"Divine Abundance"

Some years ago an English reporter was interviewing Mother Teresa of Calcutta on her opposition to abortion.

"Mother Teresa, doesn't it bother you that so many children come into the world unwanted?" "Unwanted by whom?" She asked. I feel sure that God wants them, why else would he give us so many, and in all different colors too?"

"Do you want children?" Mother Teresa asked the young woman reporter, who immediately began to look very uncomfortable. "Well, er, uh, not exactly," the reporter replied.

"If you want a child, I can get you one," said Mother Teresa. And it would be wonderful for you, who have no child to enjoy, to have a child since you have so much here in Europe, so much that you could share with a child. Just say the word and I will get you a child." With that the interview immediately ended.

And if you read the Bible, particularly a story like today's gospel, you can see Mother Teresa's point - there really does seem to be something special about our God that tends toward excess, exuberance, and extravagance.

Look at today's gospel. A huge crowd followed Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus probably wanted a breather, a vacation from all those hurting people who were constantly pressing upon him, people who wanted to be healed and to be fed by him.

Perhaps Jesus was looking for time to grieve over the recent death of John the Baptist, or perhaps he was burned out and needed some time to rekindle his spiritual flame.

Many of us feel like this sometimes don't we? We get burned out, we need time alone to grieve, or we just need time to be by ourselves to get close once again to God.

But that's not what he got. Even out in the desert, there were thousands of people. So Jesus healed them because he had compassion. [PAUSE]

As the day wore on it began to grow late. The disciples urged Jesus to turn away the crowd so they could go buy something to eat. But Jesus says no, rather he told the disciples to give all those present something to eat.

"Where in the world do you expect us to get enough to feed all these people? There must be at least 5000 of them out there." The disciples were beside themselves.

Throughout the crowd there are only a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread. But Jesus blesses what they have and it's enough. Everyone eats and is filled. And there is yet more, they have 12 baskets of food left over. Food just overflows everywhere.

When I read this story, I view it as a parable about Jesus. Although they were in a desert, a place that seems lifeless and empty, it bursts into bloom once Jesus gets there. There was healing for the hurting and food for the hungry.

Often times we can be in a desert of our own can't we, perhaps because of illness or spiritual drought. Our lives can seem lifeless and empty. But once we allow Jesus into our desert the healing begins, the blessings flow, and what once seemed empty now blooms with hope, encouragement, and optimism. What once seemed scare is now abundantly available through divine intervention. [PAUSE]

And then there are the disciples. The disciples with Jesus are very much like us aren't they? We look at the vast needs of the world and become overwhelmed with despair. "Jesus send them away," we plead. Or we say, "Jesus just work some kind of miracle, feed them, and bless them.

Well, Jesus works a miracle all right. He asks us, you and me, "What do you have?" You see blessing doesn't just simply mean giving us something. Blessing means empowering, empowering us to take what we have been given and to bless others by sharing, sharing freely from all that we have. [PAUSE]

But we don't have much. Just a couple of fish in our baskets, and a few loaves. And yet Jesus urges us and empowers us to take what we have and share it, give it away, and to bless the multitudes. And some how it's enough.

I think as we grow up in this world we do so with a sense of scarcity. We have this need to grab, hoard, accumulate, pile up, and guard. "It's mine and you can't have it," this is a statement our children learn very quickly to say don't they? I wonder whom they learn it from.

I've been told that one reason why my dog Molly gobbles down her food so quickly is because for the first few million years, when dogs lived in the wild, food was scarce. When a kill was made, all the dogs gathered around the carcass and wolfed down the meat. It was important to eat fast so another dog didn't get the food.

So millions of years later my dog still gobbles down her food, even though she's the only dog in our house and she has all the time in the world to eat.

We better not let too many aliens into the country; they might take American jobs. Don't give too much to those who have no food; it might be a drain on the economy. Don't make prescriptions affordable to all people it might upset stockholders. Hold on tight to what we have. Reality is a fixed commodity. After all life is a zero sum game. If I give to you, I am diminished. Any of this sound familiar?

A teacher spent 30 years teaching elementary school. How could she do that without burning out? Many folks can't last that long in a role that requires constant giving, because overtime they burn out having nothing left to give.

How did this teacher manage to keep from going down the path to burnout? When asked this question the teacher said, "I've found that love is a renewable resource. The more you give it away, the more you get. 'As someone said in giving you receive.'" As she gave love, she received it back many times over.

There is a story about a pastor who talks about one of his parishioners. The parishioner, who was known to be one of the biggest givers to the church, was asked why he gave to the church. He said, "Well, I've found that the more I give the more I get."

At first this statement bothered the pastor. Did he mean to say that if you give money to the church you would get more money back?

No, he said that his giving was never as much as he could give, that in giving away some of his money for God's work, he had received a great joy and satisfaction at being part of God's work. True joy comes from giving, whether it is money, our time, or our talents. When you give a child a birthday present don't you feel an indescribable joy when they tear it open, scream with joy, and jump up into your lap to hug you. As you give love in whatever form, you receive it back many times over. I think we would all do well in following the advice of John Wesley when speaking of how God blesses us, "gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can."

Gain all you can in a responsible, ethical, and moral way, while balancing all the priorities of life. Save all you can to avoid debt and to be able to take care of your families, yourself, and others, over our lifetime. And give in love all you can to bless others as God has blessed us using the biblical standard of giving 10% of all we receive from God as the minimum.

In a few moments we will share the Lord's Supper together. During this Holy moment Jesus invites us to his table where he gives of himself completely as he takes a single loaf of bread and a chalice of Juice, and feeds every one of us.

We will leave his table filled and nourished with all the love and grace our hearts can receive. And when we're through, there will be food left for others.

Jesus unconditionally gives us his love, knowing he will receive love in return through our service to him, as we serve and love others in his name. [PAUSE]

When will we learn to trust Jesus? When will we learn some of his demonstrative, vast, gracious lessons? When will we stop guarding, hoarding, keeping, and clutching, and instead show the openhanded gesture of generosity?

We come into this world with a sense of scarcity, holding on tight, refusing to let go. But by the grace of God, we can learn another way. We can see that all we have, and all that we are, is but a gift of an incredibly generous God who simply asks us to respond to our sisters and brothers in the same gracious and generous spirit.

Let us pray. Lord, we thank you for loving us so much that you placed us in such a wonderful, abundant world, overflowing with signs of your love and grace. For the beauty of the earth, experienced on a bright summer day like this one, we give thanks. For our families and friends, our homes, and the daily gifts of food, and freedom from fear, and all the other ways you bless us, we give thanks.

Give us gratitude for all your gifts, O God, and give us a sense of responsibility. Make givers of us. Help us to overflow with love and generosity toward others, particularly those in need. Let us give, in some small portion, from the rich abundance that we have been given. Through Christ we pray. Amen.

Read other messages by Pastor Wade