When you think you have nothing to offer, remember … nothing is Jesus’s favorite thing to work with.Rev. Cindy Cushman, 08.02.2020
God’s “economy of abundance” was a favorite theme of one of our historic pastors. Sunday had me noticing some of the peculiarities of that economy. Maybe not a coincidence that the gospel text for the day was Matthew’s telling of the “Feeding of the Multitude.”
A few stalwart souls have been worshipping together in person [!!] in our sanctuary since July 19. Yesterday I decided I needed to join them, mainly because it was a communion Sunday. There’s something intrinsically non-communion-like about livestream-mediated remote communion. I wanted to show up for the more substantially incarnational version.
I’m out of practice getting up and getting everything done and getting out the door on time for getting everything done on time on the other end. I was still waiting for the sound settings screen to come up on my computer when class members started to show up in the Zoom waiting room for “not-that-early” Sunday school. Class was “that early” for me this time.
About half-way through, our pastor stuck her head in to the conference room en masque and asked how much charge I had on my computer. Enough to run Power Point?
If you count “I have the charger right here” as “yes,” then, sure.
This turned out to be a good thing, since the computer the livestream worship service has been using for Power Point was temporarily indisposed that morning. I couldn’t help noticing how my feeling the lack of the substantially incarnational in my life had led to a sufficient abundance of computer resources for the morning’s worship celebration.
Whether or not “design governs in a thing so small,” I felt useful. That doesn’t happen every day.
Worship in a congregation of five in masks with our individually packaged communion elements in hand in a sanctuary with half the pews taped off for distance and the words to hymns we’re not singing together in church projected on the wall is surreal. Though probably not more surreal than the resurrection.
That resurrection feeling applies to seeing friends I haven’t seen in person in weeks, only invisibly by text or through Zoom, and to having the natural kind of conversation we have in person. That kind of conversation never actually happens online. This made me notice it.
We don’t talk about anything “important.” How the garden’s doing, this weather. But it’s us, together. [As the song goes: “They’re really saying ‘I love you.’”]
Abundance, hiding in plain sight in the ordinary.
The sermon, on what the feeding of the 5,000 tells us about Jesus, and in particular about Jesus’s humanity, was memorable. He wanted to go off by himself to grieve his friend and cousin and mentor and baptizer John; then he had the compassion not to turn the crowds that followed him away, but to do something for them; then he seemed to be renewed by helping others, as we ourselves also might find if we tried it; then he invited the disciples into the task of providing for all those people, instead of just saying “OK, let me fix that …”
And then the disciples respond with what we would probably say, too: “we have nothing.” Technically, they don’t have nothing. They have five loaves and a couple of small fish. But compared to what they seem to need, it seems like nothing. “Next to nothing.”
But with Jesus, next to nothing is plenty, more than enough.
Abundance shows up unexpectedly, in disguise, where we could almost miss it. I forget: it doesn’t depend on money, houses, cars, building projects, “church growth.” Or even on good tasting communion bread.
The Zen monks describe their whole practice as “nothing special.” The Psalmist writes “my cup overflows.” Sometimes, we can suddenly notice, we know exactly what they mean. Where we are, all we have, all we can do, just this, right here, right now – it’s nothing special; and already so much, more than enough.