You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Hungry for a Miracle, HERE.
In the calendar life of the Church (big “C”), we are in the period of ordinary time. These are the weeks between Pentecost back in May and the beginning of Advent in late November that seem to run on… and on… and on. Traditionally in the Church we mark this time with the color green. And, as Kermit the Frog says so wisely, “It’s not easy being green.”
It is not easy for us in 2020 either as we live into the realities of the pandemic. Around the globe all of humanity is suddenly faced with the need for new faith practices to keep our family, friends and neighbors well. So, we have been…
- Washing our hands. Frequently.
- Physically distancing ourselves. 6 feet, or more as we stay Safer at Home, and
- Wearing masks.
Suddenly, this loooong period of Ordinary Time is not so ordinary. This year we are living into Extraordinary Ordinary Time. And it is not so easy.
This week living in a COVID-19 world left me hungry. How about you? I find myself missing our opportunities to gather here, in the church building… with you. I am missing this place, and our traditional faith practices. In my own faith journey, it is communion that keeps me rooted in Jesus’ presence. It is in the gathering around this table that Jesus keeps on calling me back here, to sit. Pause. Encounter God. To eat and be spiritually nourished. To have my fears quenched. To be in community, sharing in life communally. And to leave here renewed with the understanding God’s Table is wide. That each and every person is welcome here—no matter who you are, or where you are in life’s journey.
And so, I am hungry. I miss breaking bread with you physically present. I always love seeing the kids come up to the front of the sanctuary to take communion (and how their parents sometimes step in to guide their child’s experience). I treasure serving communion to you who are the elders, the wisdom people of the church, who have been breaking bread and sharing in the cup of God’s new covenant long before my time.
I miss knowing that on Sunday mornings around the world, Jesus followers are breaking bread together wherever they are in their own churches, for God’s Global Table is 8,000 miles wide. Some take part in the Holy Sacrament in the hours we are sleeping: In Japan and South Korea, India, Syria, Palestine and Israel, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, and across Europe. Others join us in the Central Time Zone—in Mexico south through Central America, running north across the United States into Canada. Yet even more people are preparing to continue the story in the hours ahead, as the Earth turns and day breaks forth in the province of British Columbia on into Alaska, and Hawaii.
The Table, God’s Table, is so wide that it takes an entire day to bless it and celebrate the sacrament of communion. But now, the coronavirus has disrupted how we gather, spilling theological questions all over the place. Some question whether or not we can… or should… serve communion virtually. In response, I watch as God pours forth in digital spaces (as God has been for the past decade or so): Zoom meetings and virtual worship services, FaceBook prayer groups, and Twitter hashtags. The Holy is revealed in each phone call we make, the cards we write, and the emails we send. THIS is all bread for a world running on empty.
And so…in my hunger, I look for a miracle. In our post-modern “enlightened” world we often look for other explanations for the miracles recorded in our sacred texts. But people in the first century believed in miraculous occurrences just as much as we trust our understanding of science (and no… I am not going to go down the path of science doubters this morning…for all those controversies weave into our pandemic story today too—and I really just want a miracle to pop forth in our midst!).
And Jesus shows us what it takes for a miracle to happen: and it is a whole lot of healing. This story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 plus people—children, women, and men—is found in each of the 4 Gospels. Therefore, this is a narrative that was shared over and over in early communities of Jesus followers, and there is a great Truth to be learned for us yet today. In the text, this was a day in which Jesus was immersed in healing the people who were sick. All. Day. Long. Even as he himself was grieving. His mentor, his cousin John, had just been killed by Herod. But there was no time, no space, to mourn. There were crowds. Crowds of people of all ages wondering, wandering, seeking. Broken. Sick.
It was in this place of wilderness, displacement, diaspora, that the people sought healing. It is here, with hearts and souls running on empty, where bodies and souls were restored. A moment which opened up the possibility for a movement to be fed. This becomes a place in which miracles can happen—but only after God spends time healing… and healing… all those who are sick.
We live in a time of multiple pandemics: The coronavirus, the pandemic of racism, the pandemic of poverty, and others. People, all of humanity, is in need of great healing. This past week I was a moderator for two webinars the United Church of Christ hosted for youth and young adults. Tuesday’s No Justice, No Peace: Racial Justice Rally featured speakers who are Black and people of color. They shared heartfelt stories about the unrest they experience in our country today, and then described their vision of what a just world for all would look like—and discussed how we might work toward that vision together.
During the conversation, the Rev. Kim Kendrick, lead pastor at Living Water United Church of Christ in Philadelphia noted:
“I often read and see in the sacred text that Jesus uses meals… to engage with people and to teach important lessons, and he continues to call each and every one of us to his Table. To feast on who he is and to learn more about him… and it is Jesus’ example that I think that gives us an opportunity to extend an invitation to friends, to outcasts, even to enemies to know God’s story of love. A just world for all would be really to honor the Table as well as the feast… honoring the Table would mean to be intentional about making space for everybody… making space for everybody. Dialogue and action go a long way in the creation of a just world. Conversations that center voices that are marginalized by systems of oppression including structural racism and white supremacy, heteronormativity, transphobia, xenophobia, as well as ableism. So, over the past 5 or 10 years I’ve seen that this Table or this feast has not always honored or been intended for everybody… it’s not been ways in which I’ve seen have honored the intersections where I am, where I stand. So, to have, to create, a new Table is something I think we need to do. Create a new Table! Just create a new Table. And sometimes bring our own chairs, as Bishop Flunder would say of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. Create our own Table, bring our own chairs, and also cook a New Feast… and teach others to do the same.”
(You can watch the entire webinar HERE. Rev. Kendrick’s reference to the Table 21 minutes into the video).
That is what I hunger for today. The miracle of the creation of a new Table. A Table built from Jesus’ compassionate response to the marginalized, from his deep heartfelt love into healing action. A Table at which we affirm that Jesus does not act alone.. but with and through the disciples, and thus with and through us, through all whom gather around the world this day who are so very… very… hungry.
In this hunger we will gather in a moment that Table in our homes, out here on the church grounds, and in our virtual space.
In this moment, listen. Hear Jesus tell us all to once again to sit down in a moment of Holy Pausing. May we be the bread in Jesus’ hands: blessed, broken, and sent forth to serve not ourselves, but to serve each other. To live into the core meaning of the wideness of God’s Table.
People of God, that us be hungry for THAT miracle to happen once again in our midst.
Reflection on Matthew 14:13-21 offered August 2, 2020