Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday Sermon: Other People's Problems

August 3, 2014 – The 8th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 13A
Isaiah 55:1-5; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21

© 2014 Evan D. Garner

Audio of this sermon can be heard here.

You know that moment late in the afternoon when your husband calls and asks if it’s ok if he brings his boss home for dinner? What’s the right thing to say to him in that moment? I know what you want to say, but what are you supposed to say? What would Jesus say? Well, according to today’s gospel lesson, Jesus would say, “That’s great, Honey. What will you be cooking for us?”

People have a habit of dumping their problems on us. Mom, I left my lunch at home. Could you bring it to me? Susan, something has come up. Could you watch my kids for few hours? Son, one of the workers here has stolen my porcelain figurine. Could you come down right away? It’s funny, isn’t it, how it’s always the same few people who seem to a crisis that needs our immediate attention? Most of the time, we smile and say, “Sure, I’ll help you out.” But, when it’s the third time this week, there’s something hiding behind that smile—words we’d rather say.

Jesus went out in a boat to a lonely place for some time by himself. His friend and cousin, John the Baptist, had just been killed, and Jesus needed some time apart. But the crowds were persistent, and they followed him on foot. When Jesus came ashore, he saw the pitiful people, who had brought their sick and lame to him, hoping that he might cure them. Moved with compassion, he began to walk among the people, stopping to speak to them as he reached out his hand and offered his healing touch. That went on for hours. As the sun dropped lower in the sky, the disciples became worried. “It’s getting late,” one of them said to the others. “Where are all of these people going to get food? If we don’t stop him now, he’ll keep going, and the shops will close before these people can buy something to eat.”

“Um, Jesus?” a disciple said in between miracles. “It’s getting close to dark. There are a lot of people here. You should send them away so that they can get something to eat.” Jesus paused for a moment and, as he returned to his work, said, “They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat.” That’s when a wave of panic passed over the disciples, and they started saying to each other, “Whose idea was it to ask him about dinner? What are we supposed to do? We only have enough fish and bread for ourselves.”

There’s a difference between helping out someone in need and letting someone else’s problems become our own. The disciples let worry take them over. “What about these people? Where will they get food?” Jesus, on the other hand, wasn’t worried at all. “Things will work out just fine. They can go get food if they’re hungry. And, if you’re so worried about it, you deal with it. You give them something to eat.” “But we don’t have enough,” was their reply. “We don’t know what to do.” So Jesus stepped in and taught them a lesson.

God will provide. Don’t worry. Trust that other people’s problems will tend to themselves. You’ve got enough to worry about. If you spend your life trying to solve everyone else’s problems, then you don’t have enough faith that God will help you take care of your own. When you walk your kindergartener into school on the first day, you’ve got to let go. She’ll make friends. Or she won’t. You can’t do it for her. When you send your sixteen-year-old out on his first date, you’ve got to let go. He’ll make good decisions. Or he won’t. You can’t make them for him. And, when you place your elderly mother into the nursing home and she fusses and gripes about how miserable she is and asks how you could do this to her, you’ve got to let go. She’ll figure out how to be happy. Or she won’t. You can’t figure it out for her.

Having faith in God means trusting that God will provide not only for you but also for everyone else. It means knowing that, no matter what happens, somehow God will make sure everything works out just fine. Quit worrying about whether God will provide enough for everyone else, and start celebrating the abundance that he has already given you. Amen.

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