The sermon for week July 20, 2015
FEED MEMark 6:14-44
A few years ago, I was on the UCC Northwest Ohio Association's Faith Formation Team. At the first meeting, I asked what this team’s purpose was. A lay member spoke up and said, “I’m not getting fed spiritually at my church. This team is supposed to help churches feed their members.”
I’d never heard that phrase before. Every church I’ve attended in the UCC was a spiritual feast! I didn’t know how lucky I am.
I have since heard that phrase a few times. “I’m just not getting fed at my church.” The most recent was just a few weeks ago. I was preparing to head to confirmation camp when a woman called up.
“What Bible studies do you have for the summer?” she asked. “We live in Findlay and have been up for your Chidester Lectures, and they are really inspiring. But we’re not getting fed here at our church and we would like to head up to your church.”
I didn’t want to speak. I felt a mixture of sadness, confusion and anger. I was sad because we don’t have any summer Bible studies or set programs like the one she was searching for. There aren’t any spiritually fulfilling churches between here and Findlay?
I was confused because like, are you supposed to be able to feed yourself after a while? Hasn’t anyone taught her how to spiritually feed herself or find a community that does? Like I have people here, the UCC Daily Devotional, Richard Rohr’s Daily Devotional, all sorts of books, Facebook prayer groups, NGLI and such. I’m spiritually obese!
And that realization made me angry. One of the greatest regrets of my life will be that I will die not having read all the books I want to read. And there are Christians out there who are spiritually starving? Why? Why can’t they feed themselves? I have a ton of books in my office! We have videos. This congregation is voracious in its appetite for knowledge and y’all are better read than I am. But there are Christians out there feeling like they are in a desert of ignorance when actually they are just sitting in a sandbox in a rainforest of information.
Not getting fed? When is the last time someone fed you?
“Pastor, are you still there?” the woman from Findlay asked.
Oh.. I’m still on the line while I was thinking of those things. And I took pity on her because she was like a sheep without a shepherd. How are people going to learn that they can feed themselves if we don’t teach them?
“Yeah, I’m still here,” I told her. “I’m sorry we don’t have studies like that over the summer. But what would you have in mind? What do you want to learn about?”
She listed off 5 or 6 books and videos. “Well… she knows them,” I thought. That’s not the problem.
“We have many of those here at the church, can I mail them to you?” I asked.
She already has all of these, she said.
“Have you considered leading a class yourself?”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that.” She stated.
“Sure you could. Al Palmer, one of our faith formation leaders here, says that leading a class is easy. You just need to say two provocative things and sit down.”
She chuckled, and I could feel the idea start to grow. “You know,” she said. “I don’t think I can teach a class as I’m too introverted. But I can host a dinner party. So that’s how I’ll think of it, as hosting a dinner party and having a discussion around one of these videos. Thanks, pastor!”
Her group in Findlay is still meeting. They’re covering “Living the Questions 2.0,” a great resource that we’ve covered here.
In today’s scriptures, Jesus is being followed by the crowds in Mark. Always the crowds. He’s trying to be alone and talk with his disciples yet here come the crowds! The crowd go out to a deserted place on foot. Now do you think they’d be empty-handed for the journey? Of course not! Kate and I can barely get to church without our kids asking for a snack! How many of you have a granola bar or something in your purse or car?
The true miracle isn’t that Jesus magically made food appear. The miracle is that Jesus moved the people from selfishness to generosity. We often base our view on scarcity. We often think we don’t have enough or we ourselves aren’t good enough. We’re just not enough. But God’s view is one of abundance. God knows that there is enough to go around, that we can feed ourselves and our neighbor. God knows that we are enough.
Jesus teaches these things to the crowd, to his disciples over and over again. Jesus states, “I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing will hurt you! (Mk 10:17) Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, greater than these because I am going to my father.” (John 14:12)
We can do the same things that Jesus did? Little old us? Yes! We can feed ourselves once we’re taught. And we can teach others to do the same. We all carry wisdom with us. We all walk around with something to teach another. Jesus knew that. He knows about the snacks you squirrel away, and he knows the wisdom you carry, too.
Now I know we are a well-read congregation. So what I’m asking you to do today is to spiritually feed one another like Jesus fed the multitude. So we’ll take a few minutes of silence to think of a book that we’re reading or have read that has moved us. Or a new piece of music or a movie… anything that has been a source of inspiration or raised important questions. We’ll take a minute, and then we’ll share. I’ll write the titles down, and we’ll post them on Facebook and in our newsletter.
From the 8:30: Here Comes Trouble: Stories from my life by Michael Moore
The Martian by Andy Weir
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Volume 3 of the World Religions at UT campus book store
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
Unbroken book or movie by Lauren Hillenbrand
Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova
Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Chidester Lecture Speakers books: The Interfaith Amigos
From the 10 service: Rance Allen, Toledo area gospel singer
Jesus and Buddha are Brothers by Thich Nhat Hanh
What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancy
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and it’s all small stuff) by Richard Carlson
To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue
On Being by Krista Tippett on NPR
102.3 Proclaim FM
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
The Citadel by A.J. Cronin
Not A Fan: Becoming a completely committed follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman
Any books by Bishop John Spong, Richard Rohr, Karen Kingsbury, Jan Karen
We always are telling our friends about the five star restaurants or where to get good food. I think this is the best place in town for spiritual food. We have a congregation full of cooks who are always sharing recipes. So go and spiritually feed others! May your friends, family, communities and the world feast on the spiritual food we are serving up here at Sylvania United Church of Christ!