All You Need To Remember Is…Your Lunch… And Your Manners!

It thrills me this Veterans Sunday to remember, thank and celebrate those who serve. In uniform and out. Military to fire fighters, police to probation officers, nurses to teachers. And so many more. How good it is, just to remember, and not forget. Ever. Bless-ed are those who serve. In general! ‘But best of all, to serve in the name of the Lord, with faith in Jesus Christ. For believers, or those who just wanna believe, the question is, how do I come to serve? What do I need to learn and remember, to summon the faith and seize the moment to serve? Christ lives a lesson that lights our way. ‘Folks on the hillside, hunger all around. A kid with a basket, and holy teachin’ goin’ down. Wanna be a helper, a servant in the Lord? Here’s all you need to know, so don’t forget. ALL YOU NEED TO REMEMBER IS… your lunch and your manners! Surely that’s not too much to ask. ‘Not in Jesus’ day or ours. Your lunch and your manners, in uniform or out, around here to overseas.

When comin’ to Jesus, or goin’ to serve him, do remember your lunch! And manners! How important is this? Let me re-tell this familiar story: Jesus feeds the 5000. Imagine the young lad with five loaves and two fish. Hear how he tells his mamma the story. He gets home late that special afternoon. Mamma picks up the lunch basket Joshua carelessly abandoned near the front door. “Josh-u-AH! Why is this basket left here? Again! Can’t you ever put anything away? [Sound familiar?] She’s about to set it down on the table when she notices. “Young man, you come right  here!” Uh-oh! “Just where did you go today? And why didn’t you eat your lunch?” “I did, Ma, honest! Us guys were playin’ hoops in the street this morning. We were getting’ tired of it. So we noticed. Lots of men in town were quittin’ their shops-and-fishin’-nets early. And headin’ up the hill. There was this guy. A rabbi, new in town. ‘Way better than Rabbi Shua. Wow, Ma, I’m tellin’ ya! You should a heard his stories!” Mom clears her throat, taps her foot. “Jooshhh… what about your lunch?” “I was getting’ to that! Honest. See, it got late. Past lunch. We all lost track. But stomachs started growlin. Folks too. No food and too long back to town. I heard ‘em tellin’ Rabbi Jesus we were all in a fix for food. That’s when it happened. I showed my basket. ‘Told ‘em at least Jesus could have a bite. You always say I should do stuff like that. Instead, Jesus blessed the bread, broke it, and started to pass it around.” Mom interrupts. “JOSHua, there’s still bread in here. ‘Looks like more than I gave you. What have you been up to, young man?!” …”I’m tryin’ to tell you, Mom. When that bread went from my hands to Jesus’ hands, somethin’ happened! Next thing I knew, it was like there was bread all over. Maybe it was in how he prayed. Or gave my bread away. (He wouldn’t eat ‘til we were done.) All I know is, folks just started sharin’ bread. … It was somethin’ else. Jesus even shared my fish. The salty things! You know I’m not that keen on ‘em. But this is how come there are two more in that basket than I started with. Jesus even thanked God for the fish. ‘Take what you need,’ he said. And he gave ‘em away. It sounded like a bee hive soon. ‘All over the hill, indoor voices sayin’, ‘Here, take what you need,’ over and over. I tell you, Ma, it’s amazing what that Jesus can do with a little lunch and some good manners. And some prayers. I wanna go and be with him again tomorrow! Can I, Mom? Will you come? And make a lunch?!”

Now that’s some story! And it’s ours, as much as theirs. Comin’ to Jesus or goin’ in his name, bring your lunch! Folks who serve Jesus always do! If you want to celebrate those who serve… in uniform or out… or better, join them, remember lunch. Surely you know I don’t mean by that, a bit of bread or fish. Or even peanut butter and jelly. No, lunch means way more here. It’s what those who love you… give you… to see you through. (And what you give those you love, especially the little ones!) At the least, a set of values that give you dignity, and a little humility, and a heart for both in everyone you meet. At the best it’s knowing God in Jesus Christ. ‘Carrying everywhere you go, three certainties. YOU are the apple of God’s eye. YOU have fallen short. YET GOD HAS LIFTED YOU, as surely as he raised up Jesus, when by the cross we would have cut him down, and in the tomb, laid him forever away. Lunch is portable providence. It’s the carry-‘round confidence that God would have neither you nor me nor anyone hunger or thirst of body or spirit. It’s the tune in your head that sings, “Be not dismayed, what’ere betide, God will take care of you.” OR,” He reigns from heaven above, with wisdom, power and love, our God is an awesome God.” Carry this kind of lunch: it gives you power, permission and instinct to share and serve. It’s the lesson-of-the-lad-with-the-loaves, learned deeply and well. God gives so much, we can give without counting the cost. Somehow God will place even more in our basket than we had at the start. Thank God for all who have this truth and do it. May all of us be counted in that number.

Now we’re down to manners. ‘Manners that matter to God to make heaven on earth. Preacher Jim Wallis asks a great question. Why’s God/Jesus/Scripture need the boy in this story? Surely Jesus could have used some more exotic power than a boy with a basket and no luxury lunch. Wallis’ solution. God needs something/one to work with! A lad/loaf, you, me! That’s God’s choice. It’s God’s way, revealed in Jesus Christ. To respond, we require the manners of an open heart and an open hand! There’s no record Jesus or Andrew had to ask for the basket. The boy offered it. (Je pence.) He already knew God would bless it/him. He’d already learned the manners of generosity and the ritual/liturgy of sharing/serving. You wanna be near Jesus, like him, learn/practice the manners of the open heart/heart.

Teach them to the young! Ahh, manners. The practice of the presence of being-there for others. ‘The willingness to risk, knowing there is no risk where God is known to reign. How else do soldiers face the front,  firefighters the flame, police the peril, teachers the  troubles, med. folks the mysteries, neighbors their neighbors in need? ‘Manners-in-the-Master’s-Image. The simple, sublime act of living a life that says, “After you.” “I’m here for you.” ‘Mine is yours.” God’s enough is enough-for-me. My life for your life. ‘Best I can, just like Jesus. In the end, this is what we celebrate in sharing and service of every/any kind.

Wanna serve and  share like the lad with the loaves? Wanna be like Jesus? Here’s all you need to remember: your lunch and your manners! Wanna an example to follow? Wanna be an example? If you’re in uniform as an expression of your faith, stand up? If you nurse, counsel, stand watch, teach, wait tables, clerk, parent, tutor, step aside in line, or just pray, stand up. If you’re thankful for the folks that do and want to, too, stand up. We are Jesus’ lunch bunch. Ours is the ministry of manners. And who we are, what we believe, and how we live, witness to the living God in Jesus Christ.

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