Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.
Ecclesiastes 11:1

The writer of Ecclesiastes  invites us to take a leap of faith and be generous by casting our bread upon the waters with the assurance that we will find it after many days. Today’s text speaks of the need for people to be kind and to share their resources with humanity. One can also see the text as an appeal to persons to respond to human need and suffering where ever it exists.

St. Paul’s Fiesta now in its tenth year has been a success from its inception.  Some years ago we took the decision that 10% of its profit must be given to a charitable organization. We see this as part of our service to the community and this morning we shall carry out that mandate we as we make a presentation to the  Alzheimer's  Association.
“Cast your bread upon the water’ is a summons to service. The church cannot measure its success in terms of dollars and cents as some would want us to do but in terms of its service to humanity. As a parish we must not be afraid to cast our bread upon the water. The church will be judged by the way it uses its resources to make life a more meaningful experience for people to whom it is sent. A church that truly understands the meaning of Service will endeveaour to use its talents, time and treasure to help people live abundant lives. We can only do this by casting our bread upon the water.

A servant church bears faithful witness to Our Lord who said ‘For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’, and ‘I am among you as one who serves’. As a servant church we must preach a Gospel that addresses the spiritual, mental and material needs of people. As a servant church we cannot just be interested in erecting large and expensive buildings just for the sake self glory and self satisfaction. This will defeat the mission and purpose of the church if it does not translate into SERVICE.  As a servant church we must move beyond ego trips on which some of us are on and realise that the church’s primary purpose is to man.  We must move beyond concentrating and boasting about large numbers and restore the Mary Magdalenes and Zacchaeuses to life in the society. We must exercise a ministry that is faithful to  the message Jesus enunciated in his first public sermon (Luke 4:14-18). But this we can only do if we are willing to cast our bread upon the water.

As a church and as Christians we must be more generous in giving of our time, talent and treasure. The greed, selfishness and consumerism mentality that define life in the secular world have no place in the church. A church that accumulates wealth without any concern for the community and does not use it for ministry is guilty of idolatry. All monies made by churches are to be used for ministry and in the service of humanity. We must use our monies to ensure that the people to whom we are sent to minister enjoy a good life-spiritual and materially, and help them to live authentic human lives. The church and its members must be careful that they do not make a god out of its material success.

Sometimes one gets the impression that we have missed the purpose of the church and  see it as a means for self glory, prestige, social status and satisfying personal ego desires. In the process we have moved away from the servant nature of the church. The result is that in some instances we are turning the church into a monkey business, engaging in tomfoolery and not really involved in real Christian service. What we do within the context of Christian service might not translate  into new members and church growth, but we must not allow this to deter us, whatever we do we do for humanity. Some people might ask ‘why serve when people do not come to church?’ “Why should we spend our money on people who have no use for the church?” We can answer these and similar questions by informing those who ask that the primary purpose of our service is to share God’s love with all people and give them an opportunity to enjoy life in all its fullness. Our service is not bribery. The motive for our SERVICE as a church is not popularity, ego strips, fame and status, or even new members, but to be Christ’s servants in a broken world as we exercise a ministry of reconciliation.

Our resources as a church might not permit us to transform our social structures but we can be prophetic and call the nation’s attention to those practices and policies that dehumanise people and make them live at a sub-human level. As a church we have an obligation to critically assess programmes, policies, and practices that are divorced from  the real needs of people . Policies that judge progress in terms of  statistics and not human development. Part of  our contribution to the transformation of our society is to ensure that people are always at the centre of development. The late Pope Paul V1 said ‘development is the new name for peace’. Any development that fails to put people at its centre is counter productive and of no real benefit to society. As a church we have to champion and promote the concept of development that allows people  to realise their fullest potential and live genuine  human lives. As we minister to the society we can help our people to develop not by giving them fish but teaching them how to fish. This is all part of casting our bread upon the waters.

To cast our bread upon the water is to have an option for the poor. The option for the poor does not mean pitting one group against another, but rather, it calls us to strengthen the whole community by assisting those who are most vulnerable. The Scriptures inform us that the justice of a society is tested and judged by its treatment of the poor. God’s covenant with Israel was dependant on the way the community treated the poor and unprotected—the widow, the orphan and the stranger (Deut. 16.11-12, Ex. 22.21-27, Isa. 1.16-17). Throughout Israel’s history and in the New Testament, the poor are agents of God’s transforming power. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus begins his ministry with the announcement that he has been sent to bring good news to the poor (4.1-22). At the coming of Christ we will be judged on our response to the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner and the stranger (Matthew 25.31-46).

To cast our bread upon the water is to witness and live for the creation of a just society. In our Barbadian society we encounter injustice in the various forms of exploitation, political victimisation, gender, race and class discrimination. All forms of injustice are evil; they rob people of their human dignity, make life difficult for them and deny them their rights as citizens.  Part of our mission as a church in the quest for justice is to ensure that all persons are treated equally and with respect, that no one is taken advantage of and that people’s rights are respected. As we witness and promote the concept of justice for all we identify with a tradition that has long been part of the church’s practice.  We identify with the prophets of old who challenged their respective communities to work for the creation of just societies. That challenge is always relevant and ought not to be overlooked. We have the example of Amos who cried ‘but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’. Micah also appealed for justice ‘he has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God’?

The Jamaican crisis is a warning to us not to become complacent but to ensure that we establish a just society which provides at least for the basic needs of all its members. It is a call to our church and the society at large to use all  our resources to  eradicate poverty and the many other social evils that give rise to disillusionment, hopelessness, despair, inequality, mendicancy and  widens the gap between the haves and the haves not. An environment that breeds these negatives sets the stage for  the emergence of volatile  and explosive societies  that will inevitably lead to instability and  disrespect for the rule of law;  threaten our  democracy and internal security. The same situation can happen in Barbados if we bury our heads in the sand and pretend that all is a bed of roses. All is not a bed of roses and all is not well. We need to address the social problems of poverty, violence, and crime. We must also pay special attention to the drug trade that is affecting all segments of the society and is responsible for much of the crime affecting the nation.  If we are honest we will have to admit that our society needs to be renewed so that it can be rid of some of the most pressing social evils that compromise the nation’s integrity and put at risk  the social and economic gains made over the past years. But this can only be accomplished if we are willing to cast our bread upon the water.

Casting our bread upon the water is a challenge for many as we live in a society known for its  individualism conditioned by greed and human selfishness. The present times seem to force us to think about self and we forget that we are our brother’s keeper. The present economic and social problems do not encourage us to cast our bread upon the waters.  To some extent this is understandable given the fact that for many of us it is a case of survival. Nevertheless, we have a duty as Christians and citizens to care for each other, especially the most vulnerable of society.

The text invites us to take a leap of faith and respond to the needs of humanity. It is not an easy task and we shall enter into uncharted waters as we attempt as a church and parish to become a servant church. But we go forward in faith confident that we are being led by God who has called us to this ministry and has given us the assurance “I am with you always, to the close of the age."  As we seek to become a church that casts its bread upon the waters we must not grow weary in well doing. The path may be difficult and the road may be rough, but as we say at St. Paul ‘we walk by faith and not by sight’.

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.

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