It is believed that St. Francis of Assisi once said: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary use words.”
I believe the baptism of Anthony Truong preached this morning’s gospel lesson from John this morning without using a word.
People had gathered together “because of the signs that Jesus was doing for the sick”: for people who could not see, for people who could not hear, for people who could not talk, and for people who could not walk.
Then came a logistical conundrum.
Jesus said to Philip, “Where on earth are we going to buy enough bread to feed all of these people?”
“There’s just no way,” answered Philip. “Six months wages would not be enough to feed this crowd!”
Andrew spoke up and said, “But there’s this boy here!”
I like that. “But there’s this boy here. He has 5 loaves and two fish, but not enough to feed five thousand people.”
However, the good news is that although what the boy possessed did not seem like enough, with Jesus, it was actually more than enough!
After everyone ate (notice verse 11 and 12) “as much as they wanted” until they were “satisfied,” the left overs filled twelve baskets!
When Anthony expressed his desire to be baptized, we were also faced with a logistical conundrum.
Someone said: “How are you going to have enough strength to carry Anthony up and down those baptistery steps, baptize him, and then carry him back up and down so he can dry off, get dressed and be back in the service before communion. There’s just no way.”
I started thinking: “Maybe we could baptize him by pouring water on his his head; that way, he would not have to get into the baptismal pool.” So I asked Anthony. To which he responded and I quote, “No, I want to go all the way.”
So to the question of “how are you going to make this happen,” my answer is: “But there’s this boy here!”
“But there’s this boy here, and although the faith that he possesses may not seem like enough, I have a feeling that it is more than enough!”
As soon as the newsletter was emailed on Tuesday announcing the baptism, John Mundy, Steve Parke, Randy Alexander, and Dan Marshall immediately agreed to help with the baptism to make sure it was more than enough.
The good news is that this is exactly how our God loves to work in our world. When there seems to be no way, God loves to make a way. When it seems like it is not enough, God makes not just enough, but more than enough!
Our Hebrew lesson this morning from 2 Kings 4 illustrates this good news: During a famine a man brings the prophet Elisha a prophet’s tithe: Twenty loaves of bread and some fresh ears of grain in a sack.
Elisha accepts the tithe, but says, I want you to take this food and give it to the poor.
It is then the man points out the logistical conundrum: “But there’s just no way. There is not enough food here to set before a hundred people.”
But Elisha assures the man, “Because of your great faith in bringing this tithe during a famine, I have this feeling that it is more than enough.”
The man set the food before the people, and sure enough, there was not only enough, but it was more than enough, as they had leftovers.
This good news was also experienced by Elisha’s predecessor Elijah.
In 1 Kings 17, the prophet Elijah is sent by the Lord to visit a woman widow in Zarephath who will feed him when he arrives.
When he comes to the gate of the town, just as the Lord had said, he meets a widow who is gathering a couple of sticks to build a fire for dinner. He called to her and said, “Pour me a glass of water. And while you are at it, bring me a morsel of bread.”
Confronted with a logistical conundrum that has life and death consequences, she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug.” In other words, “There’s just no way. I simply do not have enough for you in this famine.”
Elijah says: “Do not be afraid.”
Old Testament Professor Katherine Schifferdecker imagines her saying:
“Easy for you to say! You’re not the one preparing to cook one last meal for yourself and your son before you die. You’re not the one who has watched your carefully-hoarded supply of flour and oil relentlessly dwindle day-by-day, week-by-week, as the sun bakes the seed in the hard, parched earth and the wadis run dry. You’re not the one who has watched your beloved son slowly grow thinner and more listless.”
“Elijah said to her, ‘Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son” (1 Kings 17:13).
“How dare this man of God ask me for bread, knowing that I have so little? Who does he think he is, asking me for bread before I feed my own child? There’s no way. I told him that I have only “a handful of meal, a little oil, and a couple of sticks. There’s not enough. And Death waits at the door.”
Then the good news:
For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah (1 Kings 17:14-16).
There was not only enough. There was more than enough.
Diagnosed with scoliosis, the doctors wanted to perform surgery when you were 12 years old. During the surgery you suffered a spinal stroke that left you paralyzed from the waist down. Some thought there was no way. They said, “there’s just not enough left.” But, you didn’t give up. You kept going. You kept fighting, and you kept living. You joined a wheelchair basketball league. You stayed in school. You went to church. And six years later you joined Ainsley’s Angels and completed a 5k and a 15k. Soon after that 15k, you ended back into the hospital for the second time with a severe infection. On a respirator for nearly three weeks, some feared there might not be enough antibiotics, love or faith to see you through. They feared you might be running out of sticks, your jar was almost empty, your jug was beginning to fail.
But the good news is that you came back, and you came back strong. You completed not one but three more 5ks. You enrolled in college. You joined a church. And this morning you were baptized symbolizing that not only did you have enough sticks, enough meal in you jar, enough oil in your jug, you had more than enough.
And the amazing news is that there are countless more stories just like Anthony’s in this room. Your marriage failed. Your son was killed. A child died. You lost your job. You lost a business. You lost your home. You became addicted to alcohol or drugs. You received a grim diagnosis. People said there was no way. They said you were all about out of sticks. However, you never lost your sense of gratitude. You kept the faith. In the face of your suffering you continued to worship and thank God for the gift of life. Somehow, some miraculous way, your jar never emptied and your jug never failed, and you have always found that you always seem to possess a great big pile of sticks! And not just enough sticks, but more than enough.”
Not only does the baptism of Anthony this morning proclaim the text about Jesus having more than enough to feed 5,000 people, it also proclaims last part of our text about Jesus walking on water.
It was the Sunday after Hurricane Floyd flooded the first house Lori and ever purchased in eastern North Carolina. To say that we had a logistical conundrum would be making an understatement.
I had been wading in waist deep water that Thursday and all day Friday trying to salvage our possessions. And then on that Sunday morning, can you believe that one of the first things that I did was to climb down the steps of our baptistery into waist deep water to baptize a new member of the church?
I’ll never forget the first words I spoke. I looked out into the congregation from that baptistery, and I said, “You know, you would think that standing in waist deep water is the last place I would want to be this morning. However, it is actually the first place I need to be this morning!”
I then said: “Before today, baptismal water had always represented purity and refreshment to me. It was a water which cleansed one’s spirit and refreshed one’s soul. It was a renewing, invigorating water, life-giving water. However, on this particular Sunday, this water represents to me something more, something dreadful, something heinous, something sinister. This water symbolizes destruction, despair and death.”
I believe Paul understood the destructive forces of sin and evil in our world and that water was symbolic of of those chaotic forces. This is why he wrote to the church in Rome: ‘Remember that you have been buried with Christ by baptism into death.’
And this is why the picture of Jesus walking on water in the darkness amidst howling winds and crashing waves is so inspiring. Jesus was doing much more than walking on water. That would be enough in itself. Jesus was walking all over the forces of evil like they did not even exist. Which makes it more than enough.
This morning, Anthony, was buried with Jesus into death, and he rose from death into the newness of life, symbolizing that he will always have more than enough to conquer any storm, flood or chaotic force that might come his way.
And the good news is that God is still walking on water. God is still raising people up. God is still serving bread. God is still filling jars and replenishing jugs, and in God’s kingdom, the sticks that fuel the fire of the Holy Spirit never run out. So do not be afraid. Despite every logistical, physical or spiritual conundrum we face, there will always be enough. No, in God’s abundant mercy, there will always be more than enough. Thanks be to God.