Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21
August 6, 2023
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We were at camp this past week as a family. Going to Massanetta Springs has become an annual tradition for us. It is a camp designed for clergy couples and our families. Thomas and Isaiah look forward to this week every year and despite having two little babies who require a lot of extra stuff like pack and plays, bottles, medical supplies, we all made the two hour trek south to Harrisonburg, VA. Thomas and Isaiah have made friends with fellow Pastor kids from all over the country. It really is the highlight of my summer seeing my two boys happy and playing with other kids. On the final day, we woke up and all made the trek down the hill to the dining hall for breakfast. It was my favorite… Sausage biscuits and gravy or if you are from the south…a gravy biscuit. It is one of the few breakfast foods that I really love to eat. Of course my kids hated it. They also had some scrambled eggs and Thomas and Isaiah were both amendable to eating some eggs. Thomas ate three small spoonfuls of eggs and a single strawberry and said, “I’m done. Can I go outside and play?” I kept telling him that he was going to be hungry…that three spoonfuls of eggs is not much when you are going to be running around and doing camp stuff. “Nope. I’m done. Let me go outside and play.” So, I let him go. At 8:30, we head back up the hill to the kid’s camp time and our adult large group time. A couple of hours later, Thomas and Isaiah come upstairs for our closing worship. “Dad, I’m hungry.”
I feel like, as a parent, that its like I am talking in a foreign language. What do you mean, “You’re hungry?” “Clearly, you are going to have to wait until after worship to get some food. This is camp, not our house. I don’t travel with a pantry full of all your favorite snacks. You need to wait.” Have you ever told a 3 year old and 6 year old who are hungry to wait until lunch? Yeah…now imagine taking these same two hangry kids to worship.
It was the longest 45 minutes of my life. They fought the entire time. They wouldn’t sit still. They were crying and begging me for food. I missed the sermon because I had to deal with Thomas and Isaiah fighting over a bag of goldfish they got during the children’s sermon. And here’s the thing, there was an abundance of bags of goldfish and they were still fighting because they were hungry.
I was hungry too. And Angry. And frustrated. You know…it’s hard to hear the Word of God on an empty stomach. Even for adults, it is hard to concentrate on the Word of God when all you can hear is your stomach rumbling. Often times on Sunday mornings, I skip breakfast because I rather get a few more minutes of sleep than wake up early and make myself something to eat. Coffee can only do so much to fill me up. My boys on Sunday Mornings sometimes eat a full breakfast and sometimes are like me and walk out the door hungry because sleeping in or playing with their toys was more desirable.
There are a lot of kids and adults who come to Zion on a Sunday morning hungry. And you want to know the one thing that Kingdom of God is not made up of… because we have been talking about the kingdom of God for the past couple weeks and what the kingdom of God looks like… The kingdom of God will not have Hungry people.
From the Prophet Isaiah: Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
From the Psalmist: 15The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. 16You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.
After leading the people through the Red Sea, the first thing God does for them is gives the people something to eat—manna and quail.
How many times does Jesus describing the coming kingdom of God as a banquet, a meal, a wedding reception? How many times does Jesus share a meal with his disciples? A lot.
I don’t know what it is like to go hungry. I have never been in a position where I felt food insecure. I grew up in Baltimore County where we had 5 grocery stores within a mile or two of our house. Now, that number has probably tripled. My parents always put food on the table that was healthy and nutritious. Clearly, I have not missed a meal in a long time. But there are people who live in food deserts. In particular, people living in rural and urban areas find it hard to find a grocery store that is close or nearby. And there are many children within our own community who’s parents who are unable to provide enough food for their children because of poverty. How can we expect someone to show up to worship and be able to engage the word of God on an empty stomach?
We could tell them to suck it up but I gotta say, that isn’t really Christ like. Jesus didn’t say love your enemies and only do good to those who love you. No, he forgave those who crucified him. He spoke words of Grace, love and acceptance. In fact, when presented with a large, hungry crowd and his disciples wanting to send the people away because they are afraid of the crowd turning into a hangry crowd Jesus says, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Jesus has compassion on the crowd, not disdain. He sees that they have all come to the middle of nowhere to be healed, to learn, to engage the Word of God made flesh. And that experience shouldn’t have to end prematurely because of one of the first level on Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs. “You give them something to eat.”
People need to be fed and it is why I feel so strongly about our hospitality ministries here. Oh pastor, its just a donut…its not that big of a deal. Yeah. Okay. But that donut is the one thing that gets my kids in the church every week. There has been Sundays when one of our hospitality ministers have poured me a cup of coffee before worship. That cup of coffee was the difference between me falling asleep as Matt and his teams plays music and me being a burning ray of happiness and sunshine. And that is because God takes what we see as small and insignificant, like 5 loaves of bread and two fish, and feeds 5,000 people. This miracle is not a miracle of the crowd sharing food that they brought from home. This is the real deal—God took 5 loaves of bread and two fish and feed 20,000 plus people.
And I think we need to see some of our basic hospitality ministry in this same light. Normally, a donut is nothing, but here at Zion, God takes that donut and allows kids like Thomas and Isaiah; Levi and Zach; Ava and Blake; Fiona and Penny; Lorelei, Avery, and Jarrett; Gram and Paige; Lucy and Owen; to engage and participate in the Word of God. That cup of Coffee gives me the strength to deal with a hangry wife who didn’t have enough time on Sunday morning to eat breakfast before coming to church because I decided to sleep in. It’s just a slice of 5 dollar pizza from Little Caesar during VBS but not one kid went hungry that night and engaged the Word of God. That Ham Sandwich and Chicken Salad sandwiches that the ladies made two weeks ago for Donna and Franny’s funeral lunches allowed both families to come together to share memories and collectively grieve the death of two formable women. “Oh, its just a sandwich…” Yes, yes it is but when you involve God and invite God to present, it is more than just a sandwich, a donut, a slice of pizza, a cup of a coffee—it’s … it’s the kingdom of God breaking into our world—a world full of hungry people unable to engage or know God because their stomachs won’t stop groaning in pain. Feeding people has a cost—but what greater value is there than experiencing and having God’s kingdom break into our broken world? So, who’s hungry??
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.