By The Rev. Sherry Deets
9 Pentecost, Proper 12 – July 29, 2012
I don’t suppose anyone here ever does this, but there is a game some people play that’s called Disqualification. Let me explain how it works. People disqualify themselves because of who they are. They consider themselves not old enough, not young enough, not smart enough, not wealthy enough, not something-or-other enough to give a gift.
Individuals can play this game Disqualification. It can also be played by teams. A congregation can function as a team, and many do. When that happens, then the congregation says, whether by word or action: We’re not big enough, or wealthy enough or devout enough, or educated enough to give a gift, to make a difference in the world. So we’ll just wait until we are.
Disqualification is also the name of the game when a person or a group says: What we have isn’t worthy to be called a gift. It’s small and simple and poor and laughable. It’s not enough. They wouldn’t want it. It’s pitifully small and slight compared to the needs of the world.
Yet another form of Disqualification happens when people question their own motives, and that keeps them from giving. If I have some connection with the recipient, if I feel some passion about what causes that person to need my gift, then I may have doubts about the supposed purity of my motive, and that may keep me from presenting my gift.
Now do you recognize this game Disqualification? Have you seen individuals and groups play it, and keep themselves from giving gifts? Have you perhaps played the game yourself, and kept your hand closed,
and squelched your desire to take action? Many of us have.
The game Disqualification is something we learn to play, or perhaps we don’t learn to play.
I think you’ve all hear of Alex’s Lemonade Stand. ? Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004). In 2000, 4-year-old Alex announced that she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. Since Alex held that first stand, the Foundation bearing her name has evolved into a national fundraising movement, complete with thousands of supporters across the country carrying on her legacy of hope.
Alex did not disqualify herself. She’s somebody who knows how to dream and act on her dreams. Or, to put it differently, she refused to play a game that’s far too popular among adults and children, the game called Disqualification. She could have played the game, of course. She could have said: I’m not old enough, I’m not wealthy enough, I’m not something-or-other enough, to make a difference. And maybe none of us would have noticed had she done this. She could have indulged in a quick game of Disqualification. Thankfully, she didn’t. Any many people have been blessed by her legacy in cancer research.
Today’s Gospel presents us with a young boy who gives what he can give: five barley loaves and a couple small fish. We don’t know the boy’s name, where he comes from, or who his parents are, but we know about his gift to hungry people. We know that, like Alex, he refuses to play Disqualification. Oh, he could do it differently. He could decide he isn’t old enough or wealthy enough to make a difference. After all, in the time and place where he lives, there are many ways in which children simply are not recognized. Or he could conclude that his gift, a child-size lunch, doesn’t measure up as a gift. He could buy into the apostle Andrew’s grumpy judgment: Five barley loaves and a couple fish—what are they among so many? Or the boy could question his own motives as a giver. Some of the people in the crowd are his relatives, his friends, his neighbors. Maybe his desire to give is not completely disinterested. He does not want to walk home with a hungry, cranky family.
But—thanks be to God!—the boy wastes no time playing Disqualification. He hands over his little lunch. He gives the gift.
Then something happens. Something that players of Disqualification
never take into account. The gift is mysteriously multiplied. One little lunch becomes a catered meal for five thousand, a picnic in the wilderness.
The mystery factor is this: When we give, we don’t give simply to a hungry crowd or to Cancer Research. We give to God. And, strange to say, our gift sets God free to do something, to burst forth in new, unexpected ways.
Lemonade sold to help medical research. A little lunch given up to feed a crowd. With God in on the act, who knows how far the ripple effect of such choices will reach? Who knows how many times these stories will be told?
The story of the feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle to be found in all four gospels. It is a story of abundance. God’s abundance.
In God’s kingdom, there is no scarcity. There is no need for force or violence. There is no effort required. We simply come to dine at a table set up in an oasis in the wilderness of our life’s journey. We don’t even have to serve ourselves. The Risen Jesus comes to serve us the real meal that we’ve desired all our lives. All that we each must do is come hungry and eat to our heart’s fill. As we walk from this table, we are invited to return and bring others with us. There will always be enough for us all.
Do you believe this? Or are you caught up in the scarcity of the world around you? As our world continues to meander forward, waiting for the end of the seemingly never–ending economic difficulties, we have grown accustomed to belt–tightening and living with less. Real estate markets continue to teeter. Families struggle. Jobs are tough to find. Workers toil harder for less. More and more people fear that the future will not be better than the past. It is a temptation to believe that scarcity defines our lives. This would be a mistake. Let us engage Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 with fresh eyes and find renewed hope.
In God’s kingdom there is no scarcity. There is no disqualification. There will always be enough for us all. This was the greatest day of this little boy’s life. If you listen carefully you may hear him saying, “When Jesus touched me I knew He was the One – I gave my whole life to Him – just think if he can make so much of my lunch what will he do with my life!
“Disqualification” idea from a sermon written by the Rev. Charles Hoffacker.
The text of this sermon is the property of the author and may not be duplicated or used without permission.