This unusual and inspiring collection of dialogue sermons by Ted Loder was put together after his retirement from a long and fruitful ministry as pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia. Christians gathered in a home and asked him about subjects of deep interest to them. Loder says of the format and the title of the paperback, "Jesus asked the disciples to see what resources the people had. All they came up with were five loaves and two fish. Jesus took them, broke them into pieces, and when the crowd had eaten, there were twelve baskets of leftovers. I think that's a metaphor for the dialogical process of faith. We gather, offer the loaves and fishes of our lives' experiences and mysteries, and there is always enough food and leftovers for us to keep going and growing in faith."
One of the many things we appreciate about Ted Loder's slant on Christian living is his deep respect for mystery: "When we can get past our addictions to certainty and our need for indisputable proof, and accept that mystery, and ergo uncertainty, is at the heart of human existence, we can live with more freedom and trust. . . . To trust God is to put the matter of certainty where it belongs; with God, whose ways are not our ways and whose thoughts are not our thoughts." Another aspect of mystery is wonder: "Sometimes something shivers us a sunset, a single wildflower, a child playing in the park or in the street, a thousand scenes, a thousand times. That shiver is awe, wonder, a primal feeling, a sense of overwhelming meaning and mystery at the same time." We don’t usually think of the spiritual practice of wonder as a form of prayer but it certainly is. Asked about prayer, Loder makes it clear that it is not just about asking but involves doing as well. Loder considers that thinking, reading, listening, speaking, being quiet, and reflecting are all ways to commune with God.
As could be expected, there are a lot of questions about sin, evil, and the difficult choices that we must all make. Loder emphasizes the Christian view of free will and our options to harm others and to make terrible mistakes. He laments the sin of genocide of the Indian people in the United States, slavery, and the pollution of the environment. Then, with poetic clarity, Loder explores our complicity in these dehumanizing events, as well as the Holocaust and Hiroshima. But these are not the last word there are resurrections afoot, and we must also take the time to focus on them. Loder challenges Christians to be "ministers of reconciliation," who are willing to follow the lure of justice, peace, and inclusion "as outcomes of the way God works in the world."
We have set up so many barriers and walls between ourselves and others. These need to come down as part of the continuing reformation of the Protestant church. In a really touching metaphor that speaks volumes about grace, Loder states: "Years ago, in a small circle of people passing the bread and the cup of communion to each other, the person next to me looked me in the eyes as he passed those elements and said, 'Ted, here he comes again.' Even so, the whole world is sacramental, beloved friends. In my heart, I say your name and to each I say, keep your heart open, for place-by-place, moment-by-moment, 'Here he comes again.' " Keep your eyes and heart open. Here he comes again!