Year B Proper 12 – Mission Elyria

A homily for the Saturday Eucharist at the end of Mission Week Elyria

Tomorrow, our mission youth will give the sermon at Sunday’s service. They will talk about the loaves and the fishes, about making do with what they had to do work throughout the county, making do with the gifts and the skills that they brought with them, that they brought to the jobs at hand. They will talk, too, about how they learned to share their materials, their skills, their ideas, themselves with one another.

I wish you could all have seen more of the way that the youth and their adult leaders worked together, to make the resources of twenty-seven teenagers – the resources of time, experience, friendship, knowledge, caring, prayer – to make those resources stretch further than they could have imagined.

They know what it is to give of their all, to struggle, to worry about having enough, doing enough, giving enough, and to see great things come out of their small pieces put together.

The reading that we hear today from the Book of Samuel is about the opposite approach to life’s little challenges. It is the unfortunate and rather unsavoury tale of David’s excess. David, the hero, the young shepherd boy who was chosen of God to be the king, the handsome and the ruddy, who last week was longing to build a temple to exceed his palace, this week has settled into monarchic comfort and has forgotten that he was chosen to serve his people, to tend to them, to care for them as a shepherd. He has forgotten to give; he has forgotten even to be content to live with what he has (and he has plenty); he has decided to take more instead.

And where does it lead, this moment of selfishness, of indiscretion, of covetousness? It leads the king, the shepherd of his people, to murder.

It is the stuff of tragedy; the fallen, flawed hero who backs himself into an impossible corner. If only David had remembered his call to love and protect his people, instead of giving into selfish lust, then Uriah would have lived and David’s conscience would have remained a whole lot cleaner. And if you read on in the book of Samuel, the tragedy is compounded.

But our God is a God of second, third and fourth chances. God knows that we fail and fall, and God loves us enough to lead us back to life with one another. God did not abandon David, or Bathsheba, and God created life out of death, as God continued to do in Jesus and continues to do today.

There is always enough grace to go around.

Tomorrow, the youth will tell Sunday’s congregation how grateful they were not only to serve, but to see the examples of service and sharing that they received from the people whose houses they worked at. The man who ordered them pizza for lunch yesterday. The mother and son who laid on a crate of water for their work team. The people of the parish who helped at job sites, who dropped off desserts and cooked community meals, who fed them dinner. The people of Redeemer, Lorain, who arranged a picnic at the lake and were undeterred by the storms that blew through. (The disciples thought the storm on the Sea of Galilee was scary? They should have seen the storm over Lake Erie Thursday night!) Our missioners know that service comes out of sharing, and that it is a gift to receive as well as to give.

Jesus saw the crowd coming. He knew their need. He asked Philip, “What are we going to do to feed these people?” He said it, we are told, to test Philip. He knew what he was about. Jesus wanted to know if Philip knew, yet, what it was to share the abundance of God’s provision for the people of God, how to make a few little pieces add up to more than the sum of their parts, by being thankful, by sharing, by focusing not on what was missing, but what was offered.

How would we have answered Jesus, seeing the hungry crowd? What have we learned from the Gospel about gratitude and giving, about sharing and abundance, about grace?

I have learned so much from our missioners, from their stories of gratitude and sharing, giving and grace. I have learned so much from them this week about discipleship, about responding to that question, “What are we to do? How are we to feed them?” with faith and faithfulness, and with gratitude. I have learned so much from all of you who have supported them, who have given gracefully of your time, your food, your space, the grace with which God has blessed you.

There is always enough grace to go around.

So, to quote St Paul, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing (Upper Room Books, 2020). She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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