Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Power of a PIcnic

I want to invite you to think about a memorable picnic in your life.  Maybe it was special because of the location or the people who were there.  Maybe it was special because something important happened on that picnic or something unexpected.  As I thought back on the picnic’s I have been able to attend in my life, there is one that stands out and it was a church picnic.  I was the student associate pastor at the Mount Hermon UMC and one Sunday after worship they had a picnic, but they called it “dinner on the grounds”.

What the church did was stretch out what looked like a chain link fence between two trees which made a huge table that went on for yards and everyone brought their food and placed it on this table.  I have never seen so much homemade food in all my life and it was one of those picnics where you seriously wanted to try everything.  People brought their best dishes and best desserts to this picnic and it was an amazing event.  Not just the abundance of food but the abundance of God’s blessing and love and joy experienced in that picnic still resonates in my heart.  It was a small experience of what I think heaven will be like; a huge banquet with all the best foods and where the picnic table literally goes on forever.

Picnic’s can be powerful.  They can be places where we experience the blessing of abundance, or the beauty of creation, or the love of a family or the joy in an unexpected proposal or even wedding.  I was invited to crash a picnic several years ago where the couple decided to get married at the picnic but they didn’t tell anyone they were going to do it.  It was a great day and a picnic I’m sure they and all their family and friends will remember forever.  So picnics are powerful and throughout the bible God used picnics to teach people about who he is and who God wants us to be and today we are going to look at a few of those picnics.

The first picnic comes from the book of Genesis.  Did you know that the very first meal in the Bible was a picnic?  Think about it, Adam and Eve were created and placed in a garden and told they could eat of any of the fruit and vegetables and so when they did, it was a picnic.  They ate on the ground, they ate outside, their first meal and the very first meal ever was a picnic, but they didn’t just eat it by themselves, they ate it with God.  God created Adam and Eve for relationship and God walked and talked with them in the garden and so this first picnic wasn’t just a time to eat, it was a time to commune and share with God.  This picnic was to teach us the power of relationship.

We were created to be in a relationship with God.  We were created to know God and for God to know us.  We were created to be loved by God and to love God and one another.  Each and every day we need to set aside time to simply be in relationship with God.  When we stop working and sit down to eat, we have an opportunity to commune with God.  When we say grace or a prayer before we eat we are inviting God to join us and we open ourselves up to God’s presence.  Of course, we lose that sense of intimacy, connection and relationship when we don’t sit down to eat.  When we eat while we work, driving our kids to soccer practice, or rushing out to catch the bus, we aren’t taking the time to remember that God is with us, so maybe we need to carve out some time to eat together on a regular basis to not only strengthen our relationships with one another but to reestablish and strengthen our relationship with God.  If you don’t have a family meal at least once a week, I want to invite you to do that.  Understand the power of relationship that comes with a picnic

The second picnic I want us to think about is one we heard about this summer because it comes from the life of Moses.  When the people were in need of food, God provided food every morning – it was called Manna and talk about a picnic – it was literally food on the ground.  Six days a week, every week for 40 years, manna covered the ground like dew when the people woke up and each day they could go out and collect what they needed.  This picnic reminds us of God’s power to provide, but it wasn’t just bread or manna God provided, in time he also provided them with quail and when they needed it water.  Food and drink a picnic – God provides.

When we come together for a picnic it is an example of God’s power to provide.  It is God who provides us with food to eat and water to drink and God is the one who sustains us with this every day of our lives.  While we may work hard at cultivating food – God is actually the one who provides it.  God is the one who makes the sun shine and God is the one sends the rain and God is the one created the world in such a way that fruits and vegetables grow.  Every once in a while we are reminded about how much we are dependent upon God.  When there is a draught and crops fail, we are reminded that we cannot make it rain and we cannot make the crops grow on our own.  We need God and we need God for every aspect of life.  The picnic that the Israelites experienced every day for 40  years teaches us that we are dependent upon God to provide for us not only food to eat but air to breath and water to drink.

The third picnic is another one we heard about this summer and it is the picnic Jesus provided when he fed the entire community with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  The power of this picnic wasn’t in how are what Jesus provided, the power was seen in the leftovers – God’s power of abundance.  After everyone ate the disciples gathered up 12 baskets filled with bread.  There was more than enough for everyone, there was an abundance.  In many picnics what we see is the power of abundance because we usually have more than enough for everyone to eat – that certainly is our hope today!

When I was in NC, this is what I experienced  We had an abundance of food and it was an example to me that God doesn’t just provide what we need, there are times God provides in abundance which teaches us that God loves us and that God wants us to love others.  The abundance God provides isn’t a blessing for us to horde, it is a surplus given so that we can share.  God has blessed us as a church, as a community and as a nation and the physical abundance he has given isn’t to be stored and saved it is to be shared with those who need it.  If you have an abundance of shoes – share them with those in need in Africa.  If you have an abundance of food – give it away to the food bank – share with your neighbors.  If you have an abundance of time – volunteer to help in the church or community.  If you have an abundance of love – find those who are lonely and in need and love them.  It could be infants who need to be held, teenagers that need to be coached, young couples who needs support or older adults who need to be visited – if you have love to share – which we ALL do – find ways to share it.  The power of the picnic Jesus provided for the community was that he taught us that when we share God’s abundance – we get even more in return.

Another picnic that Jesus provided was much smaller and it was a breakfast cookout that Jesus hosted for the disciples after his resurrection.  The disciples were out on the sea of Galilee when Jesus appeared along the shore and made them breakfast.  It was at this picnic that Jesus reached out to Peter and showed us all the power of forgiveness.  The night before Jesus died, Peter failed Jesus by running away when Jesus needed help and then denying that he even knew who Jesus was.  This failure was painful for Peter and Jesus knew that Peter would forever feel the guilt of his failure, so three times that morning Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to express his love and support of Jesus which means that three times Peter was able to experience forgiveness.  Sometimes the power of a picnic comes in the forgiveness and grace that comes when we share a meal together.

I have shared with you before that when I was a young pastor in Altoona I faced some opposition.  In fact, one day I received a pretty nasty letter from a man who never came back to worship.  A few years later this man was dying and a friend from the church who served him communion asked if I would go with him.  I jumped at the chance and one morning we sat at this man’s kitchen table and we talked a little bit and together we shared in communion and in that meal – there was forgiveness.  As we shared together in that bread and juice, there was a sense of reconciliation and peace that I know I felt and it was a spiritual moment of grace that I will never forget.

If you need to reconcile with a friend, if you need to patch things up with your spouse or rekindle a relationship with a parent or child – take them on a picnic.  Seriously, buy some hot dogs or fried chicken, go to a park or sit in the backyard and eat together.  Remember the picnic in Genesis – part of the power of a picnic is in the ability they have to form and strengthen and heal relationships so like Jesus, use a picnic to extend forgiveness and if you are the one being invited on a picnic – be quick to seek forgiveness and ask for grace.

The last picnic I want to highlight comes from the life of the early church and it shows us that picnics have the power of community.  Acts 2:44-47.  They ate together in each other’s homes and they had glad and generous hearts which means they were having fun eating together.  They were have a picnic, or maybe a pot luck or covered dish – whatever it was it formed community.  This took place in the very early days of the church.  Thousands of people were coming to the disciples and wanting to join their movement and follow Jesus and God used a picnic to help form and strengthen this growing community.  God used people eating together to form relationships that would help nurture and support people.  There is power in a picnic to form community but it goes beyond that, God used this picnic to grow the community.  It says here that the Lord added to their number those being saved and so God was bringing people to his new community and they came because they saw the power of community in part by how people ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

Because the early church was a positive and powerful place to be people wanted to be part of it.  They wanted to be part of what was going on.  When I worked in Yellowstone National Park, our ministry team came from all over the US and we didn’t know each other at all so we decided that we would all work to take Monday as our day off so we could go off together to hike and sightsee and honestly – to have picnics together.  Each week we did this and each week we came back with so many great and fun stories that soon everyone was asking for Monday’s off to go with us.  We picnicked on trails, sitting in the rain watching the geysers go off, on the top of mountains and watching the Cody WY fourth of July parade and every picnic not only brought us closer together but became an event others wanted to be part of.  We were building community and God was making that community grow and that is the power God shows us can be found in a picnic.

So what we are going to do today is powerful because through our picnic God will develop relationships, remind us that God provides and God provides in abundance so that we can share with others.  God will be present to heal and strengthen friendships, marriages and families and God will be working through our picnic to build his church and community.  There is power in a picnic – so my challenge to us today is to go forth and eat and let God move among us.

Next Steps
The Power of a Picnic

What picnics do you remember from your past?
 What made them so special?  What did you learn from them?

1.  The power of relationship:  Adam and Eve picnic with God in the Garden of Eden.  (Genesis 1:28-31)
Make family meals a regular part of your week.
Begin every meal with a pray of thanks and invite God to join you.

2. The power of provision.  The Israelite's picnic with God in the wilderness.  (Exodus 16)
Identify five ways God provides for you and your family.
Give thanks for God’s provision.

3. The power of abundance.  The community picnics with Jesus.  (
Where have you seen the abundance of God’s blessing in your life or in the world today?
What can you share so that you help others see the abundance of God’s blessing?

4. The power of forgiveness.  Peter picnics with Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  (John 21:4-19)
Who do you need to invite on a picnic so that a relationship can be healed and restored?
Where is God’s forgiveness needed in your life?

5. The power of community.  The church picnics together!  (Acts 2: 42-47)
Join Faith Church for a picnic today at 12 Noon.
Organize a neighborhood picnic.