Lent 4B, 2009

Here’s my homily for last Sunday (BCP lectionary)

I. The book of Chronicles comes at the very end of the OT in the Hebrew Bible. That means that everything that preceded it had been ignored and disobeyed. Today’s passage says that the priests and the people were unfaithful. They were doing the awful things that the other nations did. The faithlessness of the priests and the people was that while they brought their sacrifices and offerings, they neglected to care for the poor among them. They believed that they had enough for themselves and to cover their needs, but not enough to share—as the Law of the Old Testament commanded.

The Hebrew people thought they were honoring their commitment to the Lord, even though they were not trusting the Lord to take care of their needs if they (in turn) provided for the needs of the poor. Story after story in the Old Testament, and prophet after prophet cried out to the Lord to intervene on behalf of the poor; and the people of Israel who were in a place to minister to the poor did not. They didn’t think they could have what the wanted if they cared for the needy. And so there were consequences. They were conquered and deported for about a generation. And then—oh the horror of it—they were restored and helped by an outsider: Cyrus the Persian.

II. Fast forward to Jesus’ day: Several thousand people are in need and no one thinks they can do anything about it. Jesus’ disciples had ignored all that He had thus far done: in 2.1 water had been changed into wine; in 2.13 the prophesy and the cleansing of the Temple; in 2.23 there were “many signs” that He was doing; in 4.46 the healing of the official’s son; in 5.2 the healing at the pool of Bethesda… so what Jesus was saying and doing was being ignored and/or misunderstood. Same song as Chronicles, different verse.

And they didn’t trust the Lord to care for them if they cared for the needy in their midst. Philip thinks like a community organizer and says a whole lot more money will be needed and this is impossible. Simon Peter thinks very pragmatically, and is willing to offer whatever is available, but he doesn’t think it will hold out very long.

Jesus orders everyone to sit and takes what’s offered and it’s shared and—to the disciples’ embarrassment and amazement, there are leftovers!

III. Fast forward a few more years and the Apostle Paul writes about our condition and how God cares for us in our ignorance, in our darkest hour, in our misunderstandings and in our disbelief. Paul writes “while we were dead, God made us alive in Christ.” Paul writes “by grace we have been saved and this is not our doing.” “It is the gift of God—not the result of works, so we won’t boast.” Why? Because “God made this to be our way of life.”

Brothers and sisters, our faith in God saves us so that. Our trust in Christ saves us so that. Our Scriptures today tell us that if we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves, if we don’t feed the hungry and care for the poor in our community, then our faith is deficient and our trust is lacking. What’s the antidote to deficient faith and lacking trust? Exercise. Step out in trust and take the leap of faith. “God made this to be our way of life.”

Sometimes I’m asked what the vision of this parish is. Today’s lessons are the background and underscore how and why my answer has never varied. We worship God in the fullness of the Truth (not adulterated or diluted) so that we can be fed and completely nourished, so that we can be reminded of who and Whose we are, so that we can be equipped and encouraged to go forth in the Power of the Holy Spirit and so that we can be serve the world in Jesus’ Name. See someone in need? Provide. Matthew’s version of this event in the lives of Jesus’ followers has Jesus say, “Don’t send them away. You give…” Give them something to eat and don’t worry. Give and trust the Lord and know that you’ll be cared for. Give freely and trust God to provide you with everything you need. Give time, give money, give mercy and compassion, and give your forgiveness. Give hope, give trust, give love, Give and the Lord will take care of us.

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