Friday, July 27, 2018

10 Pentecost Proper 12 Yr B July 29 2018

10 Pentecost Proper 12 Yr B July 29 2018 Audio

Because you all are quick, you’ll realize right away that we jumped from reading the gospel of Mark to the gospel of John. Be forewarned, we’ll jump back into Mark in a few weeks. But for the next few weeks, we will be considering the entire sixth chapter of John. It feels a bit to me like starting the yeast today, and waiting for the next five weeks as the yeast does its work. As the bread rises, gets punched down and rises again. These are the bread stories, the feeding stories, these are the stories of sacrament and sacrifice.

The stories before us today are stories of abundance. Not the abundance of the prosperity gospel. It’s important for us to understand this difference. There are preachers who claim if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money. If you invest your money with God, you could have a hundredfold return on your investment. This prosperity gospel is rooted in success, not Scripture. Mother Teresa has said “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.”

Believers in prosperity like winners. Thus, natural disasters like hurricanes and catastrophic floods do not provide the winning narratives crucial to keep adherents chained to prosperity gospel thinking. The likely conclusion then to a prosperity gospel is that the unlucky are responsible for their own misfortune. This prosperity gospel informs many who are in power today, both as televangelists and politicians.

Very different from a prosperity gospel are these stories about how life is abundant when it is grounded in relationship with Jesus. Jesus is the source of abundance.

So let’s consider our abundance. We eat really well, don't we? Every time we get together we have a feast, right here in this space, as well as over at Ortymeyer. One of the most important ways we take care of the family of a loved one who has died is with the hospitality of a meal. And Paula leads us in providing an ample breakfast for the men of GIFTS. We have church potlucks and family potlucks, and sometimes those are one and the same. I believe gathering around a table and sharing a meal is one way, and a really important way, we respect the dignity of every human being. We don't have to agree on anything when we eat together. We honor God's image in one another as we share a meal. Everyone has something to eat, and that is enough. 

The feeding story is about that. Everyone has something to eat, and that is enough. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down with the disciples. They all sat there in the city park, about five thousand in all. The little boy had five loaves and two fish. What a surprise. Jesus took the five loaves of bread, the two fish, gave thanks for all of it, and Jesus 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.

In this gospel, and this is different from the same story in the other gospels where the disciples distribute the bread and the fish, Jesus feeds those who are sitting in the park. Imagine yourself, sitting in that park, on the grass, with your family by you, anticipating what this teacher may have to say today, what may inspire you. As you are sitting there listening, and watching all that is going on around you, Jesus brings you some bread, and a piece of fish. You are close enough to see Jesus, to look into those eyes, to see care and compassion. You, and your family eat your fill, and there is enough left to fill twelve baskets.

It seems to me that this feeding story in the gospel of John is a precursor to the feeding stories of our own families 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 Trinity potluck? Even when it seems like there may not be enough, somewhere, somehow, there is enough, and usually more than enough.

Sometimes we want to complicate the gospel of John. Sometimes we want to say it’s all metaphor and symbol and therefore hard to understand. But I don’t think that is the case. I think it is exactly what it is. Jesus is the bread of life. Bread is an essential component of daily life in the ancient world, and Jesus is bread. Bread is a necessity for sustenance as a human being, and Jesus is bread. This is who Jesus is, this is who we recognize Jesus to be. Jesus is completely present with us, and Jesus was completely present to the boy who had the loaves and fishes, and the families Jesus feeds with the loaves and fishes.

So then, this is an invitation into a relationship with Jesus. Jesus invites us into this relationship through these feeding stories. Jesus invites us into this relationship each time we come to this table to eat and drink, bread and wine, body and blood. It’s our Episcopal altar call. Jesus invites us into this relationship each time we experience the boy with the loaves and fishes, the woman who asks for our prayers of thanksgiving or healing, the man who needs us to pray for his son, the children whose life is in chaos.

This is an invitation into a relationship with Jesus. And we recognize Jesus in our neighbors who don’t look like us, or think like us, or love like us, or speak like us, or pray like us, or vote like us. We recognize Jesus in our neighbors. Because God’s abundance is available to all.

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 the breaking and the sharing of the bread, there is always enough, “it is I; do not be afraid.”

These stories from John not only describe 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 Trinity. No one goes hungry, everyone is invited to the feast.

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