“Rugged Individualism” is not the Gospel

View the sermon here.

TEXT: Matthew 14:13-21
TITLE: “More Than Enough”
THESIS:
Be a gracious and generous people as we follow Jesus. 

Introduction

  • I’ve often heard people say – “Nothing in this life is free!” They mean well by encouraging personal responsibility and hard work. Those things are good – but this idea of “rugged individualism” goes against the gospel of grace.
  • Grace is found in our story today. Grace – and generosity – God’s gift of abundance beyond anything we do.

Scripture

  • According to the story, Jesus took 5 loaves and 2 fish … and they all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
  • There was more than enough for the people. Not “just enough to go around.” No one had to fight at the table to get enough. I can imagine the joy and laughter and grateful surprise of the people as they kept passing around the food and finding there was always more – more than enough – with leftovers to spare.
  • We call this a miracle story – usually because it is “impossible”… beyond human possibility – to do such a thing. But “miracles” are more than “impossible” events. They are mysterious events, beyond our understanding. They are mystery itself – not a puzzle to figure out like a mystery novel, but something we cannot understand. …. Yet we can believe it and experience it.

Conclusion

  • That’s what grace is. True grace is a mystery, beyond our understanding, yet to be experienced and believed. Something to be received with deep gratitude.
  • I invite you to consider this story as an example to us – a calling for our own lives. We are called to grace, not just to receive it, but to give it. We are called to live in the mystery of believing there is always more than enough for everyone in this world – and to stop clinging to what we have, afraid it will be taken away – proud in what we have done to have so much, but protective of what we have so we don’t lose it to someone else. That’s “rugged individualism” – a major cultural characteristic of America – but it is not the gospel. It is not grace. It is not generosity.
  • Jesus said to his disciples: You give them something to eat. And they said, “But there’s not enough to even start feeding so many.” And Jesus took what they had and began to feed them – and gave away what was there so that there was more than enough.
  • Many problems in our world could be solved if we lived with grace and a generous spirit. People of wealth are afraid the poor will rob them of what they have. People with power fear the powerless and losing what they have. People who are white – and Christian – are increasingly afraid of losing what they thought made America great. Our nation is afraid of other nations challenging our power, and so we keep spending too much on wars and fighting too many of them.
  • We are called to follow Jesus, and Jesus was a man of grace. A man who knew there was more than enough for everyone. A man unafraid to live simply and give away even the little he had. A man who taught us to live in the mystery of grace – holding nothing back, sharing what we have (even giving it away).
  • American Christians have far more than “5 loaves and 2 fishes.” How much could we do with what we have if we were not afraid to share it – even give it away – so that people with less could have more? And so that we could all have “more than enough”?
  • Could we not do “miracles” if we move beyond what we believe is possible into the mystery of grace? If we stop protecting what we have and being generous with others out of pure grace and not because they “deserve” it or have “earned” it? If we give up our “privilege” of color or wealth or education or zip code and be truly gracious, generous people with everyone?
  • I dream of such a world. I am committed to being part of that world. Will you dream with me? And be part of it with me? Come, let us follow Jesus.

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