A new vacuum

Oh, the vacuum story.

I was in my office when the phone rang. A parishioner called because they thought the church needed a new vacuum. There was a lot of carpet in that church. So, why not?

When they came to deliver our new machine I got the whole story.

They had bought a new vacuum for their home. That meant, of course, their old one needed a new home. The church wasn’t getting a new vacuum. We were getting a new-to-us vacuum.

Except, we didn’t get it.

Mind you, this wasn’t just their old vacuum. I’m pretty sure it was their first vacuum. There was more electrical tape on the power chord than I’ve used in all my electrical tape experience. It was dirty, and with all sincerity, I don’t know how anyone could’ve thought to bring that to the church.

Imagine their surprise when I turned it down. Yes, they were a little taken back. I just wasn’t grateful enough, I suppose.

I’ve told that story before and one person told me that I should’ve received their gift. It’s what was in their heart. They thought of the church, after all.

Maybe.

But shouldn’t we also hold higher standards for one another and for our ministry? I would have never called anyone else to “give” them that rickety vacuum. My impression was the church was the first place they called. That wasn’t out of a sense of gratitude to God or desire to see the church’s ministry flourish. The church was the easiest place to drop it off.

I think about that vacuum from time to time. It helps me reflect on what I’m offering to God and to the church. I want to ensure I’m giving the best of who I am and what I have to offer for the glory of God. Someone once said it best: Give God what’s right, not what’s left.

That aligns with a takeaway from 1 Kings 7. We’re told that King Solomon took thirteen years to build his house. It was a wonder to behold! Now, you’ll have to read the last verse of chapter six and the first verse of chapter seven together to appreciate what the author might be trying to tell us. When you do, you’ll see that Solomon took thirteen years to build his house and seven years building God’s.

Is that a commentary on Solomon’s priorities? It might very well be.

He took almost double the time for his own house than he did for God’s. Now, God’s house was nice, no doubt. But isn’t it like us to double our efforts for ourselves and get around to God’s stuff?

This, of course, is about more than a new vacuum. And it’s not about giving stuff to the church. It’s about an attitude and approach to ministry. Imagine what could change about our church’s ministries if we taught one another to offer God our absolute best, not the rest of what we have! Let’s decide what God is leading us to do and become, and pursue it with passion, excellence and sincerity.

Stay blessed…john

Fishes and loaves mindset

I’ll give the disciples the benefit of the doubt.

Mark 6:34 says that a “great crowd” had rushed in from all over to listen to Jesus. The day went on and Jesus was still teaching and preaching. People were surely getting hungry. This is where the disciples stepped up. They suggested it was time for Jesus to send everyone away so they could go find something to eat.

Again, thinking the best of them, it looks like they wanted to make sure all those people were fed. I’ll remind you that Mark also told us the disciples hadn’t eaten yet either.

In response to their idea, Jesus told them there was no need to send the people away. It’s one of my favorite lines from Jesus. “You give them something to eat,” he said. I like to imagine the disciples’ expressions.

Do you think they had the two hundred denarii, half a year’s salary, that they spoke of to Jesus? Or was that them being dramatic?

From here, there are so many other details I have questions about. Many more than we have time to get into fully here. Take some time for yourself to reflect on a few things. First, Jesus told them to take inventory of their bread. Why did they come back with fish, too? What do the numbers five and two bring to mind?

They could’ve sat anywhere; many of them probably already were. Why did they have to sit on the “green grass”? Why did some sit in groups of fifty and others hundreds?

Mark gives us clear Eucharistic images as we envision Jesus looking to heaven blessing and breaking the bread before giving it to everyone.

It’s what happened next that intrigues me today. Remember that everyone had enough to eat and there were leftovers! Some five thousand people, at the least, ate that night. What did the disciples do with the leftovers? They put them in baskets. Twelve baskets to be exact, which is another detail.

I was reading and learned there’s a word for this particular kind of basket. They were hampers; the Latin word is cophinus. Jews used them to carry food and other items. It’s said they would carry hay in the baskets to use for pillows on their journeys so they wouldn’t have to ask for help from Gentiles and run the risk of being made unclean.

Now, who took the baskets? Did they belong to the disciples? Did some of them belong to other people? Who knows? But someone had to walk back with them. Who would they meet along the way? And would they be willing to share what God gave to them if need be? Would there be any reservations about offering food to anyone in need? No matter who they were?

That’s the real question that matters most to the Church.

Are we willing to give of what God has given to us? We’ve been blessed with so much. How can we not? Having a loaves and fishes mindset helps us see that we will have all we need; God is faithful. We don’t need to be stingy or selfish. We don’t give our blessings away. We share them.

Stay blessed…john