[This message was delivered at Perinton Presbyterian Church on 10/31: Reformation Day, Halloween, which means the eve of All Hallows–or Saints–Day. It can be watched and heard on the Perinton Facebook page. The texts: Genesis 2:4b-9 and Colossians 1:15-20. I post it on November 1, All Saints’ Day, a day to remember and give thanks for the great cloud of witnesses God has used to shape our lives and faith.]
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything (literally, all things).For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. –Colossians 1:15-20.
Growing up in the Los Angeles public school system, there were three annual field trips we could always count on: the La Brea tar pits, the Griffith Park Planetarium, and the tuna canning plant at the Port of Los Angeles. At the harbor we would see these gigantic ships loaded with massive containers waiting to be unloaded. And we would see the day’s catch of fresh tuna, still squirming, ready for processing into those little tin cans. I had little sense that the Port of Los Angeles had such importance to the nation’s supply chain. For all I knew, all the containers on those cargo ships were filled with tuna ready to go into Chicken of the Sea tin cans.
We know more now. “The supply chain” has become part of our vocabulary. There are now over 60 gigantic ships filled with hundreds—maybe thousands—of massive containers ready to be unloaded onto trains and trucks. But there is a shortage of dock workers and there is a shortage of truck drivers. There is not a shortage of goods. The containers on those ships contain all the little chips we need for smart phones, tablets, and cars, and all the Christmas toys we want to give or receive. But the supply chain isn’t working right.
Does the Church have money problems? No. God has supplied all the resources we need, but a lot of that supply is being held back. That supply is being held back by people intent on hoarding rather than stewarding God’s provision. The supply chain is being held back by people that haven’t learned about God’s generosity and God’s expectation that we will respond in generosity. The Church doesn’t have a money problem; it has a supply chain problem. In many instances, it has a vision problem. The Church asks people to give a little and maybe a little more, to write a number on a pledge card, instead of reminding people that we are stewards of God’s generous supply. That we are not owners, but stewards expected to reflect the goodness and generosity of God. Picture what would happen if everyone hearing me now started giving at least the first 10% of their income to this church, not as harsh law, but as generous response to God. Envision how our investment in God’s mission in the world would grow.
About $24 billion in goods is estimated to be sitting outside California’s two biggest ports as the shipping backup there continues to put pressure the strained supply chain. Officials have warned that the supply chain crisis, which has led to massive price increases on consumer goods, could last into 2022. About 47% of businesses reported a shortage of workers in the third quarter. (Reported in CNN’s daily briefing.) The goods are there, ready to be delivered. We have a supply chain problem.
The Church doesn’t have money problems; it has supply chain problems. God is generous. Our story begins in a garden of delight. “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden…; and there he put the human whom he had formed.Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food….” (Genesis 2:8-9.) The Fuji apple tree in my yard, from which I am still harvesting fruit, is a gift from God. I don’t own it; I tend it and steward it. I don’t even own the yard or the house on it; I am stewarding all that God has entrusted to me. God gives in abundance.
There is not a food shortage in the world; there is a supply chain problem. The earth produces enough food every year to feed every one of its 7.8 billion people. But that food isn’t being distributed fairly. There is a supply chain breakdown. According to the American Dairy Association, the average American household throws away about 250 pounds of food every year.
God has designed this garden planet to feed everyone on it. We can trust God’s generous provision. God is worthy of our trust, and trusting God means stewarding all that God has entrusted to us.
Jesus, who knew hunger first hand in his earthly journey, has been sent to us to get thing right again. In Colossians 1:15-20, the word “all” is used eight times. It crescendos in verses 19-20: For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” Jesus has come to bring all things together and make all things right. And he puts himself at the bottom of that supply chain, giving us opportunity to minister to him: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink….” (Matthew 25:34-35 in “The Message”) Jesus has not just come to save our souls; he has come to reconcile all things, whether on earth or in heaven. His mission is cosmic and comprehensive. He brings us abundant life and calls us to share the bounty.
All. All things were created in Christ and he is intent to reconciling all things. And he will. Today is the eve of All Saints Day, one of my favorite days of the year. On November 1, we are reminded to give thanks for the saints that have gone before us, the saints that shaped our lives and faith, that taught us to trust Jesus. I think of some special saints. I think of my maternal grandparents crossing the Atlantic. My grandpa came first, got a job as a low-level construction worker and saved enough to send for his wife and children. My mother was six-years-old at her mother’s side crossing the ocean in 1922 to be welcome at Ellis Island. They settled in this land of opportunity and found their place in the American dream, this land of welcome. My mom died five years ago last Tuesday, at 105. She didn’t leave me much money, but she left me a legacy of faith, hope, and love. She taught me to trust in Jesus and be generous. She left me riches untold.
God is worthy of our trust. We have been created to trust our creator. Like those cargo ships filled with containers waiting outside the Port of Los Angeles, we have a supply chain challenge. And pledge cards won’t meet the challenge. Generous giving in response to the generosity of our God will always meet the need. This congregation has been entrusted with sufficient financial resources to do all that God calls us to do. When our giving is marked by trust and grateful generosity, the Perinton Presbyterian supply chain will be working just fine.