Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sneak Preview

Our church publishes short pieces on the cover of our weekly bulletin. I wrote a couple a few years back. I was asked to write a new one to go in the bulletin sometime this November relating to our stewardship campaign. I was inspired and went ahead and wrote it now rather than, as is more typical for me, waiting until late October.

So here it is.

Feeding the Five Thousand

Let me make this one thing perfectly clear: it’s not just about the donuts.

Sure, the donuts are a nice bonus. I mean, last summer, we got donuts after every service. Kind of makes it even more fun to go to church, you know? And we still get donuts every few weeks when new members join our growing church family. So there certainly continue to be numerous opportunities for donuts. And, hey, what could be better than donuts?

Well, there’s also coffee.

And while there’s nothing all that miraculous about donuts and coffee (although together they are a mighty powerful team) and I’m certainly not going to suggest that any kind of transubstantiation occurs when you eat a fried ring of dough covered in powdered sugar, there does remain a certain sense of something special that does occur in their presence.

Let me try to explain.

In the story, Jesus takes five loaves and two fish, looks to heaven, blesses and breaks the loaves, then divides the fish and, when the disciples set them before the gathered crowd of five thousand men (not to mention any additional women or children), all ate and were satisfied.

All of them ate.

We aren’t given an explanation. We don’t get a Sorcerer’s Apprentice style scene in which the loaves and fish start rapidly multiplying and walking themselves through the crowd uncontrolled. We’re simply told that all ate, that all were satisfied and that, most miraculously of all, there were leftovers.

A character in a novel I once read, an Episcopal priest experiencing a crisis of faith, thought that maybe the way the story really happened was that it was as though there were only five loaves and two fishes. The miracle was that the people shared what they had with strangers.

And isn’t that exactly what Jesus repeatedly calls us to do?

Now I could recite the familiar litany of the amazing depth and breadth of mission work our church supports. I could line item the educational, ministerial and charitable opportunities that made our sanctuary burst at the seams. I could give you a spreadsheet that tells you where all the money goes. I could share my testimony of the tremendous difference Westminster Presbyterian Church continues to make in the lives of my whole family.

But all I really want to say is that when we gather together, whether it’s at a worship service, a church supper, a small group meeting or, yes, just a bunch of folks chatting around a table of coffee and donuts, we make a difference. A huge difference, not just in our own lives, but in the lives of people across the upstate and across the world.

So when I drop my envelope into the collection plate, I’m not just doing it for the donuts. I’m doing it to feed the five thousand – and more – people who come away satisfied from Westminster Presbyterian Church.