Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
Last Saturday night the Lord spoke to me. The Spirit of the Lord came upon me and God exhorted me saying, “Go buy pizza.” I was in Houston, TX with 29 teenagers at the National Youth Gathering for our denomination. It was the last night of the gathering and our kids had been so good all week I felt in my heart that they deserved a treat – a party – a celebration. Unfortunately, I was not the only person God was speaking to that night. As it turns out, God also told the other 31,000 participants to buy pizza too.
And so, I found myself standing outside of a sketchy Domino’s Pizza at midnight pleading with an employee to give me the pizzas God told me to buy. After an hour wait and a $30 tip, I was persuasive enough to get 7 of the 9 pizzas I paid for and I swiftly made my way back to the hotel to surprise the kids.
On the way back to the hotel it occurred to me that I had just paid for 9 pizzas and only had 7. Moreover, I lamented that I had to tip $30 to get pushed up in the queue. It also began to sink in that 7 pizzas are not enough for 13 teenagers, let alone 30. And so, I became angry, frustrated, tired, and crabby. It was at that moment that a homeless woman on the street asked if I could spare a slice. My first thought was yes. However my second and third thoughts were you don’t have enough, keep walking. By the time I reached the end of the block it occurred to me that I missed an opportunity. As the guilt sank in, I began to realize that I had bought into the lie that I didn’t have enough. I was so consumed by the mission I was on that I missed the ministry moment right in front of me. Because I was tired, cranky and frustrated, a woman who could have eaten made her bed on a street bench hungry.
What killed me about this encounter was that earlier that night a speaker at the gathering spoke on how the fact that we have hungry people in this world is a choice (not one hungry people make, one we all make). It is not the result of scarcity or a food shortage. It comes down to access and waste. Her point was that there is more than enough; we just don’t share. And here I was living proof that she was right.
When I delivered the pizza to the kids I told them the story of the hungry woman I failed to help and I told them this: faith is hard and living faithfully is difficult. Not only are we up against the forces of sin, death and the devil, but also there are much quieter influences that derail our best intentions. We believe silly little lies about not having enough. We get so caught up in our mission that we sometimes fail to minister. Tunnel vision keeps us from seeing the big picture. Tribalism keeps us from seeing each other. It isn’t always the hardest days of our life that quell our faith (in fact, that might be when we’re at our best). Often times it is the ordinary days, ordinary moments, ordinary times that stifle our faithfulness.
In the gospel of Luke Jesus himself realizes how tricky ministry in the midst of the ordinary is. Jesus is in his hometown and he’s preaching and teaching. The folks in the room take offense at this unfamiliar message coming from such a familiar face. And he is essentially run out of town. This resistance becomes for Christ a teaching point for his disciples. After this encounter Jesus sends them out into the world with a commission and a command, but also a word of warning. Jesus instructs them that they will run into resistance. Ministry in the midst of the ordinary will be challenging and there will be times of rejection and hardship.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon you today. God is speaking to you. God is exhorting you to a life of faithfulness, sacrifice and service. Today might be a good day, it might be a bad day, or it might be an ordinary day. No matter what happened yesterday, because of God’s grace, love, hope, and promise, on this day you have the opportunity to be light and love in a broken world. So, go buy someone pizza.
In the Way,