The fact of the matter is this: We’re in a pandemic that just won’t quit — thanks to the Delta Variant. Climate change is accelerating. Hurricanes are stronger. The American west burns every summer. Scientists warn that time is running out before earth will irrevocably warm, melting polar icecaps, submerging coastlines, causing worldwide refugee crises, fueling nationalism and weakening democracies already threatened around the world. America is divided. Our capital was desecrated by insurrectionists. In our county, we have child abuse and neglect rates far higher than the state average — mostly because parents are addicted to meth or heroin or both. One out of every three children in our county suffers food insecurity, which is a fancy way of saying they regularly go hungry. All of this is enough to make you want to go home, crawl under your bed, and suck your thumb in the dark.
You start out young and hopeful, but then you get older and wise up. Because the fact of the matter is this: Life is short. Any time you get is luck. Better watch out for Number One. Everyone else? They’re on their own.
That kind of sophisticated wisdom was probably what kicked into gear inside Philip’s head when Jesus, who was in the middle of nowhere, surveyed the thousands of poor people around him and said: “Hey, Phil. These folks look hungry. We should feed them. What’s your plan for doing that?”
Phil probably rolled his eyes, sighed deeply, and thought it was time for him to help this idealistic, messianic dreamer face facts: “Jesus, are you kidding me? Six months’ pay wouldn’t begin to feed them!”
Sensing that his pal wasn’t doing so well, Andrew spoke up to get Phil off the hook: “Hey, Jesus. Here’s a child whose mom packed him a lunch. But all he’s got are 5 loaves of stale bread and 2 smelly fish. It’s a little. But the fact of the matter is this: There’s not enough here to make a difference. This one of those situations where it’s our good intentions versus the world’s cruel facts. And I hate to tell you this, but in those situations the world always wins.
Interesting how pessimism always seems wise — until you realize, as Paul said, that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25).”
When thousands of Afghan refugees arrived at Camp Atterbury, 90 miles from here, my Philip-like pessimism and Andrew-like “wisdom” kicked in: “These are our allies who fought with us in Afghanistan. They’re arriving with only the clothes on their backs. This tragedy will only be transformed by a miracle, and we all know that those are in short supply.”
But like Philip and Andrew, I was wrong. Completely, happily wrong! Because of you. Like that kid in the crowd who offered what he had, so have you. This community has shared and the miracle of the loaves and fishes way back in the Bible became the miracle we got to see and participate in and live today.
Thanks to God’ goodness and your generosity, I have driven 9 pickup truckloads full of relief supplies to Atterbury: Socks, shoes, clothes, baby bottles, formula, pacifiers, diapers, baby wipes, soccer balls, toys: You name it — you shared it. Oceans of donations. People have sent our little church checks from 3 states. One Lafayette-area woman shared a minivan full of donations from her moms’ group. And more is still coming. All thanks to God and you.
Because the fact of the matter is this: When we share; when we lovingly put what we have in God’s faithful hands, it’s always enough. Why? Because Jesus Christ is risen today. Our Savior who multiplied loaves and fishes to feed 5,000 then is the Savior who multiples our gifts today to care for the 6,600 refugees at Atterbury now.
When we set aside the ease of our self-defeating doubts and embrace the challenge of self-giving love by following Christ and blessing neighbors, then miracles happen: Healing flows. Resurrections happen. Prayers are answered. Needs are fulfilled. Strangers are welcomed. Neighbors are loved. And we are blessed in the bargain.
Yes, we have challenges against us, but we also have Christ with us. That’s why all bets are off. Because when Someone can bring life out of death; turning Good Friday darknesses into Easter dawns, then our world is no longer what we thought it was. History has a new trajectory. Our future has not a bitter end, but a bright destination. Which means we are free. Free to live for Christ as new creations to bring about that good future where no one goes hungry; so everyone is loved; so that a new reality called the Kingdom of God arises to make all things new.
The fact of the matter is this: That God-filled future is the hopeful, holy possibility you can live today when you share, forgive, bless, and love. That’s our challenge, but that’s also our glory where we become our best selves and lives our fullest lives. May we all share, live, and become that blessing today.