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"Enough, and More Than Enough," by Claire Helton

Matthew 14:13-21


Now when Jesus heard [about the death of John the Baptist], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

This is one of our sacred stories, Thanks be to God.


Sermon


I could tell you a story of miracles

of two fish and a few loaves of bread

how the people were awed

and they gave thanks to God

and everyone went away fed

I could tell you that story,

the miracle story,

a tale of supernatural provision,

of a God who steps in

when our reserves are growing thin

and makes a way,

who meets our needs beyond measure.

And that story would do something for us.

It would cultivate wonder and awe.

It might call us toward mystery,

call us toward faith

that there are things beyond our control.

Or…it might do more harm than it helps,

create a sense that our hope is misspent,

that what happened back then

could never happen again,

that for one reason or other,

the God who was willing

to bend laws of nature

at one time in history

has updated policy since then.

That story might create disillusionment

with a God who would choose to withdraw

who would look at those suffering now

and choose not to intervene

despite their pain.

Or, worse yet, it might beckon the question

of why our faith is still so small,

as if the one thing that stands

in the way of a miracle

is our willingness to believe.

God doesn’t put that pressure on you.

So, that story doesn’t seem to suit us,

it’s not where our time is best spent.

Perhaps we could go

in the other direction,

tell a story with a different bent.

I could tell you a sensible story, a tale that

begins with two fish and some bread,

but this isn’t a story

of magic multiplication, as much as it is

one of learning to share.

Perhaps in this story the boy

with his fish and his loaves in hand

inspires the people

to share what they’ve brought

‘til everyone there goes home fed.

And that story would be easier to swallow,

it appeals to our logical minds.

It stirs us to think

that the actions of one

could have such great effect for the good.

And it’s not that we can’t engage it at this level,

there’s certainly truth to be mined

from a story of contagious generosity

if that’s what we find

here in these lines.

But I want to offer a third way

to read this story today,

to enter the story

somewhere between

the miracle and the mundane

to simply hear it

for the truth that is always true

the truth in it that lives in me and in you

because this story

of too much need

and not enough

is already our story, is it not?

I’m already living a story

where there’s not enough

justice,

where five thousand and more

gather en masse

to listen for good news,

to seek God’s shalom,

and too often,

they’re sent home

still hungering for righteousness to be done.

I’m already living a story

where the ones in leadership,

like the disciples,

act as if there’s nothing they can do,

abdicate responsibility,

deflect and defer.

I’m already living a story where people –

a whole nation, it seems –

are looking for things that are in short supply:

first masks,

then swabs,

now testing and tracing

and comprehensive plans for safely getting the kids back to school...


but also:

hope,

and trust in one another,

and hours in the day,

and patience with our loved ones.

There’s not enough. There’s never enough.

So what if, in this season of never-enough,

I told you a story of abundance,

a story of full bellies and baskets full of leftovers?

What would it do to our sense of what’s possible

to ground ourselves in a story of

the Christ who looks at the one crying,

“There’s not enough!”

and replies,

“Of course, there is. Let me take a look.”

Most of us here aren’t hurting for food,

most of us have the physical things that we need.

It’s these intangibles,

these things that sustain us

emotionally, psychologically,

that we’re struggling to find.

It’s not about denying that we have these real needs,

and it’s not about believing blindly

that if we want them bad enough

or display more trust in God

they’ll magically appear.

It’s about knowing what we have is what we have

and it is enough.

We feel like we don’t have enough time

now that everything is different

and the world seems to require more of us

or

we feel like we don’t have enough to do to fill the time

that we’re swimming in

not enough purpose

not enough drive

when the truth is

we have the time that we have

it isn’t too much,

it isn’t not enough,

it just is.

We feel like we don’t have enough creativity

to meet this moment

the new demands that it brings,

not enough ability to think outside the box

to keep from getting stuck

when the truth is

we have what creativity we have,

we aren’t stuck

we’re just here

in this moment,

and soon it will pass

and we’ll be in another one

and that one will be

just as this one is,

and it is enough,

and more than enough.

There is so much more that we feel

and where we feel that we don’t have enough

It’s different for each of us,

for me it’s quiet

there’s never enough of,

during the day

in my house that’s not full,

but feels full of children

never enough quiet to think a full thought

or not enough patience with my toddler

when he’s out of bed for the thousandth time

(does he not know that we’re in a pandemic

and I need my evenings??)

and yet

the truth is

I have what quiet I have.

I have what patience I have.

And we’re still here.

And it is enough.

And if I look closely

I might even find

that, in fact, there are baskets full

of leftover patience

waiting, just over there

So much of our pain

is born of resistance to suffering.

We suffer most

not when we have great pain

but when we have any pain

and spend our time

wishing we didn’t have it,

when we wish we were not suffering,

when we wish things were somehow

other than they are.

That saying that circulates,

“God won’t give us more than we can handle,”

I believe it’s so often repeated

not because it tells us something true about God,

as if God were doling out suffering

based on our stamina,

but because it tells us something true about ourselves.

We keep saying,

“God won’t give us more than we can handle,”

because deep down we know this truth:

we can handle just about anything.

Throw whatever suffering you will at a person,

tribulation, famine or sword,

and unless they die,

they’ll live.

How many times do we have to say,

“You know, the truth is, I’ll survive” before we believe it

the next time fear shows up?

Far too often we behave as if

the thing we fear –

being depleted,

running out of resources,

being wounded or ill,

physically or emotionally –

we behave as if that thing that we fear

is real, right now,

rather than what it is

which is a fear.

The fear is real, it’s real here and now.

The thing that we fear is not.

Unless we’re in immediate danger,

as Nadia Bolz-Weber likes to say:

Unless you’re being chased by a bear,

right now,

or asked to do the chicken dance at a wedding,

or under some other imminent threat,

your fear is a liar, a thief of love, of joy, of generosity;

it convinces us that it is more real

than what is actually happening around us.

And so what if I told you the story

of those two fish and a few loaves of bread

that somehow were enough

to sustain a whole crowd

not as a miracle tale

or a reasonable anecdote

but rather

a story of this truth:

that what we have is more than enough.

What if this story is, for us,

the manifestation of that message of hope

so often on the lips of Christ himself,

of the messengers of God

in the scriptures:

Be not afraid.

Would it give us permission to believe

that what we have is actually enough?

The time that we have

the relationships we have

the courage we have

the energy we have

the patience we have

the wisdom we have

the love we have

the hope that we have

is actually enough,

and so much more than enough.

Would that this story of abundance

might open us up to grounding in our senses

to using our sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell,

to sense what is real,

to sense past our fear –

our bodies know what’s real –

and to learn to remember

what it feels like to trust

that this moment

is more than enough.


Amen.

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Northminster
Church

318-388-3717

office@northmin.org

2701 Lamy Ln.

Monroe, LA 71201

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