10th Sunday after Pentecost; July 29, 2018; Year B
2 Kings 4.42-44; Psalm 145.10-18; Eph. 3.14-21; John 6.1-21
Pastor Renee Splichal Larson
Grace and peace to you from the one who gives to us our daily bread, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I have a friend and colleague who lived in the country of Romania for a while. She lived there when the Berlin Wall was still up. On one side of the wall people prospered, and on the other people struggled simply to survive. Romania was on the one side of the wall where people tried to eke out some kind of existence and hoped for even one meal a day if they were lucky.
My friend said that when she would see a line of people, she and others would just step into it and wait alongside the masses. She said it didn’t even matter whether or not you could see what was at the end of the line, you just knew it was something good because so many people were waiting for something like a loaf of bread or some kind of handout.
She remembers going into a grocery store and seeing only some noodles and tomato sauce on the shelves. People did not have food to eat. People were hungry. So, they stood in lines and waited with the masses, hoping that there might be even one loaf of bread for them to fill their hungry bellies.
How many of us know what hunger feels like? I’m not talking about what it feels like to be hangry and need a snicker bar, but to know the feeling of not knowing where and when your next meal will be. If you don’t, you indeed are fortunate and are unlike so many in the rest of the world.
If you do what hunger feels like, you perhaps know more deeply what the gift of food means to a person, what it means to be fed.
In our Gospel story there are crowds and crowds of people … in the other Gospels, it’s thousands, who are on foot seeking healing, words of good news, and perhaps even a loaf of bread.
I can picture the people traveling along the sea talking about Jesus and about hope, talking about how he has been healing people and a better life, and whispering about the rulers who have failed to keep their bellies full.
As they travel along people get wind of this man named Jesus. They go and get their sick aunt or grandfather; they tell their friends and join the mass of people. Perhaps some don’t even know why they are following the line; they just know there’s something good at the end of it.
And there is something good! The people discover that Jesus and his disciples are there waiting to receive them.
Not only does Jesus find it important to heal the people, he feeds them too. It is also quite the lesson in abundance versus scarcity thinking for his disciples.
The dialogue in the story is almost humorous. Upon seeing the crowds Jesus nudges Philip, “Hey Philip, where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”
Philip is flabbergasted: “Six moth’s wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” Philip is basically saying, “Jesus, your crazy! Filling the bellies of this many people is expensive and impossible.”
Andrew looks around and takes an inventory of their resources and notices a small boy. “Jesus, there is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” He follows it up with what any of us would think and say: “But what are they among so many people?”
We can assume that the child willingly gives the food to Jesus to give to other people. A couple years ago we got Gabriel a small Bible, which has the story of the feeding of the people in it. The story focuses on the child and his incredible sharing and generosity. At the end of the story it tells the children who read the story that they also can share what they have and give to God.
So the boy shares his lunch, Jesus blesses it, and his disciples start passing it out to the crowds of people. The story doesn’t tell us exactly how the food kept coming and coming, but it does tell us that all were fed until they were full and there was an abundance of food left over.
At this point, you might think, “Yeah right … how can this story be real?”
But that’s not the point. Perhaps the little boy’s generosity sparked others to share what they had along as well, and all together there was more than enough for everyone. Or perhaps all were fed because Jesus, who is also God, blesses the food and satisfies the hunger of every living thing.
Either way, the simplest and most profound message of this story is: Jesus feeds people.
Jesus cares about people having the opportunity to experience life that is abundant. Abundant life means having food to eat and Jesus wants that for everyone.
Before there was money, wealth and abundance was measured by how much food you had. If you could eat every day and be filled, you had a good life, not just a good life, but and abundant life!
All of us today will eat, if we have not already. This in and of itself is gift and we recognize that it is God who gives to us food to fill our bellies.
But what about those who do not have enough food? Children die of hunger every day. “An estimated 795 million people in the world—one in nine people on earth—do not have enough food to live a healthy and active life (Sundays and Seasons Preaching, Year B, 2018. p. 213.”
I heard once of a story of a person asking God why God’s doesn’t do anything about people who are hungry in the world. God says back, “I did do something about it … I made you.”
There is some truth to this because there is enough food in the world for everyone. Our sin is that is doesn’t get distributed equally and that there is food waste around the world all of the time.
Two important questions: “On what or whom are we relying for our needs? Do we have a theology of scarcity or of abundance (Sundays and Seasons, p. 213.)?”
We may look at what we have and say: “But what is this among so many people?” Jesus is telling us through this story that what we have is enough and that we can always give, that we have more than we think we do. And this is especially true when we join what we have with what others have in feeding those who are hungry and doing God’s work in the world.
Jesus teaches us to pray: “give us this day our daily bread.” This is part of the Lord’s Prayer. This petition is not, “Give me this day my daily bread,” but we pray that every living thing may receive what they need to experience abundant life, to feel their belly full each day.
Many of you know that we partner with Ministry on the Margins for many things, and this was a facebook post I read last week:
She was sitting on the bench in front of the MOTM when I arrived. With a near whisper she said, “Can you help me? I haven’t eaten much more than rice since my husband died two months ago. I live just down the block and never thought this would happen to me.”
When I brought her into the food pantry, she wept; repeating over and over again “So much food. So much food.”
Friends, i share this story, so that we may be soft and in prayer for those of our community who suffer. That we may believe our donations make a difference in the lives of real people. That we may be grateful for our own bountiful shelves.
The abundant life Jesus offers is not only marked by food, but by our own capacity to give and to recognize that even if it looks like we have a little, that Jesus multiplies it and feeds the world.
Today, when you eat, when you come up to this communion table, taste and see that the Lord is good.