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things organized neatly is wonderful and i hope unlikely to sue me

sunday's sermon--Matthew 14:13-21

Most images below come from Things Organized Neatly. You should check it out. Also, Things Organized Neatly, please don't sue me for posting these images. They made my sermon more effective.

(asterixes indicate a slide change)
“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. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”
“Everyone who thirsts…” Are you thirsty?*

Are you hungry?
What for?*(black screen)
I hunger for cool new shoes. And the approval of others.
I thirst for free time and then spend it doing housework
—it does not satisfy.
What do you hunger and thirst for?
I hunger for radically inclusive church community
where everyone is not just allowed in but desired
I thirst for a church where the poor, the outcast, the broken,
yes, even the rich are welcomed with open arms.
I hunger for more time with my delightful daughter.
I thirst for deep prayer in a world which doesn’t have the time.
These would satisfy. These would be the bread Isaiah and Jesus speak of.
It seems like we here on the ground, we ordinary people
are always striving for something else, something more.
Yet the something more we receive rarely satisfies.
You know what I’m talking about: houses, cars, clothing, success at work,
people liking us for the image we present
—that stuff doesn’t satisfy, not for long.
I don’t know about you, but I kind of expect God to be, you know, obvious.
Sign-like. A big burning bush in the middle UC’s campus
or a pillar of smoke in the middle of the House of Representatives
leading us to the Promised Land.
But, no, we have ordinary old sidewalks and ballpark hot dogs.
We hunger and thirst for something huge and flashy
and we get something small and ordinary.
We’ve been talking about finding God in the ordinary the last few weeks
—have you caught on to that?—
because we rarely get the huge, flashy sign of God’s presence.
But, more than that, we’re talking about finding God in the ordinary
because that is precisely where God shows up.
Check it out. One of my favorite blogs is called Things Organized Neatly
—she posts images of, well, things. Organized neatly.
Here’s a couple examples: clay pots stacked neatly*,

matches in varying degrees of being burnt*,

books organized by color*,

all the pieces of a pocket watch*

—you get the point.
Each is made up of very ordinary things, yet seen in a different way,
are things of extraordinary beauty.*(black screen)
Or try this one:
my husband has been spending his summer away from teaching
revising his young adult novel so he can pitch it to an agent.
Parts of the revision go smoothly,
he really gets into it and hours pass without his realizing.
Other parts are much more difficult, and he struggles with them.
And every so often, having had all of those parts of the plot
swimming around in his head for months,
an elegant solution rises to the surface
which makes everything fit together.
I’m not speaking of a blinding flash of insight here, folks,
but the everyday, ordinary workings of our brains
which, to me, suggest the action of the Holy Spirit.
She moves in mysterious ways, in subtle ways,
in ways we’d call ordinary and thus not divine.
But the ordinary points to the divine.
Look: The stuff Jesus fed the 5000 with is ordinary stuff.
Bread and fish—you could buy it at any store, or make it yourself.
It’s not special.
And even the bread and wine of our weekly meal here is ordinary.
Ordinary things—fish and bread, bread and juice…us.
We’re ordinary things—we’re no saints,
we’re made of dirt if you remember the Genesis stories!
Ordinary dirt sculpted into something beautiful.
But that’s what the saints were
—ordinary people doing extraordinary things—or, rather,
ordinary people doing the ordinary things of the Kingdom of God.
Check this out.
Today (Saturday) we celebrate the feast day of William Wilberforce,
an abolitionist and politician from the 1800s.
He made long speeches and worked tirelessly for 18 years
to abolish the slave trade in England because of his faith
in the freedom we have in Jesus Christ.
You might think
“it’s all well and good for him, he was famous and powerful.”
But he was just a guy
who didn’t think a person should own another person.
All the heroes of the faith are ordinary folks
trying to live like God is really here like he says he is,
ordinary folks thirsting and hungering
for justice and truth and mercy.
When Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd of well more than 5000 people,
they didn’t know what to do—they only had a little bread and fish,
nothing compared to the crowds gathered.
And Jesus said, “bring your nothing to me.”
This morning, I bring to God my nothing
and hope that he can make something out of it.
I bring our beloved country’s literal hunger and thirst.
From what I read, there is plenty to go around,
so why, in a country which prides itself
on its Christian history and Christian present,
do so many suffer from malnutrition?
Every time I go to the Freestore/Foodbank to volunteer,
they show us around the warehouse,
and when we get to the PowerPak station, I tear up.
Every time.
PowerPaks have food for the 36-hours of a week-end,
food that doesn’t have to be refrigerated
and doesn’t need special tools like can openers to open.
Because it’s for kids whose parents can’t or won’t feed them over the weekend.
Kids who won’t eat otherwise.
This is not right.
This is not what a Christian nation looks like.
Trappist monk Thomas Merton says
we can’t hope to bring about the Kingdom
with non-Kingdom practices—
we can’t bring about peace with weapons,
we can’t bring about abundance for all
with wealth concentrated in the few.
This is a hard thing, brothers and sisters,
because these things have become ordinary to us.
Our comfort and wealth have become entitlements
Which only means things we’ve got used to.
Our hunger and thirst have become ordinary
to the point that we don’t notice them,
we don’t see the Kingdom of God showing up in our lives
because it doesn’t seem important enough.
We can’t see past the ordinariness of our situation
—but that is exactly where God meets us
and makes of our nothing an abundant feast.
Jesus made the little bit of bread and fish
into food for thousands but that wasn’t the only point
—that was the big sign that something was happening,
but then the something happened.
The disciples fed the people.
They took the bread and fish
and handed it out to the people waiting.
They fed the hungry.
And they fed ALL the hungry.
This is the kingdom of God, brothers and sisters…
In the ordinary stuff of our lives


baby clothes*,

ingredients for cookies*,




candy bars*

—God makes something out of nothing.
And do you see how many of these images were of food?
It’s one of the most ordinary parts of our lives
and yet gives us a foretaste of the kingdom of God.*(black screen)
Do you see?
Do you see how God can slip in through the cracks
where we don’t expect him?
Do you see that in ordinary things like a bit of bread and fish,
God calls us to the life of the Kingdom
where all have a place at the table,
where all receive what they need and offer what they have,
where there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek,
slave nor free, gay nor straight,
rich nor poor, Democrat nor Republican
and where we receive abundant life,
and where we give it away as well.
What if we lived like that Kingdom were here right now?*

What do you hunger for?
What do you thirst for?
Does it satisfy?
Come to the table, for the meal is prepared.
*(black screen)