Friday, May 02, 2014

When It's All Over

Holy Week is my favorite week of the entire year. I love immersing myself in the story, selecting liturgy for each worship experience and planning for Easter. The celebration of Easter is the kind of stuff pastors live for. Most pastors I know, including myself, go to great lengths to craft the perfect Easter message, using creative illustrations to tell a story with a well-known plot. We spend extra time and energy on Easter because we know we have the capacity to welcome more people on Easter than any Sunday in the church year.

And that's the problem. At least it's my problem.

Every year I set myself up for failure. Every year I ask several people how many bulletins we should print, receiving a wide range of responses to the question. Every year I convince myself that we'll have more people than the year before. And every year I get depressed when it's all over.

Rather than being grateful for our Easter crowd, counting each first-time or return guest as a blessing (not to mention the regular attendees), I focus on who was not in worship. I listen to colleagues boast about how they ran out of bulletins while forgetting that we printed 25% more bulletins than the crowd we had last year. I hear stories about standing room only crowds, and I compare myself to these colleagues even when their sanctuaries hold 200 people and ours holds 499. I got tangled last week in a web of self-expectations that were not met, and I sunk to a new low.

Why do we allow the value of our ministries to be reduced to a number?

Why do we ask "How many people were here" before asking "What did God do today to change hearts or lives?"

Why do we have one of the best Easters ever and still allow ourselves to believe it was not good enough?

My devotional reading took me to the side of the Sea of Galilee today. A large crowd is following Jesus. He does not ask how to make it bigger. Rather, he goes up a mountain and sits down with his disciples. It does not take long for the crowds to find him, however, and with the festival of the Passover near, Jesus wants to feed the crowds. He asks Philip where they can buy food. Philip quickly concludes that there is not enough money to purchase food for the crowds. But Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, accesses the situation and sees a boy with five barley loaves and two fish.

We don't know if there was a struggle to get the food out of the boys' hands. We're not sure if money was exchanged. What we know is that Jesus takes the loaves and fishes, blesses them, and shares them with the crowds, enabling everyone to take as much as they want.

It's not the disciples who multiply the boy's offering. It is Jesus.

People simply have to follow Jesus - even to the top of the highest mountain, a climb that could be more treacherous or exhausting than what some of us are prepared for or expecting. And once on top of the mountain, people have to offer what they have, trusting that Jesus will take it, bless it and multiply it.

I wonder how often I choose to follow Jesus, even when it involves hiking boots, versus waiting for Jesus to come to me.

I wonder if I have offered Jesus all I have.

I wonder if I trust Jesus enough to believe that it is Jesus who does the multiplication and not me.

I wonder how next Easter might be different if I do everything I can to give Jesus the food we have prepared - the liturgy, the sermon, the invitations, the music, the lilies, and every other aspect of Superbowl Sunday (which has nothing to do with a football game, by the way) - and trust that Jesus is at work in real and abundant ways, using what we have to reach people right where they are so that no one goes away hungry.

We have more than a few loaves and two fish in our midst. We actually have an embarrassment of riches.

Jesus, will you come and take what we have, including anything we are trying hard to hold on to instead of relinquishing it to you? Will you bless it, multiply it, and then keep reminding us that it is you who does the multiplication and not us? I'd be really grateful. Amen.

1 comment:

Susann said...

You bring the loaves, I'll bring the fishes.