From the Rector
This weekend we’ll pick up where we left off last weekend in the Gospel of John, with what happens after Jesus takes a few loaves and fish offered by a little boy and multiplies them to feed an enormous, hungry crowd. This weekend, we’ll hear how Jesus uses the miraculous bread to teach about how his very own life is nourishment that can feed us for eternity. It’s often called the “Bread of Life” discourse, and we’ll hear bits of it for the next several weeks (with a break on August 11/12 to celebrate our namesake feast and hear the story of the Transfiguration).
But in my sermon this weekend, I’m going to hold us back at the hillside where the miracle took place, and ponder for a little while longer what it means that the one who shared the loaves and fish with Jesus was a little boy. All week I’ve been pondering where he came from, who brought him to hear Jesus preach that day, what kind of home he came from, and how they nurtured his innate human need to be generous. Mostly, I’ve been wondering what became of him afterward. I wonder if he achieved a bit of notoriety for having provided the food for the miracle. I wonder if he traveled with the crowd to Capernaum to keep listening to Jesus. I wonder if his family, or the disciples, or anyone else in the Jesus movement encouraged him after that famous day – you know, as he grew up. I wonder if he was supported to become a leader in his own right in the early Church?
My wondering has a lot to do with where we find ourselves today as a church. As I’ll explore more in my sermon this weekend, we have too often forgotten to cultivate the imaginations of our children so that they aspire to a life of professional ministry. When we talk to kids about “what they want to do when they grow up,” do we ever include pastoral ministry in the list of possibilities? Firefighters, doctors, teachers, etc…but when was the last time you heard someone suggest to a child they could grow up to be a priest or pastor?
We are in a tough spot in the church, because for decades the overwhelming majority of kids who were nurtured in the church, formed by the church, and loved in the church have grown up without seriously considering that they could find vocational fulfillment in the church. And as a result, they go on to college and pursue all sorts of careers without ever thinking for a moment about a career in ministry. And so, unsurprisingly, there is a crippling shortage of qualified candidates for all manner of open positions in the church, and not just here at Transfiguration. The more I speak with friends and colleagues around the wider church, the more this issue comes up as a major challenge for the future. To use a baseball metaphor, our bullpen is nearly empty, because we haven’t done enough work cultivating the talent of our farm clubs.
There is hope, because the truth is that I know a lot of kids who have the same generous and loving spirit as that little boy who shared his lunch with Jesus. Will we nurture their faith and plant some seeds in their imaginations? Will we remind them that they could keep loving and serving as adults, too?
P.S. Please don’t forget to invite someone to join you next weekend for “Bring a Friend Sunday.” The music will be great, we’ll be baptizing babies at the 9am, there are drawings for prizes, and we’ll have a freezer full of ice cream. So, please take a moment right now to think of at least one person you can ask to come with you next weekend!