Altars Everywhere!

Defiant Praise – John van de Laar
There are many doorways to cynicism, Jesus,
Many reasons for despair,
May causes for fear;
But there is no excuse for giving them ultimate power;
Not if we really believe what we claim to believe.

Resurrection is real, Jesus;
We have touched it, and seen it;
Our own lives bear witness to it,
And it constantly reveals itself in our world.
And so, in spite of the fear that nags at us,
In the face of the despair and cynicism that taunts us,
In denial of all that would seek to steal life away,
We offer you our love,
Our devotion,
Our lives,
As an offering of resurrection faith
And defiant praise.
Amen.

Over these past few weeks, we have been talking about what it is like to live in Scare City.
Our fear of not having enough or being enough made us want to build tall towers and make a name for ourselves.
Our fear of the unknown and what lurks around every corner kept us from stepping out in faith.
Our fear of those who are different – who live on the other side of the tracks – caused us to miss opportunities to share our gifts with them or to receive blessings from them.

Fear, scarcity, cynicism… these are all things that limit our ability to fully experience the life God has given us.
In our attempts to cling to what we have, we don’t allow ourselves to take hold of what is truly life.

Our scripture this morning comes from a letter written by Paul to a young minister named Timothy.
Timothy was having a tough time in his work. In many ways, he was living in Scare City, perhaps facing fears that he wasn’t good enough, he was too young and unexperienced; maybe he didn’t feel brave enough for what God was calling him to do.
Or maybe, he was a young pastor, sent to a church where everything was hunky dory and he was having a hard time helping the church to grow – both in numbers and in faith.
So Paul sent this letter as a form of encouragement that young man’s ministry and as a reminder of what was really important… and I’m finding it helpful and encouraging as well.
I think its important for all of us to hear this call to move out of our attitudes of scarcity and to move into a sense of God’s abundant grace and love in our lives.

Because, friends, that is our call.

We are called to dismantle all those symbols of fear and scarcity in our lives so that we can embrace God’s abundant, joyful, overflowing life.
In our worship space this morning, we have literally dismantled the scaffolding that symbolized over these past few weeks the towers we build, the corners, and the walls…
Instead, all of these pieces are now altar spaces of their own… filled with signs of God’s hope and love and mercy that pours out into our lives.
They are symbols of OUR resurrection faith and defiant praise of God in the midst of a world that so often seems scary and uncertain.

Paul’s letter to Timothy was filled with reminders of how he could shed those fears.
The instructions were meant to help him fight the good fight of faith and to take hold of the eternal life to which he was called and for which he made his confession.
Confession isn’t a word that we use every day in our faith tradition.
We confess when we have done something wrong or when we are sorry, but the way it is used here also means to confess what we believe to be true.
Jane Anne Ferguson reminds us that this likely referred to the confession that Timothy made in his baptism.
A confession that he was God’s child.
A confession that he would serve God and love his neighbors.

A confession not unlike the one that we make in our baptisms…

I’ve been thinking about those promises that we in fact made during our baptisms and how they connect with the fears and the scarcity that lurk on the edges of our lives.

[slides for baptism]
So often, the feeling that we are not enough and that we have to build towers to make a name for and protect ourselves… that desire to have more and more and more… well, those are the powers of consumerism and nationalism run rampant.
When our desire to earn and spend and save money becomes idolatrous… when our patriotism blinds us to our kinship with brothers and sisters of other nations… then it is time for us to remember our confession.
Will you let the Spirit use you as prophets to the powers that be?
We accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves!
That is resurrection faith. That is defiant praise. That is how we build altars everywhere in this world!

When our world is filled with jealousy, conflict, abuse, and rumors… when there is a constant state of bickering and violence shows up on our news every single day… when the threats of war and destruction loom over us… then it is time for us to remember our confession…
Will you turn away from the powers of sin and death?
We renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin!
That is resurrection faith. That is defiant praise. That is how we build altars everywhere in this world!

Where there is division and anxiety over those who look different or speak different or come from different places. When we look out in judgment upon those who don’t have the things that we have or when we hesitate to see and name and celebrate the gifts of people we think are below ourselves. When we forget that we, like Paul, are completely unworthy of the love of God for us… well, then it is time for us to remember our confession…
Will you proclaim the good news and live as disciples of Jesus Christ, his body on earth?
We confess Jesus Christ as our Savior, put our whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as our Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races!
That is resurrection faith. That is defiant praise. That is how we build altars everywhere in this world!

And we do so by going back to the basics. By remembering the faith of our ancestors. By using their struggles and blessings to guide and shape the way that we live our lives. We turn to those pages of scripture, like this letter to Timothy, to remind us of the calling that is at our roots. And so, we make our confession…
Will you receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures?
We affirm and teach the faith of the whole church as we put our trust in God, the Father Almighty, in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, and in the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.
That is resurrection faith. That is defiant praise. That is how we build altars everywhere in this world!

Like Timothy, we, too, have been called to a different kind of life.
We are called to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Tim 6:11) –those fruits of the spirit that we talked about all summer long.
Fight the good fight of faith…
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and for which you made your confession.
Remember your baptism and be grateful.
Remember your baptism and be grateful.
Remember your baptism and be grateful.

Be grateful.
As 1 Timothy 6:6 reminds us, we are called to a life that combines godliness with contentment,
Gratitude and contentment are key and perhaps the only way we can truly move from a spirit of scarcity to one of abundance.
It is a reminder that we brought nothing into this world and we will take nothing out of it.
Paul urges Timothy to remember that those who desire to be rich and to have more get caught up in a cycle of self-destruction. Their lust brings nothing but trouble.
On the other hand, those who have wealth can become so full of themselves and obsessed with their money that it becomes a stumbling block to their faith.
As the Message translation puts it, “a devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God…. If we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.”

Bread on the table and shoes on our feet.
Friends, that is all that we really need.
That is what is important.
These are signs of God’s abundance that will transform this world.

Bread and shoes…

Bread on the table… a sign of the great thanksgiving and a reminder that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
A reminder of the abundant grace that has been given to us.
And a sign of the Body of Christ and how we are all united in this common mission.
And a loaf which is meant to be broken so that not just we… but others may be fed.
Bread symbolizes the ministries of our church where we praise God in our worship and we connect with one another around tables.

Shoes on our feet… because we have places to go!
Just as the first disciples were sent out into the world to baptize and teach and spread the good news, so we have been called to go from this place out into the world. After we have been fed by God’s word, we are supposed to share it.
We are supposed to carry it with us from this sanctuary so that we can transform this world.
Shoes symbolize the ministries of our church in which we teach and share the faith with young and old and in which we go and serve in places near and far.

Today… we have the opportunity to make our commitments for next year.
As a church, we have been deepening our vision and we believe that our love, service, and prayer in this world is meant to make an impact.
Just like bread is meant to be shared and shoes are meant to go out, when we deepen our engagement in this church and when we partner with others out in the world, things are going to happen!
You and me, right now, today, we are laying the foundation for the future ministry of our church.
And it will take all of us, making the commitment to personally engage in just a slightly deeper way for our church to grow and flourish and thrive.

If we are honest with ourselves… the foundation that we are laying today is not for us.
It is for the church of our children and grandchildren.
Some of us won’t be here in 10-20 years as our dreams for this place are being realized.
But for the sake of our children, for the sake of our grandchildren, for the sake of the neighbors all around us who are hungry and yearning for hope… we are called to this work.
We are called to fight the good fight.
We are called to do good.
We are called to carry this worship and word out of this place and bring light and hope and grace and mercy to all we meet.
We are called to be generous and to share.
And when we do so, we will take hold of what is truly life.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Enough…

“Enough” by John van de Laar

Worry and stress are not hard for us, God,
We do them without thinking:

There is always the potential of threat
To our security,
Our comfort,
Our health,
Our relationships,
Our lives.
And we foolishly think that we could silence the fear
If we just had enough money,
Enough insurance,
Enough toys,
Enough stored away for a rainy day.
It’s never enough, though;
The voice of our fear will not be dismissed so easily.

But in the small, silent places within us is another voice;
One that beckons us into the foolishness of faith,
That points our gaze to the birds and the flowers,
That in unguarded moments, lets our muscles relax.
And our hearts lean into loved ones.;
In unexpected whispers we hear it,
Calling us to remember your promises,
Your grace,
Your faithfulness;
And, suddenly, we discover,
That it is enough.
Amen.

A week or two ago as some of us came into church on Sunday morning, you might have noticed a police car here at Immanuel.
Overnight, the garage in our yard was broken into and a snow blower and set of tools had been stolen. They weren’t fancy or terribly expensive, but they were ours. The garage door was damaged in the process and our amazing and excellent Trustees have been working since then to secure the garage, increase a bit of our security, and help keep us all safe.

The neighborhoods around our church are changing.
We have had quite a few shootings recently and we are not the only ones who have experienced break-ins. Whether it is cars, or garages, or houses, there has been an increase in crime.
Our neighborhood is also becoming more diverse. Economic inequality is growing. We see more people of color and more languages are spoken in our midst.
I hesitate to correlate these things, but they are all part of the fabric of what is changing around us.

I think about this reality as we start our new worship and stewardship series: Moving Out of Scare City.
Des Moines is a fantastic place to live and work and grow. It was named the #1 city for young professionals a few years ago.
Yet, we were also in the top 10 list of worst cities for African-Americans in the nation.
We have had a higher murder rate this year than we have in a long time.
More of the students in our schools are on free and reduced lunches.
One in five children in Polk County are hungry.
There are some things about our neighborhood and city that feel less safe and more scary.

I think about the poem by John van de Laar that I shared with you and our temptation to silence that fear through money, insurance, security, gadgets… by clinging ever more tightly to what we have.
When it feels like death, hunger, and the overwhelming struggles of the world loom all around us some of us think about moving out. We want to separate and wall ourselves off from the problems and focus on taking care of our own.
Some churches around us have done that.
They moved out to the suburbs.
Or their church no longer looks like the neighborhood it is situated in.
Their beautiful sanctuaries and people in fancy clothes who walk into them on Sunday mornings stand in stark contrast to the needs of the people that surround them.

In many ways, I think that was the impulse of the people we follow in Genesis this morning.
In chapter 10, we find a listing of all of the descendants of Noah as they developed into the nations of the earth. One of his great-grandsons, Nimrod, began his kingdom with Babel.
While we don’t know of the threats or dangers that surrounded them, the scripture tells us in verse 4 that they wanted to make a name for themselves.
The promise of God that came to Noah was that he and his sons would “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” They were meant to spread the knowledge and blessings of God across the planet.
But this group of descendants feared being scattered over the face of the earth. They feared falling apart.
The potential threat of losing their identity, their status, their place in the world caused them to foolishly throw themselves into building a tower.
They believed that if only the tower were strong enough…
Rich and famous enough…
High enough…
Nothing would threaten them.

But this is not God’s desire or intention for our lives.
God doesn’t want us to worry about getting more and more or protecting only ourselves.
In fact, God knows that if we live our lives that way it will never BE enough.
We will always be unsatisfied and fearful.

Instead, God calls them… and us… to turn our attention away from ourselves.
God tells them they don’t need a tower – they are already enough.

And then God confuses them, scatters them, diversifies them.
Like the bloom of a dandelion becomes a thousand seeds that drift away to far flung places on the wind, God caused the people of Babel to be scattered to the winds – speaking different languages, practicing different customs, becoming different people.
In whatever place they found themselves, they began to look like the ones they were surrounded with.
They allowed the blessings of that new place to transform them.

When we look out on our neighborhood, it is tempting to see the diversity as a threat that might cause us to lock the doors of our building even tighter.
We might turn inward and stop reaching out, stop making connections, stop inviting others to join us.
OR
We could listen to that still small voice that beckons us out into the neighborhood.
We could open our doors to those who are yearning to find a relationship with God.
We could reach out in love and grace to even those who would rob us.
We could find ways to allow ourselves to be transformed and blessed by people who don’t look like us.

When I think about the legacy that Immanuel is building, I don’t see us building up a monument to ourselves, but I think about the ways we have opened our doors to welcome others in.
Not only do we gather and collect food for our neighbors through DMARC, but our front lawn is an invitation for our neighbors to come and take a book or what they might need for an evening meal.
Our building is available for other groups like Bikers Against Child Abuse to gather and plan so they can do the important work of ministry they feel called to.
We realized we had more than enough space to allow a small group of African refugees to come in and worship with one another. Under Pastor Joshua’s leadership, they became a congregation that now has a building of their own!
Our space was empty for just over a year, when this summer, a new friend called the church, looking for a place to worship.
Her name is Mu and she is one of many folks from southeast Asia, Myanmar in particular, who have built a community here. They were looking for a place where they could worship in their own native tongues… but also where they could build relationships with others.
Over the last few months, we have gradually been exploring what this new relationship might look like. Our Fireside Room was sitting fairly empty and on Sunday mornings their group has been gathering in that space to worship and pray.
They don’t have a pastor, but a volunteer from another church has been teaching in Burmese. Mu then translates into another language, Karenni. Their children are joining our children in Wednesday night activities and children’s church and we are navigating multiple languages at once!
On this day when we celebrate World Communion Sunday, I remember that while the people of Babel sought to make a name for themselves, God calls us to share the divine love with all people and to celebrate and delight in the diversity and abundance of all we share this neighborhood with.
Young and old. Rich or poor. Black, Hispanic, Asian, White.
This is what church looks like.
This is what blessing looks like.
And as we join and share and break bread, we remember that we don’t have to fear that we will not have enough.
With God’s help, there is always enough.

We're Afraid to Ask

We don’t like to talk about money.

Pastors hate to preach on it.

Finance committees only do it because they have to.

We keep our records quiet and avoid tough conversations about budgets.

And when the time comes for mission work or important projects, we pass around the white buckets and pray someone gets inspired to put more than their pocket change inside.

Why are we so afraid to ask for deep commitment, for generous gifts, for extravagant response?

 

Volunteers sort dairy tubs for the Terracycle/Imagine No Malaria drive.
Volunteers sort dairy tubs for the Terracycle/Imagine No Malaria drive.

1. We segregate finances from other types of gifts. 

We do not ask those who have the ability to make music to hide their gifts or keep their names hidden.  We are not afraid to praise the talents of that cook in the congregation who makes the most excellent peanut butter pie… and might even have been found once or twice on our knees begging them to make it for the next church supper. The person who gives their time to repair items around the church gets their name in the bulletin. We celebrate the gifts God has given us and the way that people have graciously given them for the Kingdom of God.

Except for when it comes to dollars and cents.

I’ve discovered that money is not some great evil.  It is not the powerful, ominous thing we make it out to be.  It is a resource, a gift, not unlike our voices or our hands or our creativity.

I may have shared this before, but Henri Houwen writes:

Fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry.  it is a way of announcing our vision and inviting other people into our mission….

We are declaring, “We have a vision that is amazing and exciting.  We are inviting you to invest yourself through the resources that God has given you – your energy, your prayers, and your money – in this work to which God has called us.” (A Spirituality of Fundraising, p. 16-17)

We have segregated the almighty dollar into it’s own category, rather than understanding it as one of many ways that people are able to respond, embrace, and participate in the work of the kingdom.

Through Imagine No Malaria, I have seen people give their time, carefully crafting beautiful creations we are selling to help support our work.  Folks lend their voice to the effort through being ambassadors and telling the story of our work.  Kitchens are busy with those who are baking and preparing for mission dinners and pancake suppers. Runners have covered countless miles with their feet to build support across the state for our work.  And people have opened their pocketbooks in response… eager to participate in the life-saving work of Imagine No Malaria.

Those dollars are vitally important. Without the financial resources we are gathering, we cannot do the life-saving work that is needed on the continent of Africa.

ALL of these gifts are kingdom work – healing the sick and preaching the gospel for hundreds of thousands of people.  All of them are ways for people to respond to the vision and join in the mission of God.

 

2. We aren’t good at evangelism

Nouwen writes that through asking…. through inviting those individuals, families, and organizations to give… we are in reality doing the work of evangelism and conversion.

Whether we are asking for money or giving money we are drawn together by God, who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration. To be converted means to experience a deep shift in how we see and think and act… By giving people a spiritual vision, we want them to experience that they will in fact benefit by making their resources available to us. (p. 17, 19)

A young girl in Colorado experienced that transformation when she caught the vision and was invited to give.  As other students added their dollars and change to the bucket at Vacation Bible School, she emptied her bank account and took the money she was saving for a doll and clothes and things she wanted and donated it instead to help save lives. 

When we fail to ask… when we fail to share the vision and invite people to participate in God’s work… we are denying them the opportunity to experience that kind of transformation.

Maybe one of the reasons we are afraid to step out and talk with others about participating in this project or in others is because we are so lousy at doing evangelism in the first place.

A Barna study revealed that the average United Methodist will invite only one person to worship with them every 38 years.  We just are not in the habit of talking about what our church is doing and asking people to join us in the first place.  So why would we expect things to be any different when it comes to money?

This past week, I got a call from a church in Mason City that is doing some outside the box thinking and invited the local blood bank to become a partner in this effort.

Folks in Carson invited their whole community to participate in a basketball game and raised $4000.

When we carry this message, this vision, this transformative promise out into our communities – we just might be stunned at the response. God is good and the Holy Spirit is at work if we are willing to get outside of our walls and ask.

 

fundraising3. We are willing to settle for small gifts

One of my colleagues with Imagine No Malaria refused to accept a pledge from a church.  It was a large, thriving church with a passion for mission and the ability to participate in a big way.  When they turned in a goal of $1000, my friend sent it back to the pastor and said, “We need to meet.”  He refused to let them sell themselves short because they had the potential for transformative ministry through Imagine No Malaria.

Most people, including myself, would be pleased as punch to get a pledge at all and wouldn’t have the guts to do such a thing.  But why not?

The demands of the gospel are not small.  The invitation to discipleship demands that we take up our cross and follow.  And yet we allow people to get by with weak offerings: in either time, energy, or dollars.

I bet your church, right now, has five people in it who could and would be willing to invest themselves in this kingdom-work by giving $1000… either all at once, or as a pledge over the next year or three.  I bet your community or your county has two businesses or organizations that would be willing to donate $2500 a piece if they were told about how this work is transforming lives in Africa and creating opportunities for community development and economic empowerment.

Too often we operate from a mindset of scarcity and cherish tiny offerings, instead of realizing that God has already abundantly provided.

 

 

Life Abundant… and what it means for us and Haiti

According to our “Enough” study, I’m supposed to preach on the American dream – about how the quest to have it all has taken it all away from us. I’m supposed to preach on the difference between abundance and the life abundant. I’m supposed to preach on our need to consume and acquire and what we give up in the process.

But all of that seems very trite when we remember that brothers and sisters not too far from here were rocked by an earthquake. All of that seems vanity when we think of the lives of missionaries and doctors and orphans and moms and dads and brothers and sisters in Haiti. All of that seems just plain foolishness, when we consider those who have nothing.

I am a part of a number of online communities that have been sharing stories of the lives of people who have been affected by the earthquake in Haiti. I have been praying for the rescue of and now mourning the loss of the head of our United Methodist Committee on Relief, who was killed in the rubble under our meeting place in a hotel there. And I read this letter from a friend’s parents who are working at a hospital in Haiti.

“Hospital Ste. Croix is standing. John and I are fine. The administration building collapsed, and our apartment collapsed under the story above. We have nothing we brought with us to Haiti… Someone who was here gave me some shoes, and I found another pair of reading glasses that will work, so I have what I need…

Everyone connected with the hospital is alive except that we have not heard from Mario… several people lost members of extended family. The St. Croix church is cracked, I don’t know how badly. Eye clinic looks fine…
At night we sleep in the yard behind the hospital where the bandstand was. It has fallen, as has the Episcopal school. There are 2-300 people who sleep in that field at night. They sing hymns until almost midnight, and we wake up to a church service, with hymns, a morning prayer, and the apostle’s creed. The evening sky is glorious. In the field there is a real sense of community. Of course, we are the only blancs (whites) there… People have shared with us and we are getting a chance to feel how Haitians really live…

I have never understood joy in the midst of suffering, but now I do. The caring I have seen, the help we have received from the Haitians, the evening songs and prayers. Are wonderful. The people will survive, though many will die. Please pray for us. And pray that we and the hospital can be of help to the people here. Suzi.”

One of the lines that really struck me was the one that said: we have nothing we brought with us to Haiti, but someone gave me shoes and I found a pair of reading glasses, so I have what I need.

That is an amazingly different way to view the world than through the American Dream.

Living under the quest for the American dream, we have a constant need for bigger and better stuff.

Did you know that the average American home went from 1660 square feet in 1973 to 2400 square feet in 2004?

Did you know that there is estimated to be 1.9 billion – yes, billion with a b- 1.9 billion square feet of self-storage space in America? We have so much stuff that we don’t even know what to do with it or where we will put it.

And to get all of that space and all of the stuff to fill it, we have exploited our credit systems… and our credit systems have exploited us.

In the past twenty years, the average credit card debt in our country rose from $3,000 a person to $9,000 a person.

Thursday night, someone in our group mentioned that we have a hole in our lives that we aren’t quite sure how to fill. So we try to fill it with money and possessions. But are we happier? Are we filled? Do we have as much joy in our hearts as the woman serving in Haiti who has only a pair of shoes and reading glasses?

I’m not saying that we should sell everything we have, or throw it in to a ravine and go and serve the poor… although those were the very instructions that Jesus gave to a young man seeking his kingdom.

No, I’m instead saying that maybe our vision of what abundance looks like is a bit off.

In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus isn’t chastising people for their wealth and celebration… he joins together with friends and family at a wedding feast and when the wine runs out and the party threatens to fall apart… Jesus provides. Jesus takes ordinary things like jars and water and creates abundance.

In Psalm 36, we are reminded of God’s abundance… How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36: 7-9)

God desires abundance in our lives. An abundance of life. An abundance of joy. An abundance of hope. An abundance of relationships.

And – an abundance of the things that we need to live in that simple, generous and joyful way.

I was struck by a column this week by David Brooks in the New York Times. He wrote:

“On Oct. 17, 1989, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the Bay Area in Northern California. Sixty-three people were killed. This week, a major earthquake, also measuring a magnitude of 7.0, struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Red Cross estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 people have died.

This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services…”

This week was a reminder that stuff isn’t always the problem. People around the world need safe places to live in and well constructed buildings. They need access to medical care and they need proper roads and clean water. And not having access to those things created a disaster that far exceeds the earthquake.

I don’t know very well the history of Haiti. What I do know is that it was a nation of slaves who overturned an oppressive government. And I know that although we as a nation benefited from their success and were able buy a whole boatload of land from the defeated French for a measly 1 million dollars, we did nothing to help them. I know that their culture is very different from ours and in some cases religious practices too, but hey are still our brothers and sisters in the human race. They are God’s people too.

And yet some among us have called them cursed.

I don’t know about that. But I do know that our God has something to say about cursed and abandoned places. In our reading from Isaiah this morning we heard: “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight is In Her, and your land Married; for the lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.
The Lord delights in you. The Lord is with you in the middle of the field in Haiti and you sing hymns and praise him. The Lord is with you as you work for healing and bind up wounds. The Lord is with you as you tear down the rubble and begin to dream of rebuilding. The Lord is with you and the Lord will provide.
As a colleague said this week, “we trust that God wants abundance, so we follow in the footsteps of the mother of Jesus prodding God for divine compassion and generosity:”

She looked upon the situation at the wedding feast and knew that something had to be done. So she went to someone she knew could help. She went to her Lord… ‘They have no wine.’ She said.
And we have joined her this week in our prayers. They have no medical supplies, we prayed. They have no way out of that rubble, we have prayed. They have no clean water, we have prayed.
How will the Lord provide? The same way the Lord has always provided… through transforming ordinary things into the miracles of life.
That’s what Jesus did at the feast. He took simple urns and filled them with water and out poured abundance. And that is what God is doing in Haiti. He is taking fields surrounded by rubble and turning them into his cathedrals. He is taking a United Methodist Habitat for Humanity mission in the Bahamas and transformed it into rescue and recovery flight service. He takes kits made by United Methodists all across our country and turns them into health and healing for those who have nothing. He takes our dollar bills – these green pieces of paper – and turns them into food and water and medicine for the people who need them the most.
And perhaps the most amazing thing. God takes our lives. God takes our hands and feet and eyes and ears and turns them into his. When we allow Christ to work in us. When we allow ourselves to be transformed by Jesus into wine for a broken and hurting world – I think that is when we truly know what abundance is. When we are poured out for others is when we are truly filled. When we look at the ways that we can transform our time and talents and resources, we find that there is an abundance to be given. We find that there is joy in letting go of all of the things that we though we needed. We find that living below our means – we have so much more room to share.

In your bulletins, there is an insert with some worksheets. Had this week been different, we would have talked more about these things – but they will come later. For now, take them home and read over them and maybe think a little bit about the budgeting that is in the insert. Think about what you though abundance and wealth meant in your life before. And think about what God has called us to – think about what God, in the abundance of his love has provided.

Amen. And Amen.