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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Praying for Your City

greetings from sarasota flThe good folks at The Center for Action & Contemplation and Mile High Ministries in Denver, Colorado, have written a beautiful prayer adapted from Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers for a Privileged People. It’s hoped it will inspire Christians to pray for their local communities.

As per their invitation, it’s been adapted for my local community, Sarasota FL. Please feel free to adapt it for your own.  

The prayer may be read in a group with one voice reading the regular print and all voices reading the bold print or it may be prayed alone. After the prayer, please pause for silence.

May the movement of the Holy Spirit through these sacred words and silence birth in us a fresh movement of compassionate action. How fitting as we honor those who have worked for freedom, equality, and justice, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and our Jesus.
– Lisa <><

Loving God, you have set us in families and clans, in cities and neighborhoods.
Our common life began in a garden, but our destiny lies in the city.

You have placed us in Sarasota. This is our home.
Your creativity is on display here through the work of human hearts and hands.

We pray for Sarasota today—for the East Side, West Side, North, and South.
For Riverwood, Siesta Key, Pinecraft, Newtown, Palmer Ranch, and The Meadows.
We pray for our poorest neighbors and for powerful people in offices downtown. We pray for people from the ’hood and the barrio,
for seasonal “snowbirds,” college students, and the new urbanites.

We pray for Sarasota’s neighbors:
Bradenton, Osprey, Nokomis, Lakewood Ranch, Venice, Myakka, and others.
And for sister cities in Scotland, Mexico, France, Israel, Russia, China, and Switzerland —and a thousand other cities connected to our own.

In all our neighborhoods this day there will be crime and callous moneymaking;
there will be powerful people unable or unwilling to see the vulnerable who are their neighbors.
There will also be beautiful acts of compassion and creativity in all these places—forgiveness and generosity; neighbors working together for a more just community.

Help us see this place as something other than a battleground between us and them, where our imaginations are limited by win/lose propositions and endless rivalry.
Show us a deeper reality, God: Show us your playground, and invite us to play.

Like the city of your dreams, make this a city where those who were once poor enjoy the fruits of their labor;
A place where children are no longer doomed to misfortune, but play safely in the streets under the watchful eyes of caring, healthy adults;

A place where former rivals and natural enemies work and play together in peace;
And where all people enjoy communion with you.
We pray in the name of the one who wept over the city, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Time of silence

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Adapted from Beyond Our Efforts: A Celebration of Denver Peacemaking (Mile High Ministries: 2019), 251; and Walter Brueggemann, “This City . . . of God,” Prayers for a Privileged People (Abingdon Press: 2010), 157.

A Message in Light of the Potential United Methodist Church Split (Psalm 46)

body of christ
A Message in Light of the Potential UMC Split (Psalm 46)
Scripture: Psalm 46
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 01/05/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.

Psalm 46
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

In the last few days, most major news outlets ran stories on a potential split in the United Methodist Church. Hearing this news brought up many feelings and questions for me.

What did it bring up for you?

Below you’ll find a link to an article with the most accurate information. The article includes links to the actual mediation document and a frequently asked questions article. We’ll also have copies in the church office. I encourage you to read it.

United Methodist Traditionalists, Centrists, Progressives & Bishops sign agreement aimed at separation

We will be reading this article together tomorrow – Monday, January 6 – at the Leadership Council Meeting. The meeting begins at 6:00 pm in Haley Hall. You are welcome to attend.

The mediation document is a proposal, not a decision. Those who can make a decision for our denomination will gather in May in Minneapolis. This group is called The General Conference and is made up of United Methodist laity and clergy from around the world.

Here’s some background information to give you some context. It’s quoted from the Frequently Asked Questions Document
For the past 47 years, The United Methodist Church has struggled unsuccessfully to achieve consensus and compliance with regard to matters of human sexuality. The Special Session of General Conference in 2019 caused significant harm. This work is a significant attempt to not replicate the mood or climate created in St. Louis in 2019. It acknowledges that even in the midst of faithful attempts to stay together, we no longer can remain as one denomination. The divisions are simply too vast. This work is important because it provides a pathway of reconciliation and grace through separation and offers us an opportunity to bless and send one another into a new reality rather than continue to fight and rend our way into irrelevance and destruction.

This latest attempt at a path forward is new for all of us. There are still many questions. As I know more I will continue to share. Be on the lookout for upcoming times of prayer, listening, and discussion.

Hear this my dear ones:
God is faithful and true and at work. God is Sovereign. Jesus is Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit still speaks and transforms. No human decision changes this.

We are all made in the image of God. All have sacred worth.

We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. All are in desperate need of forgiveness and salvation and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Our mission has not changed- Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

Our vision has not changed- God is love. We are called to share that love and the hope we’ve found in Jesus Christ with all people.

No matter what is decided, people will leave and people will come.

No matter what is decided, it will not be a magic bullet to kill the church nor a magic bullet to revive the church.

God will redeem the pain and harm we’ve caused one another. Let it end now.

Our denomination is a 12 million-member global church representing very different cultures and values. Likewise, our congregation is diverse in many ways, including strong convictions on these issues and other issues. It’s been this way for a long time.

Look around this room. What do you see? More importantly, who do you see?

We are not issues; we are people, faithful real people drawn together by our need and love of Christ.

What are we to do? Love one another and serve one another. Love and serve Sarasota. In doing so, we love and serve God.

They will know we are Christians by our love, our love made real in our words and actions, in the way we honor one another and work together in the midst of our differences. The world needs to see this.

I love you and respect you no matter your position on this issue or any other issue. I will continue to serve you with every ounce of grace, strength, and skill the Holy Spirit empowers in me and through me. I invite you to do the same.

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A Message in Light of the Potential UMC Split © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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Christ Have Mercy, a prayer of confession based on Matthew 9.9-13

christe eleison

Mercy is not merely feeling sympathy. Mercy is extended by one who has the power to condemn or punish but chooses not to. We choose not to criticize, not to say, “I told you so,” not to exact our “pound of flesh” — not to avenge. As Jesus shows us in his interaction with the woman caught in adultery, mercy does not look back at what the person has done but forward to what the person can do in the future. – Mary Lou Redding. The Power of a Focused Heart: 8 Life Lessons from the Beatitudes

Christ have mercy on me,
a sinner.

I have failed to love as You Love
I have treated others as objects and obstacles
– less than human
– less than made in the image of God

I have elevated goals, persons, and things to the throne of my heart
I have procrastinated
I have wasted your precious gifts of time and talent and money

I am proud in unhealthy ways
I am apathetic
I have raised myself too high
Hid myself too low

Trusting in you and your promises
I call on your Mighty Name for mercy
I ask your forgiveness, Gracious Savior
I surrender to your healing, Great Physician
I claim your resurrection power, Risen One

You are already here
Calling me from the old to the new
Speaking my name
Welcoming me to table
Hallelujah! I will follow…

Based on Matthew 9:9-13, The Call of Matthew
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

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Christ Have Mercy, a prayer of confession © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
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Make Me Your Love (John 13)

Sacred Heart 3John 13:33-35
Jesus said, “Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Son of God
Savior
Sacrifice

Your love is Fierce and Forever
Abounding and Intimate
Generous, Goodness, and Grace

Fill me with your Spirit
Make me your love

It is your command
It is your way
It is your gift
It is You and your work

Yes, make me your witness
And yes, make me your will
But first and always, make me your love
Amen

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Make Me Your Love © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.