The Rev. Charles Smith
If only I had enough to make a difference
When was the last time you lit a fire. A real fire. Grills and gas logs don’t count.
Fire seems like such a simple thing when you can buy a cheap Bic lighter and create a seemingly endless stream of heat and orange glow from a little plastic tube. When you light a fire, really light a fire without lighter fluid or other modern helps, there are a couple of things that you quickly learn. It is a lot of work and it takes a LOT of wood to keep it going. There is the insatiable need for more little sticks ever increasing in size not too small and not too large. Then once it really gets going there is insatiable need for more wood.
When Moses sees a bush burning (Exodus 3:1-15) he is perplexed. Moses was not a stupid man and had seen things burning before. He had even had to light his own fires before. He understood how fire works. He knew that when you light a fire and you had better come prepared with lots of fuel to keep it going because the fire is going to just burn right through whatever it is you throw at it. But what Moses could not see at first was that this is not just a fire but this is the work of the Holy Spirit. When God gets involved all of a sudden the impossible is made possible and the normal way of things changes.
God’s ways are not our ways. God’s economics don’t work like our economics. When God brings the fire a single bush can burn all day and not be diminished at all. It reminds me of one of my favorite stories from the history of the church about the True Cross of Christ which is kept in a vault in the Vatican.
There are many, many relics of the True Cross which have been distributed to the faithful and to congregations throughout the ages. I have been fortunate enough to venerate a piece of the True Cross on three separate occasions. The first time I came across a relic of the True Cross I asked how after all these years we had not run out of pieces of the True Cross to venerate. But that is one of the miracles associated with the True Cross. Though many, many relics have been broken from it and distributed it does not diminish in size. God Just keeps making more.
This is the way we see God working in Holy Scripture and in the life of the church. When Jesus feeds the 4,000 and then the 5,000 in the Gospel accounts he takes a tiny little bit of food blesses it, breaks it, and gives it. As people keep coming to be fed there is just more and more food until everyone has their fill and a huge bounty is left over. When Israel is in the desert and there is no water God makes water flow from a rock until there is a mighty torrent of water springing forth. When Israel is in the desert and there is no food to eat in the desert God makes bread and meat fall forth from the sky to nourish his people.
This is still the way God works. Where we see a lack of resources or a poverty God sees and makes a way forward with more than we could ask or imagine. Our God is the God of super-abundance who takes a little bush and creates a fire that won’t go out. Our God is the God of super abundance who takes a few fish and slices of bread and feeds thousands with it. Our God is the God of abundance that turns a dry desert and turns it into a river to nourish his people.
Our God is the God who takes personal and congregational deficits and turns them into all the money needed to do the work of the Gospel. I have been a priest for nearly 10 years now and a Christian nearly my whole life long. I have never seen a congregation or a person who was busy doing the work of Jesus Christ not have enough money to do the work they had been given to do.
I have seen my own congregation in Spartanburg massively short on funds and it looked like we might have to even let a member of staff (that was me). The congregation got to praying and workin on sharing the Gospel and turned that deficit around into a year end surplus. I have seen a congreagation in Portsmouth, Virginia working on unplanned and unbudgeted renovations because the roof over the church failed and the roof over the parish hall failed at the same time running low on funds and thinking we were not going to have the money to carry on. We got to praying and sharing the Gospel and received a $500,000 gift. I remember being out of money in my own bank account only to have unmerited gifts of cash given to me when I was in seminary.
I remember just this past week speaking to someone from my congregation who has had the Lord lay it upon her heart to be a blessing for people suffering economic hardship because of COVID-19. As it should happen I spoke to someone else from our congregation just after this about their own financial hardship and help was able to be offered.
I have seen parents paying the pre-school tuition for other families because the Lord told them to.
Like Moses we understand how fire works. It takes more and more wood to keep it going, until God gets involved and changes everything.
Like just about everyone else we understand how money is supposed to work and how it takes more and more of it to get done what you need to get done. We understand the worry that money troubles bring. But when God gets involved in your life and in your congregation I can tell you that there will be enough of whatever it is you need to get the work God has given you to do done.
Like Moses and Israel in the desert and like the disciples who needed to feed thousands of people following Jesus it is not about about having it all figured out or having all of the stuff you imagine you might need to do what God has given you to do. Following Jesus is about taking what you have been given as abundant or meager as it may seem and offering it up to God with the expectation that he is getting ready to do something miraculous with it.
When you take what God has given you and offer it up with the expectation that he is getting ready to do something miraculous with it don’t be surprised when he does miraculous things. Amen.