On Thursday morning, I opened up my email to see a message from a good friend with the subject line "Overwhelmed." In the message, she listed things that were going on in her life and in the world that were bringing her down: two different cousins had major problems; a good friend was going through a really hard time; Hurricane Matthew was about to hit the United States; the upcoming election was irritating and depressing; work was crazy busy. Her subject line accurately described how she was feeling: overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed is a word that we often use in its negative sense. I'm sure you have your own list of things that are overwhelming you. It's easy to fill in the blank: I'm overwhelmed by ___________.
When we are overwhelmed by the bad things, it's hard to remember and appreciate God's overwhelming love and grace in our lives. We become bogged down with the details, with the sadness, with the busyness.
I had the privilege of serving communion in the modern service last week. For some reason, it struck me as more holy and meaningful than normal. (I'd like to say that every time I partake in communion it is personally sacred and fulfilling, but I have to admit that sometimes I don't pay enough attention.) God's love filled my heart as I thought about the meaning of the sacrament: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16.
But even more overwhelming was the love I felt when I looked into the eyes of each of you. When I offered the body of Christ, broken for you, I felt community and love that was hard to describe. But it offered HOPE in this overwhelming world.
Marcus and I have been preparing for Youth Sunday on October 16. The service will be built around the scripture in the second chapter of Acts that describes the local church. Verses 42-47 tell us:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Wow! That's a lot of commitment to each other -- meeting together, eating together, praising God together, taking care of each other. But that is the commitment that I felt when I served communion this past Sunday. We've shared lots of experiences together. I've prayed for you and you've prayed for me. We've cried together, hugged, experienced life together. And to know that we are a community brings overwhelming HOPE to my life (and I hope to yours).
We need community. We need others to prop us up when things start to feel overwhelming, because it's God's overwhelming love expressed through the love of others that gives us hope. God didn't create us to handle overwhelming pressures alone.
And, the community needs you and me. We all bring different gifts to the group. Paul spoke it so eloquently in his first letter to the Corinthians:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. . . .Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12: 12,27.
Finally, the world needs our community. West Market Street UMC brings hope to our world -- our world filled with overwhelmingly bad news -- fighting, hunger, poverty, suffering. Every week I see your kids learning about how they can make a difference in the world, even though they are just children. They truly believe that all things are possible with God's help. Can you imagine what they will be able to accomplish as adults?!
So I can't end anything without a challenge. I think that's the way I'm wired. Here's my challenge to you: If you are feeling overwhelmed (in a negative sense), come to church. And don't just come, commit yourself to the community -- a community that God infuses with overwhelming hope.
Blessed to be in community with you,