Monday, May 10, 2010

Overwhelmed By Need

This week's scriptures are Psalm 95:1-7 and John 6:1-14.

Before we take a look at this week's passage from John, I need to say some "thank you" 's, a welcome, and a good bye.

First, the welcome. On the weekend of May 2nd, the congregation at Broadneck voted to call Rev. Abby Thornton as its new pastor. I want to welcome Abby and wish her the best in this next step in her career in ministry. The folks at Broadneck are excited about your coming and look forward to what God will do in both your and their lives together. You're in my prayers as you prepare for your first Sunday in June.

The "thank you" goes to all the folks at Broadneck who have made this Interim period such a wonderful growing, healing time for me. Many of you I have come to know and care for in deeply personal ways. You have shared parts of your journey with me and honored me by sharing deep parts of your story. In the three years I've been here we have shared births and deaths; joys and great tragedy. God has shown us a lot about what true community can look like and I'm very grateful to have been part of this experience.

A special thank you goes to Susan Foutz who will taking over the Blog temporarily after this week. While my last Sunday preaching will be May 30, by graciously taking over the blog Susan gives me, and others, the chance to make the transition in a smooth and clear way. Thank you Susan; I believe you have a lot to say that folks will appreciate hearing.

And finally, a good bye. To all the folks who have been reading this blog over the past years; both those who have commented and those who have been's been a real pleasure. Sharing the my thoughts about the upcoming week's sermon has helped me tremendously. I also hope it has helped you. My goal has been that between the ongoing Bible study which focused on upcoming scriptures (if you were able to attend) and the the time we got to the Sunday sermon we were actively engaged in a dialogue which drew us together into the biblical story and challenged us to both find ourselves in that story and to see where God was/is leading us by that experience.

Now on to this week's passage in John 6:1-14. This story of the 'feeding of the five thousand' occurs following Jesus' healing of the man at the Pool of Bethzatha and his conflict with religious leaders over his authority.

Now Jesus goes over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee; an area that many commentators and scholars suggest was a largely gentile area.

Jesus looks at the crowd and asks Philip how they're going to feed all these people. Now John says that Jesus already knew what he was going to do. Philp responds that the task is impossible. The amount of money that would be needed was beyond their capacity. All they had, Philip tells Jesus is this "five loaves and two fish" that some boy's mother must have packed him for lunch...apparently the boy, overhearing the conversation, had offered to share what he had.

The temptation must have been for Philip and the other disciples to do their best 1st century version of W.C. Fields' "go away kid, ya bother me." To decide that the little bit available just wasn't enough and to send the people away.

Jesus' response, however, was to take what was available, give thanks for it, and to distribute it to those in need. Out of that gift and that blessing we're told there came an abundance beyond the needs of the much so that they gathered up the rest so that 'nothing should be wasted.'

We live in a day when the needs we see around us are often overwhelming. We look at ourselves and/or our congregations and our first reaction is 'Send these folks somewhere else. We'd like to help, but our resources are just so small in the face of such need. Why even try?'

I think it's also important to remember that these people were fed so that they could then hear. It's hard to hear the Gospel when you're hungry (literally) or burdened with shame or guilt or sadness. It is in these instances that the Gospel becomes food for the stomach, forgiveness for the guilt, comfort for the sadness, acceptance in place of shame. It is only then that the words about God's love become hearable and believable.

What this says to you and me about the needs we see around us is that we need to identify those needs, look at what we have to offer (not in terms of quantity so much as quality) and then hand that gift to Jesus for His blessing. When we do this in faith, God will multiply the gift. We will be amazed at the overflow that comes from having moved out in faith.

Early in June, Broadneck Baptist will be taking a 'Needs Survey' in an attempt to identify what folks in Cape St. Claire and on the Broadneck Penninsula see as the most critical needs currently. In biblical imagery, we will be able to 'see the crowd.' I have no doubt that one of the first reactions will be to think "what can we do? The need is so great." I say this, not because I believe Broadneck will duck the issues, but because this is a very human first response. What I hope, and pray, and truly believe will happen then is that this congregaton will look around for who is holding the 'loaves and fishes.' Then, coming together as the Body of Christ they will offer that gift up. When they do, I believe they will be amazed and how Jesus takes what initially appears to be a impossible task and lead into a new and enlivening expression of the Gospel.

The good news for me in all this is that as a member of Broadneck I'll be around to see it and be involved in it. I'm looking forward to that next adventure that God has for this community.



Susan Foutz said...

Thanks for all your work over the past few years Stephen! I'll try my best.

Peyton Beard said...

God's blessings, Stephen in the next chapter of your ministry. I just want to say that my time with BBC was a time of growth and learning and I appreciate all the hard work you've invested in the lives you encountered at this Church.