Tag Archives: kingdom ethics

let nothing be wasted

{excerpt from a sermon I preached on Feb 28, 2016}

Jesus finds himself surrounded, yet again, by an enormous crowd. They are outside of the cities, in the wilderness. It’s a first century Woodstock, thousands upon thousands all gathered to see the celebrity that was the Carpenter from Nazareth. This guy heals the sick, cures the blind, raises the dead, he turns water into wine, and best of all he sticks it to the man. Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Romans, Tax Collectors – he don’t care – all of them he speaks to as if they were his equal, as if everyone were equal.

But of course it was more than that. There was real need, and people were desperate for change. Their mouths watered for both sustenance and justice, their stomachs growled for both bread and freedom, and their hearts yearned for a King to rise up. So they followed him, no matter how many times he tries to slip out back, dive into the limo, and cruise away atop a mountain. They find him and come begging for one more miracle, one more performance, one more show. And Jesus, incredibly, always comes back down from the mountain. This strange mix of unwanted celebrity and bonafide miracle man always finds himself stopping to embrace a child or heal the sick or show mercy to the forgotten. And despite his clear ability do so, he never treated them poorly. Jesus treats everyone as if they were his dinner guests, old friends come to visit, weary from a long journey.

So Jesus, being who Jesus has already shown himself to be, sees this crowd of people and asks Phillip, “Where are we going to buy bread for all these people to eat?”

I love that question. Where are “WE” going to “BUY” bread for “THEM”?

There is massive need in front of them and Jesus says WE will meet this.

And Phillip doesn’t miss a beat when he answers, “It would take over 6 months wages just for everyone to have a bite of food.” Classic. The old “who’s going to pay for it?” routine.

Somebody always wants to know that answer. And if they’re asking the question, you better believe they’re not going to be the ones volunteering wallet or purse.

Hey, none of us are exempt from this kind of attitude. Sacrificial love is no easy task. It requires a completely different way of viewing your life, and your goals, and success, and wealth, and faith. Sacrificial love, which is the kind of love which Christ calls us, comes with cost. It always has.

A cost, in this instance, paid by a young boy with a sack lunch. But there is a lot more happening here. Jesus is showing them a new way of seeing the world. A way in which one does not run away from great need, but rather finds himself and herself asking, “what am I going to do to help them?”

What do you do when face to face with incredible, seemingly insurmountable, impossible need?

Can we be honest with ourselves for a moment. Let’s be honest. What do we do? We change the channel. We look away. We buy a new shirt. We move to the suburbs. We go on vacation. We fill our minds with something else, our hearts with another drama, our souls with a new passion. We do anything possible to avoid the glaring need before us.

But what if we didn’t?

What if we faced it?

Refused to look away?

Allowed its image and need and wounded-ness to soak in?

What if we chose to look directly at those in need and decided to try?

 

I know that it can seem overwhelming. I know how hard it is to NOT change the channel. I know how difficult it is to try and take in the incredible need of our world. But are we not called to love abundantly? Are we not required to love our neighbor? Are we not able to do more? To be more? To demand more from this life than a two car garage and a week at disney world.

That’s the problem with walking around with Jesus. Sometimes you find yourself face to face with thousands of hungry people and no food in sight and Jesus looks at you and says, “let’s feed them.”

Matthew 6:11-12 says

“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and hand them out to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. And When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

Let nothing be wasted my brothers and sisters. Let not your skills or influence or wealth or time or energy or life be wasted. Let not the mercy and grace of our God be wasted. Let not the abundance of food and resources and advantage that we have be wasted. Let not an opportunity to meet the need of another be wasted. Let nothing be wasted.

Ignorant

What does it truly mean to be ignorant?

Is it a state that someone experiences for a short period of time or a cage that one becomes trapped in?

Two women get in an argument at a high school volleyball game.  One of them, the younger, made an ill advised comment about the visiting team.  Harmless mind you, but probably of poor taste.  The older woman, cheering for those visitors, responded, “That’s just ignorant.  You’re ignorant.”  The younger lady apologized immediately.  Her shock and embarrassment evident.  Her apologies did nothing to sway the older woman.  The older woman was now angry and made sure that everyone knew it.  You’ve likely been around someone like this.  They speak as if all are there to simply be audience members to their rant.  And their tone and attitude carries a curious expectation that everyone present is on their side.

Have you even been in a situation where you knew it’d be better to keep your mouth shut?  Just be quite, let it pass, and all will be well and good.  That’s good advice.  Advice I will attempt to remember for the next time.  This time, however, my mouth spoke.  The conversation had shifted and now the older woman spoke in my direction, as if we were colleagues, fellow journeyman through the world of bullying and overreaction.  As if, for some unknown reason, she felt like I agreed with her response to this younger ladies comments.  I did not.  Regardless of any comments made she had apologized and there was really no need to continue berating her.

It is important to understand what you’re fighting for.  You should know whether it is worth fighting for or not.  Is this a hill you’re willing to die on?

“I’ve got to get up before I ____ someone up.  I can’t be around this stupid, ignorant girl,” the older woman announced as she stood up.  “I’ll kick her ___, I’ll knock the ____ out of her,” she proclaimed as she looked toward me for approval.  (Inappropriate words removed.)

Yes, I will die on this hill.

No one should be bullied in such a way, so I voiced my defense of this young girl.  I then was the subject of threats and mockery and labels of “ignorant” and “stupid.”  I spoke calmly and tried to ensure her that the young lady was apologetic and that there was no need to further push the issue.  Though such words, meant to be reassuring and peacemaking, only enraged her anger all the more.  I suppose she had decided to be angry and some guy telling her that such anger is misplaced only caused the pot to boil over.  As is the case with any of us in our most ugly moments, we desire the anger more than the resolution.

When the older lady left for another seat, both the ladies were plenty embarrassed.  I was a bit riled up myself.  Yet I hold no ill feelings toward anyone involved.  The younger lady will heal, learn a valuable lesson in that you cannot predict how people will react to your words, and hopefully grow from it.  The older lady was angry about something in life, likely nothing even there at the time, and needed to release that; though, I hope she finds a more suitable method of doing so.   And I was left with this one word ringing in my mind, “ignorant.”

What does that even mean?  Ignorant?

I.Q., prejudice, grades, knowledge, poor decisions?  Which is the true measure of ignorance?

I suppose you could say all of them.  I do know this, when I toss words around like ignorance it tends to become a self fulfilling prophecy over my own life.  I’ve been guilty of such a thing far too many times.  And, I should confess, I’ve been guilty of loosing my temper and putting my foot in my mouth plenty of times as well.  That volcano eruption of anger is no stranger to my world.

Ignorance occurs when I forget to be humble.  When I forget that the person beside me is created in God’s image and that I stand neither above them on high moral ground nor below them on kind soft soil.  I stand equal to them occasionally saying the wrong thing to the wrong person, not caring about their story, and from time to time loosing my cool.  Ignorance is born from moments where I believe I am the most important person in the room and therefore my view matters above all others.  Ignorance happens when I place myself upon a pedestal.

Lord help us all to follow you in humility, to offer mercy to others, and to steer clear of ignorance.