Cast Your Net Again (John 21)

cast your net again daniel bonnell

Cast Your Net Again by Daniel Bonnell

John 21:6
Jesus said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

Sermon/Poem
This poem was inspired by Matthew 13:47-50, John 21:1-14, John 12:31-32, Psalms 40:1-3, and the painting Cast Your Net Again by Daniel Bonnell. It could be voiced with one or two speakers.

Cast Your Net Again
It’s been a long night of fishing
We smell of bait and salt-
salt from the sea
salt from the sweat
salt from the tears
It’s a strange combination of perspiration and desperation

The sun is coming up
But our hearts remain in the deep
Not so much because we haven’t caught anything,
But because everything’s changed
He’s gone
our leader
our teacher
our friend
our future
We’re missing Jesus

He called us from our nets years before,
Come, follow me…
And that’s what we did
We gave up everything we knew
our homes
our world
our lives
“Fishers of men,” he said…

Now he’s gone and all that’s left is the nets…

empty nets…

Children, you have no fish, have you?
                                                                     No, no fish
Cast your net again and you will find some

Cast your net again,
We know this familiar foolishness
So we cast it…
we cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Suddenly! So many fish!

The cry goes up with our hope
It is the Lord! It is Jesus!

He sank down to the bottom
Down to the mud and the darkness
Down to the pain and the brokenness
Down to our level

Until he was lifted up- lifted up on a cross
Up went the fists
Up went the mocks
Up went the stares
Up went the sign
King of the Jews

Down came the hammer
Down came the tears
Down came the blood
Down came the love
Down to our level
buried beneath waves of fear and injustice and sin
Buried beneath earth

He did as he promised
Now is the judgment of this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw all people to myself

It is the Lord! It is Jesus!
He is lifted up from the earth!
Up from the grave
Up goes the shout
Up goes the sun with the Son

Cast your net again, my Jesus
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Draw us up from the bottom with you
Draw us up from the mud and the darkness
Draw us up from the pain and the brokenness
Draw us up from the selfishness and the loneliness
Draw us up from the fear and the hate and the sin and the death
Draw us up from the bottom with you

Draw us up, Draw us all, my Jesus
Fisher of men and women,
sober and addicted,
poor and prosperous,
infant and aged

Draw us up, Draw us all, my Jesus
Healthy and ill,
free and imprisoned,
questioning and confident

Draw us up, Draw us all
Fisher of nations and galaxies

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Cast your net again into the sea of humanity
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
Draw us up
Draw us in
We are caught in your saving embrace

Jesus says, “Now follow me.”
“Come, cast the net
Cast the net again and again and again and we will find some more
Cast it wide, drag it deep, sweep it around the sea
So many, so different, so beautiful
Use all your strength to bring them in
Have no fear, the net will not break.”

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© 2009, revised 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please, leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon- Does it Feel Like Easter? (John 20)

Martin-Resurrection Morning

Resurrection Morning by JRC Martin

Easter Sermon: Does it Feel Like Easter?
Scripture: John 20:1-18
Notes from a message offered Easter Sunday, 4/12/2020, via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the contemporary worship service, including the message which starts around the 15-minute mark.

Does it feel like Easter?
I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel so much like Easter. I think of special gatherings full of food, loved ones, and laughter. I think of special clothes, family pictures, baskets, bunnies, egg hunts, and chocolate.

I’ll be alone this Easter. Maybe you are, too.

I think of big church gatherings. Outdoor sunrise services, beautiful sanctuaries full of lilies and light streaming through stained glass windows.

I think of beautiful music. I’m so glad to have some of our musicians here today but I miss the rest of the praise band and the choir. Sometimes we even have trumpets.

I miss all of you. I miss us raising our voices to sing and celebrate Christ’s glorious victory. Christ is Risen! He’s Risen Indeed!

Here we are on Easter morning, and none of us expected this. None of us expected sanctuaries to still be closed, that we would be isolated from one another, that we would be watching worship from home because of a deadly global pandemic.

It doesn’t feel like Easter, it feels like Good Friday
Heavy. Overwhelming. This has been a pretty intense week. Everything is changing so fast and my heart, my mind, and my soul can’t keep up. This horror is unfolding and I feel helpless. There’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.

Some folks are making life-threatening sacrifices for our health and well being and protection. Where am I? Tucked away in my house. There are times where it feels like I’m hiding. Am I denying? Am I blaming? Sometimes I’m bargaining.

Everything is uncertain. What is going to happen? What is next for us? I wonder every time I head out to the grocery store if I’ve brought it back with me? Will I be next?

Maybe you’re like me and all you want to do is turn back the clock, but we know we can’t. We’re living a historic moment, this world-changing moment and nothing will ever be the same.

The one thing that’s for sure- grief is our constant companion.

It doesn’t feel like Easter. But, when I think about it a little more, maybe it does feel like Easter. It feels like the first Easter.

It’s Easter morning and Mary Magdalene heads to the tomb in John’s version of the story. Grief is her constant companion. Everything’s changed so fast and she can’t process it. One evening Jesus is celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples and less than 24 hours later he’s dead. Now they’re rushing around trying to get him buried before sundown.

I imagine Mary Magdalene continuing to relive the horror of watching Jesus being crucified. She witnessed it. She was helpless to stop it.

Now everyone’s scattered, everyone’s isolated. They’re locked in hoping death won’t come for them.

It’s Easter morning and Mary Magdalene heads to the tomb while it’s still dark. Don’t miss that detail! Mary goes to the tomb expecting to find death, Good Friday. Instead, she finds the stone removed and Jesus’ body missing. Horror on horror, pain on pain, where have they taken Jesus’ body?

John 20:2-18
2 So Mary ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

The men get there, check out the situation and exit quickly, returning to the safety of their locked doors. Mary stays- isolated, overwhelmed, weeping outside the tomb.

John 20:11b-18
11 … As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Have you ever been in that much pain?
You can’t see the angels. You can’t see Jesus.

Jesus keeps working to break through. A third time, Mary is addressed.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Beloved Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” and she told them that he had said these things to her.

What changes everything for Mary?
Jesus calls her by name. Jesus is calling you by name.

At the mention of her name, Mary’s weeping gives way to seeing. At the mention of her name, Mary’s grieving gives way to action. I have seen the Lord

Nothing could have prepared Mary for this possibility. The undoing of death itself. Jesus’ victory over injustice and violence and sin and shame and death.

Mary witnessed the most historic moment of moments- a moment that changes everything.

I have seen the Lord and the Romans are still in power
I have seen the Lord and the disciples are still in danger
I have seen the Lord and there’s still a deadly virus
I have seen the Lord and the church is still empty
But so is the tomb

It’s still Easter!
It’s still true!
It still changes everything!
Yes, it still feels uncertain but I have seen the Lord

Hear Christ calling your name
Let your weeping give way to seeing
Let your grieving give way to action
You have the message of hope we all need to hear
Christ is Risen! He’s Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!
Amen!

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Does it Feel Like Easter? © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Pandemic and the Person of Christ

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 5 of 5: Five Barley Loaves- Community and Social Distancing
Scriptures: Jesus’ I AM statements from the Gospel of John
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/29/2020 via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of me leading worship from my home office, including the message which starts around the 20-minute mark.

This message concludes our sermon series entitled Bread. It was supposed to be on a passage from John 6 where Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.”

I’ll be honest with you, I went to John 6 and knew I didn’t want to dive deeply into that one passage. It’s complicated. It’s full of misunderstanding and arguments and Jesus trying to explain his real presence in Holy Communion.

It’s important, but it felt really heavy given the pandemic and quarantine. I didn’t want to be in my head and I didn’t want to preach on an argument. I don’t need that right now and suspect you don’t either.

What I need right now is Jesus.

This passage from John 6 led me to all the other I AM statements from Jesus in the Gospel of John. That’s what I needed. I needed to be reminded of who Jesus is- I AM, I Am, I AM…

I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 38)
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…. I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”

Jesus is the Bread of Life, come down from heaven like manna in the wilderness. Jesus came that we might have a journey of faith with him to the promised land, with him home to heaven.

Jesus provides spiritual food and drink for the journey of faith and is that food and drink himself. Food/bread leads us to the next I AM statement…

I AM the Vine (John 15:1-2, 5)
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. … I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing.

Hunger needs food/Bread and thirst needs something to drink, Vine/wine.

Every branch that bears no fruit is removed- what keeps us stuck, what hinders us. Jesus is unburdening us for the journey.

Every branch that bears fruit is pruned to bear more fruit. We are tended so the good will grow and flourish.

Jesus gives food for the journey, drink for the journey, unburdens us for the journey, brings good fruit along the journey, and makes the journey itself possible. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. We need Jesus.

I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus makes it possible for us to be on the journey and Jesus is the journey. Jesus is the Way. We can trust Jesus’ way because it is true. We can trust Jesus’ way because it is life.

We need life right now. We can stay on the path, stay on the journey in this time of pandemic by trusting and following Jesus.

I AM the Gate (John 10:7-9)
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Jesus is not only the Way, the journey itself, but he is also the Gate. Anyone can enter the journey of faith, the journey of salvation, through Jesus. All this talk of sheep, listening, and pasture (more food for the journey!) leads us to…

I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-15)
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

The Shepherd knows us, calls us, fights for us, defends us, tends us, provides for us, leads us like a shepherd leading his flock, and lays down his life for us. Jesus lays down his life as the Way so we may cross into a life with God forever.

Jesus laying down his life is the cross. Jesus laying down his life is his death and being laid in a tomb. And yet, Jesus has the power to take up his life again and to take us up with him. (John 10:17-18)

Jesus is the Bread and Vine- food and drink for the journey
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
Jesus is the Gate- how we enter the journey
Jesus is the Shepherd, leading us on the journey, we can hear and follow

Jesus is the Way, the Shepherd we follow, and the Light for every step of the journey.

I AM the Light of the World (John 8:12, 14a)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life…. I know where I have come from and where I am going”

Light of the World… Whoever follows… The journey of faith is for all people. Anyone, everyone can join.

Light of Life… even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:12)

If you’re feeling things are dark right now, Jesus remains the Light. We can trust that light is there even when we can’t sense it. I pray that light would breakthrough for you right now.

I know where I have come from and where I am going. We can trust Jesus’ truth and experience to lead us because he knows where he’s going. He knows how to get us home.

We can trust this because of the last I Am statement. In this passage, Jesus is talking to Martha, the sister of Lazarus. She’s heartbroken over her brother’s death. It seems all is lost.

I AM the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-27)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Imagine Jesus asking us that right now. Do you believe this?

Do you believe I am the Bread of Life?
That I am the Vine and you are the branches?
Do you believe I am the Way, the Truth and the Life?
Do you believe I am the Gate?
Do you believe I am the Good Shepherd?
Do you believe I am the Light of the World?
Do you believe I am the Resurrection and the Life?

In this day, in the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of the physical separation, in the midst of wondering about the future, in the midst of the loss and the loneliness, I say, “I believe.”

Martha said it before Lazarus was raised from the dead. She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Before everything is made right, I’m going to stand with my sister Martha and say, “Yes, I believe.” I pray you will believe, too.

If you’re doubting these promises are for you, do not doubt. They’re offered to you as grace and goodness. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what you’ve done. These promises are for you and for all, so I pray you will say yes and believe.

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The Pandemic and the Person of Christ © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

What’s Rising Up in You While Staying at Home? (Matthew 16)

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 4 of 5: What’s Rising Up in You While Staying at Home?
Scriptures: Matthew 16:5-12
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/22/2020 via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of me leading worship from my home office, including the message which starts around the 24-minute mark.

Elan Gale is an author and television producer best known for his work on The Bachelor. On twitter (@theyearofelan), he started a game called Your Quarantine Nickname– how you feel right now + the last thing you ate out of the cupboard. (ie snack)

I put the game up on Facebook and here are a few of the answers.
Nadine- Blessed Strawberry
Lynn- Blessed Avocado Toast
June- Sleepy Peanut Butter
Stacey- Tired Oreo Thins
Susan- Happy Biscuit
Sam- Happy Dark Chocolate
Sherrill- Chipper Almond Chips
Cheri- Tolerable Acceptance Cherry Turnover
Mine is Privileged Apple

It’s a silly game. We need some laughter and silliness right now. It’s quite fun to see what everyone likes to snack on. It’s also a helpful game. It helps us identify our feelings, what is rising up in us during this time of pandemic and physical distancing.

Let’s think of what’s rising up inside of us like yeast. A tiny bit of yeast mixed with dough makes bread rise.

Our feelings can feel big or little, but they work like yeast. Whatever feeling is going on inside of us mixes into the whole of us. It causes things to rise- our perspective, our words, our actions. What’s rising up in you?

Matthew 16:5-12, The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees
5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.” 8 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? 9 Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” 12 Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

What is Yeast? According to the Food Network 
“Yeast is a living microscopic single-cell organism that, as it grows, converts its food (through a process known as fermentation) into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This trait is what endears yeast to winemakers, brewmasters, and bread bakers.

Yeast produces bubbles in beer and champagne, alcohol in beer and wine, and a light, fluffy loaf of bread.

To multiply and grow, all yeast needs is the right environment, which includes moisture, food (in the form of sugar or starch) and a warm, nurturing temperature (70 to 85 degrees F is best). Wild yeast spores are constantly floating in the air and landing on uncovered foods and liquids.”

Yeast is everywhere, it’s wild. A basic mixture of water and flour, given enough time, will rise on its own. Water + flour + time = leavened bread. Leavened bread’s been around for over 5,000 years, since at least the time of the Egyptians. Commercial yeast wasn’t invented until 1868.

Yeast is also part of a healthy mix of bacteria in your gut. It can help you absorb vitamins and minerals from your food, and even fight disease.

Yeast is everywhere. yeast is wild. Yeast is already in you.

Jesus isn’t warning us about an outside contaminant- that virus, that bread, those people, the teaching of those people. Jesus is reminding us that the same yeast in the Pharisees and Sadducees is already in us.

The Pharisees were rabbis, teachers. The Sadducees were the clergy overseeing worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. I’m a teacher and I’m clergy. I need to hear this passage. We all need to hear this passage. I have the same tendency to take a good gift of God and twist it into something controlling and not of God.

What’s rising up within you. Our real enemy isn’t what rises up in others, but what rises within us.

We may all be snacking right now, but we’re also all fasting right now.

  • Fasting certain activities- work, school, shopping, sports, appointments
  • Fasting independence because we believe it will save lives. We’re in self-quarantine. We’re not traveling. There are borders closing.
  • Fasting face to face contact- families are separated, healthcare workers are living at the hospital

What does fasting do? It removes filters and brings up what’s inside of us. It can bring up the good, but it can also bring up the junk.

What’s rising up in you during this time of unknown and isolation? All feelings are welcomed by God. Feel all the feels. Feelings can have shadow sides. They can get twisted into something that’s harmful to us and harmful to others.

Are you feeling concern or has it been twisted into worry? There’s a difference. Worry puts us into a fight, flight, or freeze mindset. Concern opens us up. Concern seeks the truth and turns it into compassion towards myself and others

Are you feeling grief/lament or has it been twisted into despair? Lament is a good gift of God. There’s an entire book of the Bible called Lamentations. This past week I had some ugly, snot running down my face, wailing moments lamenting the news that people were dying alone and grieving alone because of the quarantines. I was undone.

Maybe you’re grieving events being postponed or canceled? Weddings are being postponed. Graduations are being canceled. Many of this year’s high school graduates were preschoolers in the shadow of 9/11.

Despair is a twist of grief/lament. It’s hopelessness, “all is lost”, and disconnects us from God. Grief/Lament acknowledges the loss and disappointment but keeps us moving through it honestly. The process of grief/lament helps us release what we thought would happen so we can begin to imagine how things can happen differently.

Are you feeling brokenhearted or angry? People need access to medical testing and treatment. People aren’t able to work and need financial help. Brokenhearted, righteous anger rises up in us calling us to justice and action. This is wrong and something must be done. Our motivation is driven by empathy and compassion.

Anger can get twisted into hardheartedness and destructive anger. The world and others are a threat so I begin to blame, judge, avoid, control, and fix. This may have happened to the Pharisees and Sadduccees given the Roman oppression and apathy of God’s people to practice their faith.

Rick Warren said, “In the Bible, yeast is often a metaphor for pride and arrogance. Why? When you put yeast in dough, what does it do? It puffs it up, and if you put in too much, it blows it up.”

My quarantine name is Privileged Apple. I can work from home. I have the technology I need. I have a job. There are folks whose jobs and paychecks have disappeared. I want this to draw me to love and bless my neighbor with all that I have.

My privilege could draw me into arrogance and classism. I have the advantages which would allow me to stockpile and hoard and protect me at the expense of my neighbor. That is not the love of God. The love of God means I take care of myself in light of taking care of others. I remember my neighbor, care for my neighbor because we’re all connected. We’re all beloved of God.

I see so much goodness rising up in you. Recognizing the blessing of God, the peace of God, the joy of the Lord which is our strength. Allow it to flow through your hands and hearts to others.

If you’re feeling something else, feel all the feels, yet allow the perspective of God to move in you and through you for your good.

Philippians 4:8-9
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

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What’s Rising Up in You While Staying at Home? © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Social Distancing, Community, and Five Barley Loaves (John 6)

Sermon Series Bread 1110 x 624Lenten Sermon Series: Bread
This sermon series was inspired by the book Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers by Margaret Feinberg.

Message 3 of 5: Five Barley Loaves- Community and Social Distancing
Scriptures: John 6:1-15
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/15/2020 via Facebook Live for Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of me leading worship from my home office, including the message which starts at the 26-minute mark.

The Feeding of the 5000 is one of the few stories mentioned in all four gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The story of Jesus’ resurrection is in all four gospels. This story is that important.

John 6:1-15    
1 Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.

The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake. You can see the other side of the lake no matter where you’re standing. It goes by many names in the Gospels, so if you’re confused, no worries. It’s confusing.

2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.

In the previous messages, we’ve spoken about the Passover- freedom from slavery in Egypt, unleavened bread (Matzo), manna in the wilderness- so this may seem familiar.

5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus always knows what he’s going to do!

7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.

This time of year, in March before the Passover, Galilee is beautiful. It’s lush with green with grass. There are yellow and red wildflowers. You can imagine the sheep grazing in the grass. Jesus is gathering the people like flocks of sheep in order to feed them.

11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.

14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Last Wednesday feels like the tipping point in the pandemic

  • A little before 9:00 pm: Tom Hanks posts on Instagram that he and his wife contracted COVID-19
  • At 9:00 pm: President Trump announces a ban on foreign nationals traveling to the US from much of Europe
  • At 9:46 pm: The NBA announces it had suspended all games indefinitely

And the hits just kept on coming. All our common rituals and rhythms disrupted.

  • The NCAA March Madness Tournament- Cancelled
  • The Boston Marathon- Postponed
  • All the Smithsonian Museums and Broadway Shows and Disney World- Closed

Then the hits got closer to home.

  • Our schools closed which meant we were canceling all our church gatherings
  • No more access to assisted living facilities and nursing homes. We can’t see our dear ones who live there. Our faithful nursing home teams can no longer offer worship at Brookdale and Cabot Reserve.

I spoke with a friend in Seattle online. She said, “Greetings from Ground Zero.” Their schools are closed for at least 6 weeks.

That started me lamenting-

  • What about the kids who’s school is their safe place because their home or their neighborhood isn’t?
  • Are kids going hungry because they eat breakfast and lunch at school?
  • What about the parents who can’t afford to take time off work or pay for childcare?
  • What about folks who are forced to take time off and can’t afford it?

It just ripples. Imagine dropping a pebble in a calm pool and watching the rings as they expand.

The world is having this big ah-ha moment on how interconnected we are, how interdependent we are on one another. We’re having it. I’m having it. 

I was watching something on TV last week which was filmed a while ago. There was this big crowd of people laughing and enjoying being together. Then they started hugging and holding on to one another. I literally gasped. They were touching.

I’m missing touching. Will we ever be like that again or will social distancing and elbow bumps be our new norm?

Big things matter- Pandemics, Global Markets, Vaccines

Little things matter- Gathering for worship, having a face to face conversation, handshakes, and hugs

They matter because community matters.- It’s little, as intimate as a touch. But it’s also big- big as the world.

Community is tied to the word common. Common is usual, ordinary. The common good, common ground, the customary blessing of having one another.

It is a good gift from God. We as Christians believe God is One, and yet God is three. God is community. It’s in the fabric of creation, of God, of us.

As we think about John 6, there are 50 sermons, 100 sermons. But all I can see today is the community. Five thousand people gathering. Where can we do that these days?

Jesus asks how they’re going to feed all the people. I’ve preached in the past about this young boy comes forward and generously offers his lunch. He isn’t offering his lunch. He’s offering the groceries for his family. Five barley loaves and two fish.

This child isn’t a solo heroic leader. He’s not saving the day in his rugged individualism. He represents an entire community. The work of a community feeds an entire community. taste and see

This sermon series is based on a fantastic book by Margaret Feinberg entitled Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers.

I highly recommend it to you. Its foodies and recipes meet travelogue meets Bible study. She looks at the Bible through the food of the Bible. She’s the one who opened my eyes to the truth of the community it takes to bring a loaf of bread from seed to your table.

“In ancient Israel, the whole family shared the hard labor. The work began in a field, plowing the soil and planting last year’s kernels. Together, the family tended the field and prayed away famine and pests, in hope the stalks would sprout, lengthen, and yield a bounty of food.

The family endured sunburn and sweat, aching muscles and strained backs, to harvest the grain with sickles. When the yield was at hand, the work had just begun. Then they must pound and winnow (blow air) through the grain to remove the outer husk. Those who couldn’t afford access to a mill used their own mortar and pestle to grind their grain.

Since the harvest had to carry the family through an entire year, only a small scoop of the flour was mixed with water and kneaded in a bread trough, while the bulk of the flour was safely stored away. The dough was then taken to the oven—but not a family oven. Most families couldn’t afford their own stove. Instead, they used a communal oven.”

Community. Communal. Common. That’s what we need right now.

coronavirus vulnerable high riskSomeone asked if we were canceling church events because we were afraid. It’s a reasonable question. There are many folks who are afraid right now. I recognize that truth. It’s a reasonable fear about a very dangerous virus, especially if you’re in a high-risk portion of the population.

The reason we canceled all our church events is not because we’re afraid. We’re canceling because we care. We’re willing to disrupt our lives, learn new things, and do things in a different way because we believe it will save lives.

What you are doing is not a small thing. You are saving lives.

We believe in a Mighty God and we pray mighty prayers. We believe we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. But there’s an and to that. And we should love your neighbor as yourself. Social distancing is faith and action.

John Wesley’s priorities are summarized this way-
Do No Harm
Do Good
Stay in Love with God

Brainstorm: How can we build and bless our community in this time of social distancing? You’ve got cell phones, computers, Instagram, and Facebook. Be creative.

I challenge you right now to call five friends just to check-in. “I’m thinking about you. I’m praying for you. You’re not alone.” If you’re tech-savvy, make it a video call.

Just like this little child, like the disciples, our job is to do our part and to remember our part is part of a greater whole. Give of your resources and give of yourself without embarrassment, worry, or shame. Give generously. Give joyfully.

We give what we have no matter how small it may seem trusting Jesus to bless it and multiply it for the common good, for the community.

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Social Distancing, Community, and Five Barley Loaves © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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