Friday, August 8, 2014

Loaves & Fishes and a mother-in-law's rice . . .

     I hadn’t had a chance to relate the story due to a family death and a family celebration, but it seemed to good not to share in light of this week’s passage on the loaves and fishes miracle.  Between the services three weeks ago, a gentleman walked in and asked if we still tried hard to feed the hungry.  He hadn’t seen anything on AFM in some time and wondered whether we’d given it up.  Assuming he was looking for some assistance, we started telling him about SmartChoice.  He got excited and interrupted us and asked if we could use some rice with the boxes of food.  Expecting a couple bags of rice, I told him we would make sure it got to the hungry.  He took off for his car.
     When he returned, he was carrying a box of rice.  “I have fifty-two pounds, I think.  Where should I put it?”  I told him we would place it around the altar and offer it in thanksgiving to God today.  I also got Nathan to help, and Scott volunteered.  Then, I told him, we’d see about getting it into the bellies of the needy.
     “You don’t think you will have a problem?” he asked.
     “Not at all,” I assured him.
     Of course, I could not help myself.  I wanted to know why he bought fifty pounds of rice for the hungry, not knowing how he was going to distribute it.
     “It wasn’t me.  It was my mom.”
     No doubt we all looked confused, so he went on.
     “I married an Asian girl.  Mom knows that she cooks a lot of rice, so, from time to time, she buys us rice to help out.  The problem is that she buys the wrong kind of rice.  Did you know that there are dozens and dozens of kinds of rice for cooking?” he asked.
     I am proud to say that I did.  Heck, it hadn’t been a couple months since I found out there were different kinds of Basmati rice thanks to an incorrect purchase on my part.
     “Anyway, she keeps buying us this rice.  My wife thanks her for the rice, and she keeps it in the boxes.  We decided we have enough to make a difference for some people, and you all came to mind.  We weren’t sure if you still did it, but you guys sure helped out a lot of people with that Angel Food.  So my wife sent me here this morning.”
     All of us present shared a thank you and laugh at his story.  Parishioners invited him to coffee and to church.  He declined.  Before he could make his escape, I asked him if he wanted a donation receipt for his taxes.  Without pausing to think, he should his head and said no.  I asked if he was sure.
     “I did not buy it, pastor, so I do not deserve the credit.  if anyone deserved the write-off, it’s mom.  But then I have to deal with explaining why we had to give her rice away.  That will make things wonderful for my wife, if you know what I mean?”
     All of us with mothers and mothers-in-law nodding knowingly.  Some of us even chuckled.
     “Anyway, it’s best if it’s anonymous.  Thanks for letting me help you all, though.”
     We thanked him as he headed out.  Those of us around the table remarked how people really pay attention when you do good things around here.  As the priest, I reminded them that people are attracted to that counter-cultural message of the Gospel, that they cannot help being intrigued by a faithful life or lives being lived out before them.  There were nods and other comments before the conversations turned back to the usual Sunday morning fare.
     I used the example, though, later that week with the stone mason.  We were chatting about how people need miracles.  Some do.  But so many of us miss the miracles in front of our eyes.  Like Paul’s, our eyes our full of scales.  But as the last couple weeks have gone on, the story could have been used for other readings.  We know that all things work together for good for those who love God — Imagine!  God is so powerful that He can redeem not only death, but the potential for misunderstanding between in-laws!
     And then there was the loaves and fishes miracle in our midst.  No, it was not like that which we often experience at the Community Meal, where the food stretches and stretches.  But, to the recipients, it is every bit the same kind of miracle.  We have given what we can and more, and still the need before us is vast.  And then, out of the blue, in walks fifty-two pounds of rice.  Why?  Because they noticed our faithful service of the hungry.  Fifty-two pounds of rice won’t assuage all the hungry in Davenport, but it sure will fill all those who received it.
     I shared the story with Judy, as she stopped by church to pick up our food offerings.  She couldn’t wait to share it with her sisters and brothers who help run the Food Pantry at New Hope Presbyterian a few blocks over.  “Sometimes, we get a little dejected by all the need, you know?  These minor miracles sure are a Godsend to us when we are down in the dumps about our impact.”  I reminded her there are no minor miracles.  For those who got to eat this week thanks to their faithful labors, this was every bit as big as the loaves and fishes from Matthew this week.  She laughed as she headed out, renewed once again by His faithfulness for service, as were we all.


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