Have You Had Your Fill?

Have you had your fill yet? There's summer corn and tomatoes, time at the beach or the mountains. Time alone. Time apart. Family time. 'Had your fill of 90+ days, whopper storms, and buzzy things that bite and sting? How about news from the Middle East, Iraq, or just the gas pumps? How about mortgage payments or prescription costs? (God bless Medicare, Part D… He might as well, we do!) Being filled is a thing of Biblical proportion with spiritual dimension. It's enough to make Paul fall on his knees and pray we'll be filled with all the fullness of God. It's enough to get Jesus to seat the crowds on a far-off hillside and bring forth… a miracle!

I 'been workin' on full since I was a kid. You 'too. Now that I'm grown, body and spirit, I see and experience full differently. And that's what all of us are invited to do today. O, I remember being absolutely certain. Our tummies have compartments, each for its own stuff. One for carrots, peas, broccoli, spinach. 'Turns out they're pretty small compared to mashed potatoes, pork chops and the like. And ice cream, why, that required my hollow leg. Dad said so. So getting my fill was a highly variable thing. Quick for those veggies, not so for treats. 'Still sound familiar? But I have different hungers today. You might too. Full has a different meaning because empty does too. I feel empty when I look on what this world has to offer, and I fill up when I sense what God has to give. Without a prayer that offers me strength for today and hope for tomorrow, I'm like a hungry soul. On a crowded hill. With half a day's walk to even a morsel of mercy or relief. I need a portion of infinite love, and a place in the scheme-of-things to share it. It would be like having my own part in offering the miracle of life-in-Christ-Jesus. Now that would be filling for me; how about for you? I mean, have you had your fill yet?

Do you see what Paul sees? Chaos, disintegration, division, separation. As a planet we're a mess. And it "ain't necessarily better" in our homes or souls. It's God's plan to give us Christ so we can get it back together with God, each other and ourselves. The Spirit uses the church to do just that! This is the big picture. If the church is ever gonna be such a place, then the people will have to be a together people. A holy people. Folks that really do walk-in-the-way that leads to life! How are we doin'? What-da-ya think?… Now, while I've been away there's been a lot of mischief goin' on. Bombings on both ends of Israel. Boats flippin' over, needing rescue on the sea. And churches breaking up, say the newspapers, even while we were finding treasure in the promises of God through our VBS. We've married 3 couples here since you and I were last together. But how many more across our county and around our community have fallen into disunion or despair? Hechts, Macys and Kohls have had those summer sales. Church and non-church folk have flocked to get that one more thing that will somehow make us feel fulfilled, yet we come away still feeling empty. Meanwhile our closets can't keep up. Why, what we need is a prayer, a plan, a promise.

So here comes Paul, to our time just like his. Look how he comes. On his knees; his knees, mind you! Well, not really his knees, he comes on his face! You heard right. O, in Jesus' day and Paul's, Jews like them prayed standing up. Palms extended. Asking God to fill them as they had need and God had grace. But when the hour was late and the need deep and desperate, they fell on their faces. Prostrate, spread-eagle, entreating God to act in the most profound way. Well, that's what Paul's doin' for us! Now, check your watch. (It's OK.) The hour is late, whatever the time. A good soul said to me this week, "Rev., we need to hear about the end times. We're livin' in them!" It may be so. This much we can say for sure. These days are our only days. The only day any one of us knows we have… is today. And at that, not all day, but this hour. The ancient prayer is always right. "We know not what a day may hold, but only that the hour for serving God is always near at hand." The needs around and inside us are deep and desperate. From the news on the airwaves to the nods and ponderings on the parking lots after church. It's high time we fall on our faces! Faith and faithfulness are urgent now. So Paul prays that God'll give us strength in a special way. He asks not just for knowledge among us, but that Christ will live in us… permanently. And that you and I of all people, you and I and all the church, will be filled at last. Filled with all the fullness of God. And in the course of it, we will be rooted and grounded in love.

Here's the plan. God will be there for us, and we can go directly to God. Jesus shows us the way. We won't die when we see him; we'll live. And Heaven will stretch every nerve to reach us. Years ago, first night, first church on my own, a phone call, literally the moment I sat down the last suitcase at our first parsonage. A 21 year old member had drowned, please go to the family. I did. Only 27 myself, it was overwhelming. One touching moment: the words that this young man was an adopted son, with his twin brother. Shifted from foster home to foster home, these 3.5 yr. olds couldn't believe they finally had parents to love them. Nightly for a year, the boys took turns walking the hall to the parents' bedroom door. Each would wait for the sweet report, "They're still there!" Friends, you wanna be filled with all the fullness of God, begin here, knowing this. No matter how deep in the night for you, no matter how dark it gets, God-in-Christ will always "still be there" for you! Next, pray this, know this. God will strengthen your inner soul. That phrase had a specific meaning in Paul's day. It spoke of the (head) knowing, the conscience and will in us. The prayer-plan of Paul: that Christ strengthen our reason, our discerning right and wrong. May we be less ruled by fleeting passions, more by the wisdom to live safely in Christ's love and purely in his company. A quickened conscience, that's key. A tender heart for right, for mercy, for care. On 170, at the 100 underpass, a young woman has sat 4 weeks or more. Her sign: broke, pregnant, need help. Whether we can, I don't know. Is she true? Hmm… All I know is she's there. Who will be there for her? Will. That's the last word of the inner soul. The Prayer-plan: to shape and steel our will. May we know right, mean well, and DO GOOD, all for Jesus' sake! It's the living out of that very old song, Abide With Me. "Not a brief glance, I beg, a passing word, but as you dwell with your disciples, Lord, familiar, condescending, passing, free, come not to sojourn, but aide with me." It's the pulsing, driving lyric of Contemporary Worship, "Every move I make I make in you, you make be move, Jesus, every move I make I make in you." It's the Lamberts back from months in China, Jim Gourley off for three+ months to build houses in India, 20 work Campers off to Bridgeton, NJ and as many back from W. Md. Filled with all the fullness? Knowing, feeling, showing Christ!

We have a prayer, a plan, and a promise: there's a place for us in the miracles of God in Jesus Christ. Find your place, and you and I will be filled as never before. It doesn't have to be grand. You don't need to take a long trip. Why, a walk up the hillside and a sit-down to listen to Jesus may be quite enough. You can be young or not-so-much any more, have all things, have almost nothing. All we need is a heart for God-in-Christ. Remember the story?

Jesus has about had it. He's just learned of the death of his beloved cousin John the Baptist. The crowds have been at him in their need for healing and he has reached out to heal and help. But now he just has to get away. Into the boat. Across the lake. Now off to retreat. But the crowd follows 'round the lake on foot. Scores, hundreds, a multitude! Jesus asks Philip, who knows the territory, "Where could we get bread for them all?!" (Jesus knows; it's Philip and the rest who need to.) "Lord, there's not even a day-old bakery in a country mile of here to feed them, much less fill them!" Andrew gets it. Maybe it's not about wheat bread, but wonder bread! (The original.) "Sweet Jesus, I saw this one little kid out there with 5 small barley cakes. And a couple of pickled fish. His mamma gave them to him to wash the bread down. Could we start there?" "Bring him… and sit the folks down." [Now, seated was the posture of preaching back then. The people are about to become the Givers of the Word!] Jesus gives thanks for a kid with the kindness to share. And for a mom with the heart to provide. And for even a little, with which God can do much, do everything! Here's Jesus' word. The power of a sharing child. The contagion of opening hearts and hands that pass the blessing one to another. Everyone was filled with 12 baskets left, the little bottle-shaped kophinos every Jew regularly carried along the road, so he or she could keep Kosher and be fed. No accident, enough left for each disciple. A promise, perhaps, that all who follow Jesus will be filled with all the fullness of God. And all begun with a youngster with a little basket and a big heart filled with Jesus. Why, that's all it takes to take our place, to make our own mission for the Master.
And that, that will be enough to fill us to the full.

There's a prayer, a plan, a promise and a place for you! Finally enough, that really is…enough! So… have you had your fill yet?

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