Sermon “A Potato, A Fish, and Bread: How Big Is Your Faith”

On World Communion Sunday, October 7, 2018, Pastor Gerri Fowler preached on the topic “A Potato, A Fish, and Bread: How Big Is Your Faith? “ Her text was Mark 9: 30-37.

To hear the sermon live, go to the Princeton United Methodist Church Facebook page

Also the sermon will be podcast soon on this webpage under the category “worship”.

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Sometimes Mark’s Gospel sounds like it is the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version. The word “immediately” is frequently used and it leaves us breathless in following Jesus as he moves through his ministry here on earth. Jesus and his disciples are on a private journey to Capernaum. Jesus wanted to teach them those things they needed to know while he was still with them. It was nearing his “end time”, as this was the second time he made the prediction of his death. They are listening, but not understanding. We can almost see them nudging one another and quietly saying, “Do you know what he means?” Perhaps they urged one another on saying, “You ask him what he means”. “No, you ask him.” Then Jesus hears them arguing and he finds out they are arguing about who is the greatest among them. We wonder if he perhaps asked in what we would call the vernacular, “Here I am talking about my death and you are worrying about who gets the prize in the Cracker Jack box.” Jesus says to them what we sometimes feel are annoying words, “Whoever would be first must be last of all, and servant of all.”

There was a child in the home where they were staying and he took the child into their presence. The conversation takes a pause. It is as though he holds up a mirror before them in the face of an innocent, trusting, vulnerable, dependent child. In those days, the child would be “the other”. He simply says to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me but the One who sent me.”

The spiritual journey asks us to set aside presumptions, assumptions, provocations, and prejudices. It often asks us to get on our knees rather than the top rung of the ladder. Sometimes it requires a leap of faith to do so. One month ago I was preparing the chapel at our church for our weekly Monday morning prayer time. Since the first week of our nation’s decision to separate immigrant children from their parents, I have led a time of designated prayer for this situation and the pain and sorrow of these immigrants. I saw a couple in the sanctuary while I was passing through to the chapel. Sometimes we have guests from the community who come to join us in prayer. There is a high ledge separating the room I was in from the sanctuary. In my haste to reach the man and his companion, I walked off the ledge and into thin air. That flying leap took me a distance of about 3 feet and I landed on the back edge of a pew, and then on to the floor.

The man that I was rushing toward in order to offer him prayer, became a vessel of caring to me. He had lived and worked in the United States for 23 years and he was to report to the police station at 1:30 that afternoon for deportation. I saw Jesus in his face. The tables were turned and I found myself in a circumstance of pure grace. He made sure I was able to move and then he helped me to my feet. We had a time of prayer for one another and he left for his appointment. We all lose our bearings from time to time. We suffer discouragement, betrayal, loss, shattered dreams, abandonment, misunderstandings. They all become a deportation into circumstances for which we are not prepared. It is at times like this that we are exposed to the limitless love of God for us.

Here we are on Worldwide Communion Sunday. Today (October 7th) we celebrate one great global relationship with Christians all over the world. Heaven help us if we begin and end our encounter with limitations as we argue about who is invited to God’s party and who is not. God’s table is full of the world– a world full of people created in the image of God. We sit at a table big enough for all “the others”, and even for those who see us as “the others”. Grace isn’t always neat and orderly, precise, and wrapped up in a pretty box with the rest of our prejudices. Grace is undeserved. As a pastor from South Africa once said, “God wants to come into our hearts and lives but God wants to bring God’s friends too”.

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When we imitate and follow Jesus our spiritual bowls get larger and larger. As we grow in faith, our world expands and so do we. When we act upon what we already know of what it means to be a Christian, God supplies more faith from God’s inexhaustible storehouse. It is the nature of faith to expand to meet our needs. Today we look around our world with spiritual eyes and we declare, “We are the Body of Christ”. We see millions eating at the table with us and we beckon to “the others” to come and join us. Jesus holds Open House every day. We are all invited whether we are naughty or nice.

We get the best food that is available which is the “Bread of Life”. We don’t say “take, eat, and be careful”. We say, chew the delicious bread, taste the sweet juice from the grapes. For as the Psalmist tells us, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We celebrate the One who binds us together. God is pushing our boundaries, challenging our comfort zones, stripping us of our camouflage.
And Jesus took a Muslim–
And Jesus took immigrants from every country–
And Jesus took a homosexual couple–
And Jesus took the least, and the lost, the outcasts, and the discriminated, and the abused–
And he said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the One who sent me.”

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