One thing that many in the world perceive they lack is resources. Resources to have the cars, houses, education, clothes, and vacations we are convinced we need. Resources to move forward on that one great idea we know will change the world, at least our corner of it. Resources to make a difference.
In some parts of the world that perception is a reality. Adequate housing, water, and energy are difficult to obtain, a good education or safe neighborhood only a dream.
It has been interesting watching the Olympics in Brazil. Ken and I visited there as construction on the stadiums was in its early stages. Resources were a significant issue as work to prepare for this world event began.
People living in the poorest communities of the country shared their pain and frustration that while the government did not have resources to help provide municipal sewer and water, and the utilities didn’t have the resources to bring power to their neighborhoods, there were sufficient resources to construct the infrastructure needed to welcome the games.
We walked through some of these neighborhoods where raw sewage ran down an open canal, garbage stay piled in the sites designated for pickup, water was collected on rooftops because no water lines were available to service the homes. We witnessed poles with a web of electric wires as families tapped into transmission lines to bring power to their homes. We heard from groups who organize programs to make sure educational opportunities were available to many for whom even public education is not accessible.
Resources were also an issue for a friend of ours who took us to dinner while we were there. This native of Brazil was an exchange student at the high school my husband and I attended. Both he and his wife are well educated and successful, they live in a beautiful neighborhood. They have a boat, a summer and winter home, and sent their children to the best schools. Yet as the discussion turned to the upcoming World Cup and Olympics and all of the stadiums under construction, they, like those in the poorer sections of the country, raised concerns over the expenditure of so many funds to build venues that our friend deemed “unsustainable.”
Two very different financial realities, both identifying a problem with the allocation of resources in their country.
Resources are an issue in this morning’s passages from Luke 9.
The twelve disciples are sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. Jesus instructs them to take nothing with them. No means of protection, no suitcase, no food or money, not even an extra set of clothes. To head out to live out what they learned journeying with Jesus, equipped solely with what was in their hearts and minds with only the clothes on their backs.
They are completely dependent on those who welcome them in for food, shelter, and other basis needs. They are completely dependent on God for their skills in sharing what they know of Jesus and in healing those who needed healing. No one able to brag about what they did on their own, only able to report on how God was working through them.
That report seemed to be enthusiastic and filled with information that led Jesus to call them away from the crowds to talk about their experience and to get some rest. No indication that doing what Jesus sent them to do was curtailed in any way by the fact they went without what we would consider important resources. No indication they were hindered in their work by any shortage of resources.
Also heading out without provisions, extra clothes, and an overnight bag, are those in the crowd who learn where Jesus is headed and get there before him. They come hungry to hear what he has to say, seemingly forgetting to make any provisions for being away from home past mealtime.
It is interesting then, that those who had experienced being fully dependent on God to provide what is needed for them to physically and spiritually share the Kingdom of God and to cure people of their diseases, aren’t expecting Jesus to do the same for the thousands gathered to hear his message.
Those in the crowd were likely caught up in the excitement of an opportunity to hear this man who brings a message unlike anything they have heard before. They act quickly to take advantage of what they see as an opportunity of a lifetime, not worrying about food or shelter. The disciples, who care deeply for those in the crowd, offer some logical solutions to the crowd’s lack of resources to have a meal before their long, by foot, journey back to their homes.
One suggestion – send them off to nearby communities to find food and shelter if they need it for the night.
One solution – reported as impossible from the onset, was to go out and purchase food for everyone.
Both were not viable. Surrounding communities could not have handled the magnitude of this crowd and financial resources to buy enough food, if it was even available in that quantity in the nearby villages, would total months of wages. Not a likely amount of money in Jesus’ treasury.
They do survey the resources available to them onsite: Five loaves and two fish. Again, not a viable solution for 5,000 men and an unknown number of women and children.
Having just returned from a God directed trip to connect people with the Kingdom of God, knowing they went with nothing, and returned healthy, clothed, and filled with stories of wonderful experiences on the road, the Disciples had the best resources for knowing Jesus can handled anything that comes along. But they look to the earthly, this is how we know how to get it done, resources.
It is when they present what resources are available, the five loaves and two fish that the miracle happens. Jesus takes what they have, and multiples it, not by just a little, but by more than enough to meet the needs of all those now sitting in groups of fifty around him.
We find this taking, blessing, and breaking of bread account in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the only miracle recorded in all four. Maybe repeated because like the disciples, even when we personally experience God providing just what we need to do whatever we are called to do, we are quick to look at the solutions we have used before, rather than looking for the new ways God is resourcing us.
Maybe repeated because we need to be reminded we face situations everyday for which our resources are completely inadequate, but for which God already has a plan, a method, and a way to accomplish anything we are called to live into as we share God’s Kingdom.
Resources are something we will discuss as we discern where God is currently calling The United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest. We will gather data the way we know how: looking at financial records, evaluating overall giving patterns, compiling the building maintenance and usage needs, setting priorities.
Likely we will count our loaves and fishes and wonder how can we answer this call to share the Kingdom of God with our neighbors and to bring healing to a hurting and broken world.
We may even surface conversations similar to those the disciples had. Thinking we need to send the people with whom we are called to serve to another village or church, one we think has better resources. Wondering if there is any way to gather the funds needed to go out and buy the stuff we need to complete the job.
With the building of the infrastructure to host the World Cup and the Olympics in Brazil there are many “resources” perspectives. The “government perspective”, let’s showcase this country, highlight all of the great things here. It will make us look important, maybe even draw more tourists in the future and build our economy. The “more affluent, but not overtly rich”, citizens’ perspective that taxing them to build unsustainable structures is not a good use of their resources. The “trying to provide just the basic necessities for my family” perspective, that spending money on buildings that do not improve the quality of life for all citizens, when there are so many needs, is unjust.
As we discern the resources needed and the resources available to live into the ministry we hear God calling us to, there will be a variety of perspectives. This passage provides us with the resources to find God’s way for us to use those perspectives in positive and meaningful ways.
The disciples equipped themselves at the feet of Jesus, listening and questioning, recognizing the need to spend time talking with their leader.
The disciples, didn’t always get it right, but when they relied on God and not on their own ability to get things done, they had amazing experiences, and were able to do that which God called them to do.
Jesus is always there, patiently and lovingly ready to show us yet again that God has provided all we need to get through any circumstances in our lives, to be the neighbors we are called to be, to serve in the ways we are uniquely called to serve.
In the end, everyone is feed, not just enough to get by, but enough to fill us up with leftovers to spare.
As we begin to form how we organize the groups who will work together to move Abundant Harvest toward that goal – an abundant harvest – we will implement some of this passage. My hope is our resources of time will be maximized in organizational structures that keep us informed, in dialogue, and focused on sharing the Kingdom.
My hope is that every meeting we have this year will have a time of sitting at the feet of Jesus, making prayer and devotions an integral part of our work together. I will do my part to help develop agendas that not only allow for this time of spiritual development, but time to do our work in meaningful ways without going much over an hour.
We already have a long list of resources in this congregation. Gifts and graces abound, a love for God and genuine desire to be increasingly like-minded with Christ are evident in all of you. There are financial resources available here: some from tithes and gifts, some from volunteer hours given with a sense of joy and praise for God. There are areas where we all might feel a bit as if we have five loaves and two fish with over five thousand people to feed.
We may need a reminder now and again that Jesus sometimes asks us to leave everything behind, our staff (those things that help us feel in control); our bag (all those things that distract us from God’s purpose for our lives together), our bread and our money (our tendency to hold things back we shouldn’t, out of fear we won’t have enough for ourselves) our extra tunic (the stuff that allows us to think we can make it on our own or that allows us to hold uncomfortable change at bay.)
As we identify the specific ministries to which we are called to over the next few years and take a methodical look at resources and structures we have to bring to the table, Jesus will multiple our resources to meet the needs of his people if we act with faith and not fear.
It can be overwhelming to look at hundreds of people needing to experience God’s grace in their lives, feeling as if we have too little to give to make a difference. Imagine the view from the perspective of the twelve Disciples.
Perspective is often the thing that identifies where the resources are that meet the needs of our work together for the Kingdom of God. Christ’s perspective is the perspective that brings it all together in new and life-giving ways.
The Leonard Sweet/Frank Viola book “Jesus Speaks: Learning to recognize and respond to the Lord’s voice” just came out this week. It is filled with ways to listen, evaluate, and act and will likely be a base for some of our devotional work this fall.
I look forward to learning more about God’s call on our congregation and exploring how we can best use all the loaves and fish you bring to the table. I hope you do as well