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    Aug 02, 2020

    The 9th Sunday of Pentecost

    Preacher: The Rev. Greg Farrand

    Series: Year A 2020-2021

    Category: Pentecost

    Detail:

    I’ve seen the movie Shawshank Redemption more times than I can remember. I love it. I think it’s so impactful to me because within the storyline is an elegant summary of two opposing forces that define the human experience. A man named Andy is falsely accused of murder and sent to Shawshank prison. There he befriends a man named Red whose been locked up since he was a teenager. These two men represent two very different worldviews. Andy is an optimist who, even though he suffers greatly, maintains hope. He cultivates an inner freedom that transcends the prison walls. He embodies a consciousness of hope. Red maintains a very different worldview that could be called “institutionalized consciousness.” Red, played by Morgan Freeman, summarizes his worldview succinctly, “These walls are kind of funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized.” The colorless environment, the gray walls define all of reality. It is a cynical worldview that perceives itself as simply being a “realist.” To someone with an institutionalized consciousness hope is not only unrealistic, it is dangerous.

    Within the hours of this film, these two worldviews are battling for the hearts and minds of the prisoners. As the movie ends, hope ultimately wins, and I always watch the credits with a deep sense of joy and freedom.

    What Shawshank so elegantly summarizes in this battle between two worldviews, “hope” and “institutionalized,” is the battle cultures and societies have been engaged with for millennia. And we exist in the same tension. And I am convinced, if we are to follow Jesus on his path, we need to intentionally cultivate a consciousness of hope. He lived in this hope, he taught and modeled this hope, and the message of the Gospel is one of hope… both for now and eternity.

    Today’s gospel reading is the famous story of the loaves and fishes. If we allow this story to soak into our bones, is the antidote to cynicism and a victim mindset… the belief that we are powerless in a chaotic world. It offers us hope and hope is a powerful thing.

    If you have been around Holy Trinity very long, you’ve probably heard the term “co-creation.” This idea that together with God and one another, we co-create God’s dream for a world ignited by peace, compassion and justice. Co-Creation is born out of hope that God’s dream for Shalom, for a world at peace, is possible. That through us being authentically ourselves, and choosing to cultivate love and be kind, the Kingdom of God expands.

    We live in a culture that is dominated by fear and cynicism. And Covid has simply poured gasoline on it. It is easy to fall into surviving. It’s easy to think the world is a mess and there’s nothing I can do about it. And when someone says, “I believe peace in the world is possible” it sounds like a delusional fairy tale. Or if someone said to you “you are a major influencer in the world and your actions and choices can change the world.”… we might think they were seriously misinformed.

    But I believe both of those ideas are true. Scripture teaches that both of those are true. Jesus taught that peace in the world is possible… that God’s dream of a world ignited by peace, love, and justice is possible. And that you are a key part of that dream becoming reality. And it is by you being authentically yourself.

    But I find it is easy to lose sight of this reality. It is far easier to slide into an automatic routine and allow life to simply pass by. If we want to be a part of transforming and healing the world, it begins within. Great outer work rises from great inner work. It takes inner tending, it takes cultivation of hope.

    I went camping this past weekend at Roan mountain. The sun was setting and I was getting the fire going when a storm blew through. It passed on by but all the wood was soaked. I had to gather small twigs, shave off the wet bark, and slowly brnig the fire to life. It took pertinence and intentionality. In the same way, if we want to live in hope, it takes great intentionality and patience. And today’s story is incredible fuel for the fire of inner hope.

    We read that there are thousands of folks who have followed Jesus to hear his teaching and Jesus is aware that they must be hungry. It’s interesting to notice that this miracle is not life or death. This is not raising someone from the dead or healing leprosy. We have some folks who are hungry and otherwise would have to skip a meal.

    When we talk about God’s dream for a world at peace, we don’t get there primarily through flashy and massive miracles. It is through things like sharing a meal, offering a cup of cold water, allowing someone to merge in traffic, and wearing a mask in public.

    When Jesus asks his disciples to feed them, they respond very reasonably, “we don’t have enough food to feed them.”

    But this little boy, with a lens of childlike openness and generosity, offers his meal. His small offering. And that tiny, seemingly insignificant lunch is taken by Jesus and transformed into a feast that feeds thousands… with lots of leftovers. This co-creation. That we offer our authentic heart through small acts of compassion and kindness and trust that God takes them and multiplies. We may feel like a little pebble… but when it is thrown in the water the ripples flow out and there is no telling how far they will go. There is no telling what God will do to multiply the impact.

    This is how the world is changed. One small act of compassion and kindness at a time.

    Dorothy Day (1897–1980), the founder of the Catholic Worker, that she called her book about the movement Loaves and Fishes. She wrote, “Young people say, What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”

    Jesus takes our small offering and creates a feast for thousands. Just like one small pebble thrown into the water created thousands of ripples, who knows how far your act of compassion will flow?

    Let me conclude with this story. It’s one you may have heard before. While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
    He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
    The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
    The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.” Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!” The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”

    Here at Holy Trinity we have hundreds and hundreds of starfish throwers. As each of us choose to offer kindness and compassion each day, who knows what kind of miraculous feast Jesus will transform it into? To wake up each day knowing your offering not only makes a difference in the world, but that you are a key player in the healing of the world… that is a consciousness of hope. That is following Jesus on his path. And like Dorothy Day said, let us pray for an “increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.” Amen.