Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sermon for Year A Proper 13


It was my first trip to Machuca.
Machuca is a village on the top of a mountain in rural Panama.
At that time the only way to get to the village was up a dirt road
that resembled a washed out, dried up, deeply rutted river bed.

Into the back of a truck our group went
and bummmmmmmppppppity bump bump
up to the village we traveled.

We were in Panama on a mission trip.
We had gone to help the people of Panama.
We were working at the Episcopal camp in Santa Clara,
building several ranchos—a pavilion like structure
whose roofs are made of pencas, a type of palm leaf.

Being that none of us Americans had much penca experience,
our good Episcopal friends in Panama
had brought in some men from the village of Machuca to help us—
and we needed lots of help!

Most of the men spoke no English.
Many of us spoke no Spanish.
There were a few in the group—thanks be to God—who did speak Spanish
and we were quite dependent on these translators.
But you also learn
that much can be said without any words.
Smiles and laughter,
working and sharing meals together,
playing and praying together—
are the bridges built over language barriers.

At the end of our week working at the camp,
our new friends wanted to take us to their village,
to meet their families.

So down the road and up the mountain we traveled.

When we arrived at Machuca,
we met their families.
Shy smiles all around and then we were told to follow
and we walked through fields of tall grass
until we came to a rancho
where a large iron pot
was bubbling over an open fire.

These kind women of the village
had just that morning killed chickens
and prepared a traditional Panamanian soup, sancocho.

There were few chairs—
so most of us found a log or a spot on the ground to sit
and we were served.

You see we thought we had gone to Panama to serve.
We did not expect to BE served.

We thought we had gone to Panama to help.
In our wealth and comfort,
we were blind to seeing that we were the ones who needed help.

The women in the village of Machuca understood
and knew what it is to do more than “talk” Jesus—they lived “Jesus:”

YOU give them something to eat.
That is what we hear Jesus say to his disciples in the gospel today.

Everyone is tired. The day has been long.
The crowds have been enormous.
And the disciples are ready to call it a night.
Jesus, you need to send these crowds away
so they may go into the villages
and buy food for themselves.

And Jesus responds, YOU give them something to eat.

We are constantly being called by God
to get involved, to work together WITH God.

I need you to take your prayer book and turn to page 304—
The Baptismal Covenant.
This is the heart of who we are as Episcopalians, as children of God.

The subtitle under the Baptismal Covenant
could easily read: YOU give them something to eat.
Our baptismal covenant echoes this same call, this same command.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

We do not respond—"You do that God. You can take care of that, Jesus."
We respond—I WILL—with God’s help.
I WILL teach Sunday School,
I WILL host a coffee hour, I will volunteer at Bele Chere,
I will weed the Memorial Garden, I will serve on the Altar Guild,
I will commit to being here for Eucharist every week,
I WILL say my prayers every day.
I will, with God’s help.

Will you persevere in resisting evil and whenever you fall into sin,
repent and return to the Lord?

We do not respond—"Well, it’s not my fault."
We do not respond—"I’m not the one who needs to say I’m sorry."
We respond—I WILL, with God’s help.
I will turn my life around. I WILL, with God's help.

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
When we were in the village of Machuca,
our words were pretty useless to one another.
But oh my!
What the people of that village proclaimed to us by their example!
The good news of God in Christ was all around us.
in every ladle of soup. In every smile.
I WILL, with God’s help.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
We do not respond by picking and choosing the people we want as our neighbor.

The command is clear—ALL persons, loving ALL persons.
We don't submit our list of the people we choose as our neighbors.
We respond by saying,
I WILL,with God’s help.
I will seek and serve Christ in ALL persons.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Our Baptismal covenant makes it crystal clear what is expected us.
YOU strive for justice.
YOU strive for peace.
YOU respect the dignity of EVERY human being.
It matters not that we are on shaky ground in some of these areas in the secular world.
We are children of God and
we respond by saying,
I WILL, with God’s help.

One of the people in our mission group named it right when he said,
as we walked through Machuca,
“I have never seen such material poverty in my entire life—
and I have never met people who are so rich in God.”

When the disciples go to Jesus and ask him to send the people away,
they are acting out of their poverty,
their own fear of scarcity and limited resources.

Jesus says to them—and to us—open your eyes
to the abundance that God has given you.

If we live into our baptismal covenant
there is more than enough.
Enough fish and loaves,
enough justice, enough goodness, enough peace, enough time,
enough love.
There is enough, there is plenty--
if we resist our hoarding, if we turn our backs on selfishness,
if we learn to be generous.
You give them something to eat because there is more than enough.
That kettle of sancocho—that chicken soup—is absolutely bottomless.

We need to take a closer look at our own kettles,
our own basket of gifts that God has so generously given to us.
Do we need it all?
Where is the joy in abundance
if we have nothing to share? Nothing to give away?

We too often want God to wave a magic wand
and make the world and our life perfect?
You do it, God.
You’re God, after all.

But God says over and over and over—
Throughout time, throughout history,
Throughout our own lives—
I WILL help you
but YOU give them something to eat.
YOU do something.
YOU take a risk every now and then.

Our default response to everything in life needs to be,
I WILL—with God’s help.

Why do we send people away hungry or lonely?
Why do we not have teachers for our children’s Christian formation?
Why do we not the time or resources or the interest to live into our Baptismal Covenant?
Perhaps all we can see are two little fish and five little loaves of bread
and we are so afraid there just isn't enough.

There is a large church in northern Virginia
that was embarking upon a multi-million dollar capital campaign,
a building campaign.
A small group of people within that large church spoke up and said,
“If we are going to raise several million dollars to serve ourselves,
we think we should raise a matching amount
to serve those in need,
for outreach ministries in our community
and in the world.”
Preposterous! said the congregation.
Ridiculous! said the clergy.
We can’t raise that kind of money from our congregation.
We’re large but we’re not that large!
We’re generous but we’re not that generous!

And yet those words of Jesus echoed—YOU give them something to eat!
It took some wrestling but the congregation decided—
WE WILL, with God’s help!
And they did.
There were loaves and fishes enough
for all to be fed and to be fed well.

How might we see new and abundant ways
to proclaim by word and example
the good news of God in Christ?
What are we willing to risk to seek and serve Christ in all people?

There are times when we are like Jesus—
we want to get in our own little boat and sail away
to a quiet, undemanding deserted place.
And yes! We all need Sabbath time.

But the purpose of Sabbath,
is to renew us to be able to respond with joy,
“I WILL, with God’s help.”

I had a friend, Barbara, and whenever you went to Barbara for a favor
she always said, YES!
Before you even told her what you needed,
her response was always YES!
I once asked her why she said YES before she knew what I was going to ask her to do
and she responded,
"You are my beloved friend
and if there is something you need,
I want to say YES!"
(Oh, how I miss Barbara!)

God says YES to us in so many ways.
God longs for us to say YES to those who need us.

What is God calling you to do? What is God calling me to do?
What is God calling St. John’s to do—-right now?

Even if we can’t answer that question—we can start—
we can start by praying—I WILL, with God’s help.
I WILL, with God’s help.
I WILL, with God’s help.

Pray and trust that God will show us the needs
and the ways to say YES to those needs.

Pray and remember the words that Jesus says to his disciples:
YOU give them something to eat.
give them something to eat.


Sharon said...

Welcome to RevGals! I like the way you connected "remember your baptism" with Sunday's gospel lesson. You feed them, indeed!

Pastor Julia said...

Great blog title! Welcome to RevGals! (Enjoyed your sermon too.)

Crimson Rambler said...

This is lovely, thank you so much! and welcome to the RevGals!

Karla Miller said...

yes, what everything else everyone said. The sermon is great! Thank you, and welcome.
Are you in Asheville? I was associate pastor at Warren Wilson PResbyterian Church in Swannanoa for two years---2000-2002. One my most favorite places evah!!!


Thanks so much! Delighted to be part of RevGals!


Karla--Warren Wilson is a favorite place for me as well. Our son attended there and I have many friends connected with the college. I have never worshipped at the church there (primarily because I am always leading worship at St. John's on Sunday morning) but loved knowing that you have a connection there. If you are ever in Asheville visiting, come by and say hello!