There's Just Not Enough - Six8 Sermon
McKendree United Methodist Rooftop Garden/Six8 Fellowship, 7/13/18
[This sermon was preached on the rooftop of McKendree United Methodist Church during the closing service of our Six8 intensive. Chelsie Reed, a Six8 mentor, and Justin Schoolcraft, a summer intern, were the two co-preachers. Chelsie shared her personal testimony (indicated in italics) and Justin (indicated in bold) spoke from the perspective of Moses’ son, Gershom.]
So I was sitting in Wendy’s, and it was freezing in there because it always is, and I was so excited-nervous that I didn't even order my regular order of chicken nuggets. I hadn't seen Kevin, my boyfriend, in 3 entire days. He had been at freshman orientation at Trevecca and we had decided to meet at Wendy's so he could tell me about the weekend. He walked in, gave me a hug and immediately jumped in to telling me the story of his weekend. He said that they gathered everyone and began dismissing them by department for whatever degree they planned to pursue. Kevin was going into business, but he said that when they dismissed the religion department, strangely, he stood up and walked out. And he wasn't really sure why he did that. He just found himself walking around all day with the religion majors. That night he had one of those "God we need to have a talk" kind of talks with God, and left feeling a clear call to be a youth pastor. And he is sitting here is Wendy's telling this story to his girlfriend, who is now crying- like somebody in Wendy's bout to buy me a frosty to make me feel better crying, and he's all nervous I'm upset at the idea of him as a pastor.
But I wasn't upset, I just already knew. About a month before this, I felt called to be a youth pastor- and in that moment of discerning that call, I felt clearly that God was calling Kevin too and that we would be in ministry together. But of course, I never told him that. So you know, he's telling me this and I bout flipped my frosty. I mean, how cool right?
So fast forward. It’s my senior year of high school and Kevin's freshman year at Trevecca, and every other weekend he would come home and tell me about his crazy intense religion classes. I would look at his flashcards with really really big words on them and when he talked about things like Eschatology and Transubstantiation, my eyes got big and my heart sunk. And when he told me how the class Biblical Exegesis was killing him- my stomach would turn. Kevin was top of his class, 4.0 student. I was a B-C student with gifts in other areas... If Kevin couldn't handle the Religion program at Trevecca...what chance did I have? I was relational, not academic. And the responsibility of being a pastor- it felt heavy. Caring for people I could do- but being a spiritual leader, discerning God's word and proclaiming it in preaching, being asked for direction on the really big really hard questions of faith.....thats a lot of responsibility. It made me nervous. It made me feel inadequate. My ability, what I knew I could take on, what my skill set was- it just wasn't going to be enough.
They’ve told stories about him for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a kid, the Israelite elders were always saying to me, “Do you remember when your father did this at Sinai?” or “Do you remember when your father did that in the wilderness?” To be honest with you, I can’t even remember everything my father did. I have to rely on the stories I’ve heard about him while sitting around evening fires, walking through scorching sand, and rolling the dough for unleavened bread. And now I’ve come here this evening to pass along to you the stories of my father Moses that have been passed along to me.
The story of my father Moses begins with a world where everyone believed that there just wasn’t enough. Pharaoh was ruler in Egypt, and he was oppressing the Israelites because he was scared that there wasn’t enough food and water for his people. So he did what all powerful kings do: he tried to hoard it all for himself. As the story goes, my father Moses accidentally grew up in the wrong house. We are Israelites, but he was raised in the palace of Pharaoh when Pharaoh’s daughter found him as a baby. My father was ashamed he was able to live in such pleasure while the rest of our people were whipped and beaten. While salty sweat dripped into his brother sister’s eyes during days so hot it makes your head thump, my father got to recline in silk robes and soft cushions in the cool breeze. He used to tell me that he would try to talk to the Egyptian royal family and ask them why they treated the Israelites so terribly, but he was too scared to do it because he stuttered and didn’t have the strength to speak. To make matters worse, when he would try to go seek comfort from his Israelite family, they despised him for the way he was living in comfort while they had to break their backs in the sun. In this world, Moses was caught between a family that loved him but despised others and another family that loved others but despised him.
One day, my father couldn’t take it anymore, and he fled the land of Egypt, running away from the only story he ever knew. As it turns out, though, when my father lost his story, another story found him. He settled down in the land of Midian, where he met my mother, and he was keeping the flock one day with his staff when the flock wandered beyond the wilderness. He came across a bush illuminated by fire but wasn’t burning. I asked him about it once, and he told me it was like walking near the heat of a campfire that somehow cools your hand down when you stick your fingers in the flames. And from the midst of the chilling heat came a voice: “Moses. I am the God of your father – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And I have come here to tell you that I have seen through the lies of a world that believes that there’s just not enough. I have seen the misery of my people. I’ve heard their cries. I know their pain, and I’m coming. And now I’m sending you to keep telling the story that I’ve been telling since the beginning of time: a story where there is always enough.”
But my father Moses didn’t believe that he was enough to do what God was asking. My father felt a deep sense of scarcity in himself that didn’t line up with the abundance of God. He immediately rebuked God and said, “M-Me? You’re asking m-me, a s-stutterer?” And he began to worry that he didn’t have what it took to succeed and that his inability to speak would prevent him from living into the story of God. He had caught the sickness that the rest of the world had caught – the sickness where we believe that there just isn’t enough and that we aren’t enough. So God said, “From the beginning of time I have provided for my people. Remember how I provided for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and listen to how I’ll provide for you. Take your brother Aaron with you. He will be your mouth. And if your people don’t believe you, take your staff, and perform the signs that I will show you.” But my father just shook his head. He looked into the bush, and he said to God, “I want to live into your story. I want my people to be free. But how can I be everything you’re calling me to be…when I’m just not enough?”
I walked across the steps of McClurkan in 2008 and received my undergraduate degree in Behavioral Science. Kevin was in front of me having survived Biblical Exegesis being handed his degree in religion. We had determined that since we were married and going into ministry together, there was no need for both of us to study theology - so I would major in Behavioral Science and Kevin would continue with his religion major. For all the praying I did to discern my calling to be a pastor - I do not remember praying over the escape route I took to avoid the religion program. And in the weeks leading up to and following graduation, Kevin sent out his resume to churches. Together we went to a few churches where Kevin interviewed for Kevin to be their new youth pastor. And I was really okay with that. The weight of the responsibility of pastoring felt way less when Kevin was the youth pastor and I was his very involved wife. There was a lot of relief in being able to redirect any hard questions about God to Kevin, because Kevin was the one who studied theology. It wasn't a secret that I too was called to be a pastor, but I was ok if people didn't necessarily know.
In the meantime, in the midst of this fear of scarcity of self, I was reminded by my family of another scarcity I should be fearful of. We were living in Ohio, 9 hours away from home, and often when my mom would call she would encourage me that I really needed a career to fall back on. If anything every happened to Kevin, I would need a way to provide for myself and my family. I would need a master's degree to pull out of my back pocket that would be a fast pass to a well paying job. If Kevin was going to be a pastor, that income is going to need supplementing. So it made sense at the time to get a master's degree in clinical counseling since a undergrad degree in behavioral science didn't really qualify me for many jobs, especially not well paying ones. I needed to cover the "what ifs" in life, I needed a "fall back career". My Scarcity of Self was at its core a Scarcity of Trust. I may be called to be a Pastor, but thats just not enough.
You all probably know that my father’s story didn’t end in front of the burning bush, believing that he wasn’t enough. Through the power of God he led our people through the waters of the Red Sea out of the land of Egypt. From there we went to Mount Sinai and worshipped God, and then began the years we spent in the wilderness. This whole story you might know as the Exodus – it’s one of those stories we keep telling while sitting around evening fires, walking through scorching sand, and rolling the dough for unleavened bread. However, some stories of God’s provision, no matter how amazing they may be, are forgotten when things get hard.
Just after God had parted the Sea and saved us from the Egyptians, the people began to argue with my father Moses in the wilderness. We had come to a place without water, and began to get thirsty. Our tongues shriveled dry and the air that blew around our heads was so hot it felt like smoke from a fire. The elders confronted Moses and cursed their sad situation. They said, “We’re so hopeless and thirsty wish we would have died back in Egypt with the rest of our families.” They had forgotten all that God had done for them to provide for their needs – God had rescued them from Egypt, provided them with manna and quail, and made a new covenant with them. But now they were thirsty, and they didn’t know what to do.
So my father did what he always did when he didn’t know what to do – he went to God. He fell on his face before him and said, “God, your people have forgotten your story. They’re angry, they’re scared, and they don’t know what to do. They’ve forgotten all the times you provided for them and now they’re living like Pharaoh is still their ruler. And God said to my father, “Take your staff, and use it to remind them of the story I’ve always been telling them – a story where there is always enough. Take that staff, hold it before a large rock. Speak kindly to your people, and then tell the rock to produce water, and water will flow from it.”
However, it didn’t turn out to be that easy. I was old enough to remember vividly what happened next. My father came out before the congregation, but the elders stepped up to my father and got in his face. There were veins bulging in their foreheads and their necks grew red with disgust. “Why did you bring us out here to die?” They said. “You’ve been so spoiled in Pharaoh’s palace you don’t know what it’s like to put up with this heat day after day. Why didn’t you just let us die in Egypt, old man?” And my father, instead of remaining calm, got angry at them, and in one instant he forgot to remember God’s story. He yelled at them, “Listen, you arrogant rebels! You want me to bring water from the rock? Do you?” And my father took that staff intended to be used as a blessing of provision, and he turned it into a weapon. He took the staff and struck the rock like a sword, and water came out. Thankfully, the people were able to drink, but God came to my father and said, “Why did you use that staff as a weapon? Why didn’t you trust me that I would provide for you in the way I promised?
So Moses answered him, “The p-people were s-so angry, and I got scared. They reminded me of how ashamed I was to grow up in w-wealth, and how weak I am to sp-speak. So I got angry, too.” My father learned that day that when we forget to remember God’s story and start to remember Pharaoh’s story, the scarcity in the world and the scarcity we feel in ourselves isn’t the real problem: the real problem is a scarcity of trust in the God who made us. My father tried to take provision into his own hands and forgot to trust God. So he walked back to his tent, looking out at the barren desert where resources were so scarce, looking around at the people he had rescued that just tried to threaten him, thankful that they were no longer thirsty, but still secretly thinking to himself, “How can we trust in the provision of God…when there’s just not enough?”
Sometimes, there really isn't enough. For every time I look at my life and see places where I cried out for provision or deliverance....where I prayed the dollars would stretch, or the food would last, times I prayed to be freed or prayed for change- for every time that I can say my need was provided for or I was delivered, I can also recall a time where my groceries added up too high at the register and food had to be put back, or our budget didn't allow for medical care so we didn't get it. I can recall times when we prayed to be delivered from a Pharaoh in our life with such desperation and instead of Pharaoh leaving we had to, and we lost our home.
So how can I say that Yahweh has delivered us, and Yahweh has provided for us. How do I reconcile deliverance and provision with Human Trafficking in Atlanta, with drug cartels in Mexico, with climate change in Peru, with famine in Somalia, with Detroit, with Aleppo. Where is God's provision?? Where is God's Deliverance??
God's best idea was not that God alone would rush into broken places while we stood back here waiting to see what God was going to do next- God's best idea was that God's creation- which was created to be enough, would be the pathway through which God came into the darkness.
God's best idea was not that God alone would rush into broken places while we stood back here waiting to see what God was going to do next- God's best idea was that God's creation would be the pathway through which God brings provision, restoration, deliverance, justice.
Where is God's provision? Where is God's deliverance? God is calling us to that.
At the burning bush, God said to Moses "I have seen the misery of my people, I have heard their cry, I know their sufferings, I have come to deliver them- now Moses, you go". I have seen, I have heard, I know, I have come,...now you go.
The fear of scarcity of self, of not being enough, is a lie- because it has nothing at all to do with what you think you are able to do. Scarcity of resource is a myth- because when creation works in the way it was designed, there is enough.
Scarcity of Trust is the real scarcity- that we struggle to believe God's best idea is good because it is so upside down. The weak are strong, the poor are rich, the least are the greatest, some fish and one loaf is enough to feed thousands, a boy and a stone is enough to bring down a giant, a stuttering shepherd is enough to lead a nation.
And what do you do when you are the one needing deliverance, when you are the one crying out for provision, when you are the one that is broken - when you find yourself weary in the wilderness, when you find yourself without hope of change- this is the moment that we must remember the story of God. This is the moment that we look to the bigger, greater story that we step into and continue- the story of Moses is told in a never ending chain leading up to the story of you. This is your story.
Your story is the story of God.
Will you remember this story?
In the 40th year of our wilderness wanderings, we reached the plains of Moab. We settled down one evening as the sun was beginning to set, a flaming sea of orange painting a watercolor landscape of life and energy in the dry and barren desert. My father came up to me with a face so peaceful he could have been in a dream. He put his hand on my shoulder and he said, “Son it’s time for me to go up the mountain.” I knew what this meant. It meant that my father’s story was almost finished, and that his time had come to pass the staff of blessing off to a new generation. And he looked me in the eyes and said, “Won’t you walk with me?” And so I followed his frail body up the mountain, and I sat off at a distance while my father sat alone. And then God spoke to him. God said, “Look around you at this land, Moses. Look over at Gilead. And at the Western Sea. And the plains. And the palm trees. This - ,” God said. “This is the land I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And I am about to give it to your descendants, and what I want the most is for them to remember my story.
Remember how when Abraham and Sarah had no children, I gave them children and promised them a nation beyond their dreams given as a blessing to the world.
Remember how when the land of Israel was threatened by famine, I provided Joseph with dreams for the future.
Remember how when we lived under an evil king who believed there wasn’t enough, I brought them out.
Remember how when you, their leader, didn’t have within you the strength to live out your calling, I gave you my power.
Remember how when you were hungry and thirsty in the desert, I gave you water and daily bread.
Remember how when you didn’t trust me and you tried to provide for yourselves, I forgave you and provided for you anyways.
Remember how I taught you that when resources are scarce, there is always more than you can imagine for the widow and the orphan and the refugee in your midst.
Because the truth is, when the world buys into the lies that there just isn’t enough, with me there is always enough.
“And now I set a new mission before you,” God said. “But it’s not really new. It’s the same one I gave you back at that burning bush. Here’s your mission: Remember the stories of the past and the ways God has provided for you. But now it’s your turn to go be that provision. Moses, your whole life you’ve been focused on scarcities. You believed there was a scarcity in yourself and that you didn’t have the resources you needed to succeed. You believed that there weren’t enough resources to provide for your people, and you forgot to trust me. But you’ve missed the most important thing all along. In a world where there’s not enough resources, you are the resource.” My people are called to go be the resource of my blessing for the whole world, and as they do, I will provide for them. Because I, your God, am not doing this on my own. I need you. I need to be a provision even as I provide for you. So go tell your children. And your children’s children. Tell them to remember this story. And as they remember this story in the past, they can live into my story today and in the future.”
My father looked over to me up on that mountain, and I knew that he was about to take his last breath. So he limped over, so old each step seemed like a labor of love, and he sat down. And what he said to me, I now say to you. “This story picks up with you.” It’s a story as old as time itself – a story where God provides more than enough when the world believes there’s just not enough – and then God calls you to be the provision for the world, and as you go, God provides for you. This is your story. So here we are on the plains of Moab. We’re here on the top of the mountain. We can look back and see everything God has done in our lives. We can look down at our own two feet to see what God is doing now. And we can look forward to see where God is leading us in the future.
Will you remember this story?