It was a hot and humid July day in Sunberg Minnesota for the first of it's kind Braaton family reunion. The kind of day that just standing still you sweat, the kind of summer day that makes you wish for a winter day when the wind blows and makes your bones so cold. This is the July day in Sunberg that we all gathered at the community center to see many we hadn’t seen for years, others, we’d just met. This is the July day that everyone brought their best, their best jello salad, their best potato salad, their best rolls, their best glorified rice, their very best. This is the July day that the picnic tables were full to overflowing with the best potluck in the world. This is the July day that we revel in the abundance that is family, and food, and fellowship.
Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. They all sat there in the city park, about five thousand in all, somewhat more than our family reunions, but not much. Jesus took the five loaves of bread, the two fish, gave thanks for all he had, and distributed them to everyone. They ate as much as they wanted, and when they were satisfied, the disciples gathered up the fragments, and they filled twelve baskets.
It seems to me that this feeding story in the gospel of John is a precursor to the feeding stories of our family and church potlucks and meals. They are stories of abundance. When was the last time anyone went away hungry from your family potluck? When was the last time anyone went away hungry from a St. Andrew’s potluck? When was the last time anyone went away hungry from a meal St. Andrew’s served at the Cornerstone mission? Even when it seems like there may not be enough, somewhere, somehow, there is enough, and usually more than enough. These stories show us divine plenty and generosity. Even when it seems like and looks like abundance cannot be found, “where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” God’s abundance shows up.
I even think the story about David in Samuel is about abundance, albeit judgment. David has so much, he is king, he has wives and property, he has more than any one person could use. And yet he wants more, he wants Bathsheeba, Uriah's wife. God says to David through Nathan as we'll hear in the later verses, "I gave you so much, and you wanted more. There will be trouble for you."
But it's not even about how much we have. How much we have is beside the point. It's that nothing belongs to us anyway. Everything is a gift, we are stewards of that gift. We are called to give thanks, we are called to do likewise, we are called to pay it forward.
But sometimes it feels like we are losing so very much, our retirements seem to have gotten smaller, people around us out of work for months after losing their jobs, and goods and services cost more than ever, how can we even think about paying it forward? We do so because it is our call, it is our mission, and we do it because of God’s abundance, we do it because of this story from the gospel of John, even when it looks like there cannot be enough, God’s divine plenty and generosity and love is ever present, God’s abundance shows up, all we have to do is get out of the way and get involved in the work God has already blessed.
Instead of living in fear, we continue to serve a meal at Cornerstone mission, instead of living in fear, we collect money to provide new clothes for children to begin school in the fall, instead of living in fear, we continue to pay our expenses and payroll here at St. Andrew’s in creative ways.
When we respond to God’s divine plenty and generosity even in a time of fear and perceived loss,
with confidence and abundant generosity ourselves, amazing things happen. We are able to show people the truth of resurrection. Resurrection shows us that when life as we know it dies, new life will arise. We are in the midst of loss and for some death, I am confident in resurrection, I am confident in the new thing that God is doing. And in the midst of God’s divine plenty and generosity, people continue to love one another, people continue to care for one another, people continue to be generous themselves.
And it cannot be accidental that the feeding of the five thousand is followed immediately by the story of Jesus walking on the sea. Jesus said to them, and says to us, “it is I; do not be afraid.” When it feels like we are losing more than we are gaining, when it seems like there is not enough, remember, in he breaking and the sharing of the bread, there is always enough, “it is I; do not be afraid.”
This story from John is not only a description of the way God’s abundance was present then and is now; it also points us to the feast that is to come. This massive picnic in the wilderness is manna from heaven, the bread of angels. Our participation in the feeding of many today, our participation in God’s divine plenty and generosity today, does affect the Kingdom that will come. The story continues to show us that Jesus is the bread of life. Feeding people, their minds, their bodies and their spirits
is what you are about here at St. Andrew's. No one goes hungry, everyone is invited to the feast.
Because Love wins, not fear.