderness place where the people are tired and hungry Jesus calls them to sit in the grass and he sets a table before them, and there among them he takes bread, blesses and breaks it (remind you of something…?). Flour/sugar/salt/water – kneaded and scored by the work of human hands. By way of the disciples, Jesus offers this meal to the hungry people and by way of that simple loaf of bread, when broken open, flow Jesus’ compassion and God’s abundance. By way of that simple loaf of bread the people are fed.
Jesus calls us to gather in the wilderness of our lives and here in this place, this morning, he has set a table before us – rooting us in our common humanity, grounding us in our most basic human need – eating and drinking – needs so frequently and easily fulfilled that we so often take their fulfillment for granted.
Here we are, bound together in our hunger, in our vulnerability, in our dependency upon God and one another in order to survive in the most basic sense of the word – for without bread we cannot live.
And yet, we cannot live by bread alone.
We cannot live by money alone. We cannot live by power alone. We cannot live by fame or recognition alone. We cannot live alone.
From this awareness we move to the table – from here to there - where we find the comfort of community and communion – with God and one another. Where we bless, break, give and receive.
There is a shared fellowship, an intimacy – a communion – happening in our midst this Lent as we focusing on giving and sharing our resources with those in need, just as there was for Jesus and the disciples on the hillside of Galilee when they shared a meal of bread and fish and in the Upper Room that Thursday night when they shared a meal of bread and wine.
So we do this in memory of Him – we worship, we commune, we pray, we bless, break, and give all that we are and all that we have in service to the world in memory of Him. In memory of his miracle, in memory of his gentleness, in memory of his deep concern and compassion for the world. In memory of his cross.
And we move
From Word to table,
From table to memory,
From memory to bread,
From receiving to giving it away.
We move from the Word of God to the work of God in the world.
~Rev. Leanne S. Walt preaching