August 3, 2011

Proper 13A - a sermon for Parish Staffs

For the last, I don't know how long, I've thought there was a prayer, attributed to Martin Luther hanging behind my desk. When I went to look at it in preparation for this homily, however, I realized it was gone, and I have no idea where it went or how long it has been missing. After I read this prayer, you'll understand how coincidental that all is.
Lord God, You have placed me in your church. You know how unsuitable I am. Were it not for your guidance I would long since have brought everything to destruction. I wish to give my heart and mouth to your service. I desire to teach your people, and long to be taught your work. Use me as your workman dear Lord. Do not forsake me; for if I am alone I shall bring it all to naught. Amen.
Over in the office, we are in the throws of fall planning. Liturgy, Sunday school, EYC, five15, lifelong Christian formation, special events – I feel like it is the first week of a seminary semester all over again. The list of things to do seems so long and the list of available time seems so short, and I can't even keep a printout of a prayer from disappearing off my bulletin board.
O God, you know how unsuitable I am. And while my brain won't believe it, I know in my heart of hearts that it really isn't all about me. The programs, the music, the liturgy, God will provide. But in the meantime, my blood pressure is through the roof. Thankfully, God hears the prayers of his people and does not leave us alone, to bring it all to naught. He hears our cry, “Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church...” and he put it on the hearts of the Revised Common Lectionary Committee to appoint these lessons for Proper 13a. They were tailor suited for church staffs stressed at the prospect of another program year speeding down the pike because they are all about God's abundant provision.
In Isaiah, we hear of God's gift being offered to everyone: “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!” Even the unfaithful, even *gasp* the nations that don't know the LORD are invited to come and find sustenance in God.
In the Psalm, we listen in as David sings praises to the Lord. “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great kindness. The LORD is loving to everyone and his compassion over all his works.”
Matthew's telling of the feeding of the 5000 is THE PERFECT LESSON for this time of year. The disciples, with whom I can readily associate, feel like they are running out of time and there just isn't enough to go around. It is getting late, and all we've got is five loaves and two fish, what on earth are we going to do Jesus?
What on earth? Well nothing of earth can help this situation. Left to your own devices, yes it would all come to an end, but in the Kingdom of God, where abundance is the name of the game, there is plenty of time and plenty of food and all will eat and be satisfied.
I often comment that most of my sermons are written for me, but today that is more true than ever. You might not be planning a program year, but all of us know what it is like to feel like there is not enough time, energy, money, food, whatever to go around. We all find ourselves at that point where our rope has run out, but God is so good. His mercy IS everlasting. His love IS for everyone. And thankfully, when our rope ends, God's is there waiting for us to grab hold. There is more than enough in God's economy: more than enough time, talent, money, space, whatever. We just have to invite him in, let go of our own stuff, and grab a hold of God.
O Lord, you open wide your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature. Help us to see your abundance and to be thankful. Amen.

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