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July 25, 2021 

NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST 2021 B

When I went out on my San Francisco Night Ministry shift last week, I was accompanied by a young man on his way to becoming a Rabbi.  Before we went out, we prayed that God could help us share his love and concern.  

The first person we bumped into was a young African American woman who was in an alcove of the Macy’s shopping complex.  She seemed nice enough, but talked in what seemed like riddles mixed with irony, a little like a snake ready to strike—but in an entertaining way!  We offered her some water and told her we really liked her bicycle.  Then the newly hired security men interrupted to come by to warn her to leave because someone from one of the mostly boarded up and empty storefronts might suddenly be open for business.  

She felt comfortable enough with us and started doing her routine, which was an AMAZING combination of poetry, song, and commentary.  Ministry was definitely being done—to all of us.  At my request, we hugged and then the Rabbi asked to get in on the good vibes.  The Rabbi hoped for a lot more of that spirit in our walk—and THERE WAS!  I reminded him that it was on these very corners that Robin Williams started performing.  There will be performances to pay to go to, but some of the very best ones are the ones we can witness or better yet, BE PART OF.

TO BE PART OF!  That’s the SECRET unfolding in the miracle stories in our readings from 2 Kings and the Gospel of John.  But I’m going to tell you ahead of time that it’s RIGGED.  It’s a SLIGHT OF HAND!  How so, you may ask?  And so I will tell you.  In the story, a man brought 20 barley loaves and grain to Elisha, the man of God.  How kind and thoughtful, and wouldn’t it be nice if he could now get a better harvest prayer from the prophet!

The prophet was a sharing kind of guy so he told his servant to hand the food out.  The servant didn’t really like being put in the position to decide who gets some and who doesn’t, because he knew the rule that every grade school kid is taught.  “If you don’t have enough for everybody then nobody gets any!

So, what do you do?  You could start breaking the bread.  Your act of kindness could inspire others who have plenty of extra supplies to share as well.  You could trade some flour for other food.  HOW does the SHARING OF FOOD MIRACLE end?  THEY ATE AND HAD SOME LEFT OVER—AS THE PROPHET HAD PREDICTED!

A very similar miracle happened in our Gospel.  Once again, Jesus had attracted a crowd, heightened by the fact that it was Passover and Jesus the MIRACLE WORKER was there!  Jesus saw the LARGE CROWD and said to his assistant, Phillip, “Where can we buy them food to eat?”  I suspect that Philip rolled his eyes at Jesus when he said,   “It would take a year’s wages to buy enough for every one to have just ONE PIECE!” But Jesus was going to do the same magic Elisha experienced.

Jesus saw the little boy who wanted to share the VERY SUBSTANTIAL lunch that he had carried for his family.  I have a sneaky suspicion of two things.  First that this family who thought ahead of what they might have to do if their loved ones were healed, brought LOTS OF EXTRAS TO HOLD THEM OVER.  Secondly, this boy had observed Jesus enough to understand that IT’S ALL ABOUT SHARING.  Share with your family.  Jesus says that we are ALL FAMILY, and FAMILIES SHARE.  There was not only ENOUGH, there was MORE THAN ENOUGH!

Jesus is always singling out people to HIGHTLIGHT.  I guess you could say that’s Jesus’ SLIGHT OF HAND MAGIC TRICK.  I am sure that Jesus let every one know who so GENEROUSLY AND THOUGHTFULLY SHARED THE BASKET OF FOOD.  Off the record, the parents probably, at first said, “HE DID WHAT!”  But then they are glad to be connected to this boy who HELPED START A MIRACLE!

Speaking of miracles, these crowds are here because of all the healings that Jesus did.  But, did HE REALLY DO MOST OF THEM?  Very early on, Jesus sent out the disciples 2-by-2 to heal and teach people his ways.  At first, they were pretty sure that they were NOT ready or even capable of doing what Jesus asked, that people would treat them the way those guards treated the homeless entertainer, the way Robin Williams was treated by those protecting people’s interests.

Am I saying that Jesus DIDN’T DO MIRACLES?  DEFINITELY NOT!  But the truth is that from the moment he was born, Jesus mission was to DIE AND LEAVE THIS EARTH.  He would never be there in the future to wave his hands and do magic.  But maybe Jesus could TRICK US INTO THINKING THAT WE COULD BE A IMPORTANT PART OF THE MIRACLE!  

Today is officially the NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST.  That’s Pentecost where Jesus has left this earth physically, but not spiritually.  Jesus is empowering everyone of us, everyone of YOU, to be PART OF THE MIRACLE.

I want every one of you to take a moment to look around the church today.  Go ahead and look.  If you see some seats available for people to sit in that are not yet taken, please raise your hand.(pause)  Jesus is NOT HERE PHYSICALLY to invite people to come and experience the joy of knowing him more personally and fellowship with you their brothers and sisters.  

But Jesus is MOST DEFINITELY HERE SPIRITUALLY IN EACH ONE OF YOU.  If you believe that, please raise your hand.  Each one of YOU, I mean US, knows someone, a neighbor, a co-worker, someone in an organization you belong to, a relative, someone you care about—you know you do!  I know I do!

I am going to end with two important questions.  First, you need to ask yourself, and be honest, “Are you experiencing the JOY OF THE GOSPEL?”  Yes, Jesus appreciates you coming to church and helping out.  But does that bring you the kind of joy that builds up your faith so much that you want to share it with others.  And please don’t tell me that LUTHERANS DON’T DO THAT!  If you don’t have that joy, make sure you talk to Jesus about it and spend more time with those that DO have the joy.

SECONDLY, You need to realize what the song “Fly Like An Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band said, “TIME KEEPS ON SLIPPIN’, SLIPPIN, INTO THE FUTURE.”  In other words, “THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT” to share the miracle of Jesus joy and fellowship in your life and in your church.  What you just heard is NOT a message for TODAY ONLY.  It is an INVITATION TO SHARE JESUS’ LOVE IN THIS, OUR FELLOWSHIP ANY TIME!

CAN YOU BE PART OF JESUS MIRACLE?  Let me rephrase.  YOU CAN BE PART OF JESUS MIRACLE!

And all of God’s children who can share the Gospel said…AMEN!