The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 17, 2022
Y’all should have seen it this week. Buckets and buckets of popcorn. Pudding cups as far as the eye could see. Gummy worms, pretzels, goldfish, a seemingly endless stream of ice cream scoops. It was snack time at Vacation Bible School. Ninety-four children descended upon our campus to learn about God, to play games, to have fun, and oh yes, to have snacks.
Now granted, this week was also tiring, it required sacrifice and energy and just a whole lot of time and patience and money. But if something is worth doing for the Lord God, it must be worth doing all the way.
That’s one of the lessons we take from Abraham. The story from Genesis says, “The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.” I wonder if the heat of the day by the oaks of Mamre was anything like a Galveston summer. It goes on, “Abraham looked up and saw three men standing near him.” These strangers, these visitors, these guests are of and from the Lord God. Abraham is going to make them feel at home, and he’s going to go all the way. Abraham rushes to Sarah and tells her to start making bread. And notice – they use the choir flour. Not the moldy flour in the back of the pantry. Get the good stuff and make some cakes. And that amount of flour they use – that’s five pounds of flour. That’s ridiculous. Five pounds of flour for three people. And throw on top of it the fatted calf with cottage cheese. Not really my choice for delicacy, but hey, this is like the Golden Corral of the Old Testament.
But seriously, Abraham had told his guests that he was going to bring them a little bread. That’s the understatement of the century. Instead, Abraham and Sarah prepare a preposterous feast. If something is worth doing for the Lord God, it must be worth doing all the way.
I don’t know about you, but this lesson hits me square between the eyes. Far too often, what I give to God are the measly leftovers of my time, talent, and treasure. Far too often, I hold back the best stuff for myself. Far too often, my prayers are short and distracted. Every single day of my life, the Lord God shows up and I’m not sure that I go to the trouble that Abraham and Sarah go to.
And I know this happens in churches, too. We content ourselves with “good enough.” We forget all the people whom the church has forgotten, or whom the church has hurt. We are far too complacent, settling for “a little bread” when we ought to be throwing a preposterous feast. I know I’m being critical here, but it’s only because I have such high expectations for the church, for me, and for us.
Perhaps that’s what was so invigorating about last week. You all, you measured out the choice flour, you killed the fatted calf, you bent over backwards for all these children. But most of all – you served. More than the food and the cost to Abraham, he served. Those strangers from the Lord God, they show up at Abraham’s tent in the heat of the day. Abraham doesn’t tell them to come back when it’s cooler; he doesn’t point them in the direction of the next settlement. No, he stoops down and washes their road-weary dirt-encrusted feet with his own precious water. And then while his visitors eat, he stands beside their table as a servant. This is Abraham, mind you. God called this man from Ur of the Chaldeans to be the leader of a new nation. This is Abraham who has been blessed by the priest Melchizedek. This is Abraham with whom God has made a covenant with. And yet here he is, a servant performing menial tasks. Washing the feet. Serving the table. Measuring out pretzel sticks. Doling out the goldfish. If something is worth doing for the Lord God, it must be worth doing all the way. And the payoff? The fruit of this labor? The Lord God promises Abraham and Sarah a son of their own. They receive hope for the future.
That’s exactly what played out here this week. We worked hard, yes. But this week, we also saw a glimpse of our future. A promise of what is possible. Those ninety-four children came from Trinity Episcopal Church, Grace Episcopal Church, from Trinity Episcopal School, and the wider community. You, you welcomed them with open arms. And the adults, the adults who volunteered, and taught the children, and who cut apple slices till their hands hurt; those adults came from Trinity Church, Grace Church, Trinity School, and the William Temple Center for UTMB students.
I believe that Vacation Bible School was a promise of what is to come. See, this past year we’ve been working hard on strengthening our partnerships with the other Episcopal churches and organizations on Galveston Island. The clergy and staff and leaders of all the Episcopal churches and groups here have committed to working together for the common good. And that work has borne fruit as we saw all of us come together for ministry. This is our future. Imagine with me, what a blessing it will be to have closer ties to our sister congregations at Grace and Saint Augustine, imagine the school, and our medical students, and St. Vincent’s House all with a shared mission and common goals. I truly believe that is what God is calling us to do right now. And I think that this week was a vision, a hope of what that could be when all of us are working together. And we, Trinity Church, will have to take the lead on this. We will have to sacrifice our own time, and energy, and money to make this possible. Like Abraham and Sarah preparing this preposterous feast, it’s going to take work to get all the Episcopalians on Galveston Island going in the same direction. But
you know what we say about ourselves – founded in 1841 and still making history. This is our time to make that history.
Finally, I want to flip this passage around. Flip the story around, and we see that Jesus is the host, and we are the travelers. Tired, thirsty, worn out from the exhaustion and worry of daily life, we wind up here, in God’s tent, in God’s house; in the heat of a Galveston summer. Our Lord bids us enter, to cool off, to sit, to pray, to rest from the weary world. He doesn’t wash our feet, but he washes our souls clean in those baptismal waters. You see it, right? That’s why we walk by baptismal font on our way into worship; to remember that our Lord stoops down to refresh our weary souls in those restorative waters. And then God speaks to us; imagine that, God would speak to us, through the holy scriptures, through music, through beauty, through art. And then the Lord God prepares this preposterous feast for us. The Lord God prepares this meal, Christ’s own flesh and blood for us. This is not a little bread and a sip of wine, this is so much more, so much better, it is the Body and Blood of Christ. For us. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing all the way as Jesus would even dare to die for us, to offer himself so that we may live. The Lord God doesn’t bake the bread, or prepare the fatted calf, or serve us the curds and milk; the Lord God offers his own Son for us. He goes all the way.
Because you, unworthy as we are, stingy, and cold-hearted though we may be, in the eyes of God, you are worth serving, you are worth saving, you are worth restoring, you are worth feeding, you are worth dying for. There is no better news that this. God wishes to serve you, to bless you, and to welcome you into our Lord’s eternal courts. That is our future. When our souls are gathered before the Lord in death and we are greeted, welcomed into our eternal homes at the resurrection from the dead. When we will see all those who have gone before and we will see God face to face. We know that is our future, because that is what God has already done for us here. On earth, as it is in heaven. It was a lot of trouble for God, to go about creating us, sustaining us, dying for us. God went all the way. Because to God, you are worth it.