Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 29, 2012 - Reflection by Rev.Carol Prochaska (ret.)

Title: Our Little Bit; God's Bigger Picture

           Scriptures: Ephesians 3:14-21 and John 6:1-21

A small child, 5 loaves and 2 fish, shared with Jesus, a multitude fed with leftovers. Disciples in a boat, disciples encountering opposing forces, Jesus comes, boat reaches other side safely. Familiar bible stories. Nice bible stories. Bible stories with happy endings. And yet, with these stories there's an "On the one hand" and "On the other hand." On the one hand, they're in the Bible and they're about Jesus so we have an obligation to be interested. On the other, hand we've heard them many times and there are no surprises. We know how they end and so our minds tend to wander. On the one hand there's supposed to be some kind of connection with our lives, with being the church. Besides that they are "gospel" or good news (Good News of Jesus Christ). On the other hand they're about another time and place and culture. Will we/can we hear the Good News? Probably not!
So here's my invitation to you this morning: Stay with these two gospel stories. Stay with crackers and tiny dried fish and stay with disciples trying to get somewhere, and now hear a story from our time
Some years ago I had come to the end of a search process with a church in Nebraska. I had interviewed with the Search Committee, met with the church board and other church committees and attended a congregational pot luck. The Sunday arrived for me to preach a sermon after which the congregation would vote to call me as their minister. When a candidate reaches this point in the call process the vote is essentially a formality. I preached my sermon and then following worship John and I went into another room to wait for the vote. The vote seemed to take a very long time. But eventually there was a knock on the door. The Search Committee Chairperson came in first. She was crying and they were not tears of joy! The others members of the committee were just as distressed. Turns out that the vote to call me was not a high enough percentage of those in favor and a certain more conservative member who disagreed with my liberal views had rounded-up enough other more conservative members to vote against my call. Along with the Search Committee I was stunned. If I was in a boat my boat was not going to reach the other side. When I called the Conference Minister to let him know the outcome he was stunned. This was history in the making but it was not happy history making.
John and I had planned to visit with family in Canada before I would begin my new position. We were packed and ready to go so we left Nebraska for Calgary. Later that day we stopped at a Service Station to get gas and a snack. Behind the counter was a cheery young man: "So how's your day going?" He asked. My hunch is that he was expecting the usual response: "Good thanks!" or "Fine thank you." But that was not my reply. I responded: "Not good — Not good at all. In fact it's been a very disappointing day." This young man, this stranger paused and looked at me. He saw my distress. He made eye contact. And he said: "I'm sorry, just hold out for tomorrow." One, two, three, four, five, six, seven words — no more than 5 crackers and 2 tiny fish. But it was enough. More than enough!
During our stay with family in Calgary John and I received a phone call from another church in Nebraska. It was a two-point charge. They were in crises and they desperately needed someone right away. Could John and I possibly come? Please?... and please come soon? We could, and we did. It was, for both us, a very rewarding interim ministry. The other church continued their search and eventually called a more conservative minister.
The words — those few kind words — spoken to me by the stranger at the Service Station became a piece of a bigger picture of my ministry as well as John's, and I like to think a piece ofGod's Bigger Picture.
One of Jesus disciples, Andrew, said to Jesus "There is a servant child here who has five barley loaves and two small fish. But what are they among so many people?"
How many times have you spoken a few words of comfort? Encouragement? To a loved one. To friend? To a neighbor? To a stranger? If you underestimated the power of those few words, do not ever do so again! Like a piece in a jig saw puzzle, your piece, my piece, however small, however seemingly insignificant, matters in the bigger picture!
Still: knowing this truth what do we do about those times when the world is just so full of pain it is overwhelming? There's the pain on the six o'clock news and in the newspaper and in listening to a neighbor talking about damages from a flood. There's the email from the cousin who is still unemployed. How can we not sink into sadness and helplessness and frustration? What do we do? Do we give up? Do we throw-up our hands in defeat? Do we become complacent? There's nothing I can do. Or fatalistic? Whatever will be will be.
One of Jesus disciples, Andrew, said to Jesus "There is a servant child here who has five barley loaves and two small fish. But what are they among so many people?" Is this not our question? Is this not our doubt? Is this not our helplessness? Our frustration?
We may be separated by time and place and culture but do we not still need reminders? Do we not still need encouragement? So therefore: Do we not still need to hear those familiar bible stories with the happy endings? Not so much because they are familiar but because they can still speak to us and because we need them to speak to us. There are times we need to hear again and to see again God's intentions for the world as well as nudges towards those intentions. There are those times when our dreams are too small or we've even stopped dreaming. For us to "live the Way of Jesus" now — in these days — we need opportunities to hear the good news, perhaps for the first time or perhaps at a deeper level. Depending on our circumstances it can happen that something different catches our attention, something we've not previously noticed and this something will hold our attention and fill us once again with hope.
We could think of our Ephesians passage for this morning like words a Grandmother might share with a grandchild who is about to give up or maybe like your fans watching you perform at the Olympics. They've come all that way to support you and love you, whether you medal or not. One translation of Ephesians 6:20 reads this way: "God can do anything, you know Ð far more than you could ever imagine or request in your wildest dream! God does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, The good news is that we are filled with all the fullness of God: God's Love, God's Riches, God's Power, God's Spirit."
Familiar bible stories. Nice bible stories. Bible stories with happy endings — for us — for the living of these days. Yes?

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