Ninth Sunday After Pentecost—Year B—July 29, 2012
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Did you know the miraculous feeding, the multiplication of fishes and loaves, is the ONLY of Jesus’ miracles that is recorded in all four gospels?
The story is so central to the early tradition of Jesus that it is actually told six times; Matthew and Mark each tell it twice, in addition to the accounts in John and Luke. The details change a bit in each (sometimes there are 5 loaves, other 7; sometimes there are 4000 men, others 5000), but every time, all sit down, eat their fill, and there are tons of leftovers.
And like with any miracle, people always try to explain how it happened.
I can remember when I was teenager, as I became an abstract thinker who thought she was just so smart, I started trying to explain Jesus’ miracles. And this miracle was one of the easiest ones to do. I see two options:
– either Jesus just plain multiplied the fishes and loaves
– OR the example of sharing that the boy and Jesus provide sparks other to pull out the food they had been hiding, keeping for themselves, and decide to share.
With my science background I have tended to lean towards believing the later, it is the only explanation that fits within the principle of conservation of matter/mass.
But no matter how you try to explain the miracle, it does not make it any less of a miracle!
Think about it, if it were normal for humans to share all they had with complete strangers without holding anything back, then our world would look very different. There would be no hungry people or families living in poverty anywhere in the world.
There is enough food produced in the world for every person to have enough to eat every single day. There is enough money in the world to end hunger. It is estimated that it would take less money to end hunger and significantly reduce poverty across the globe than is spent on military wars every year. But for some reason, poverty and hunger continue…that reason is us.
The problem is that many of us live with an attitude of scarcity. We doubt that there will be enough to go around. We worry that we need more than we already have, so we do not possibly have enough to share any, of what we do have, with anyone else.
Most of the time, we are like Elisha’s servants and Jesus’ disciples. We doubt that what has been provided is sufficient. We commonly look at the man from Baal-shalishah and the boy in John’s gospel like they are crazy to think that the little gift that they share can make a difference.
We forget that with God, all things are possible. We forget that when we work together in Christ’s name, “the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.”
God is abundance. God created everything that lives and breathes and exists. God has entrusted us to care for creation, and part of that is making sure that everyone has part to live on, care for, and enjoy.
The miraculous feeding, whether the extra food appeared out of thin air or is just an example of radical hospitality and the sharing that it inspired, the miracle is a sign that “Jesus is the One who can satisfy every human need.” Even when it seems like there is nothing around for anyone to eat, when God is in the mix, “loaves abound.”
Like our hymns proclaim today, “where all obey [God], no one will hunger.” And so we ask God to “, teach us to share one with another, so that, rejoicing with us, all others may know [God’s] care.”
Jesus does just that in the miracle of the fishes and loaves. You see, one element that is the same in all 6 renditions of the miracle story is that Jesus gives thanks for and blesses the food before it is distributed. Some might look at this and think that this action of blessing is what causes the food to multiply spontaneously. But what if it is simply that acknowledging the source of all we have, God, changes the attitude of everyone present. No longer do they have to fear not having enough, because they are reminded that God’s promise to provide enough for all. It is by giving thanks for what has already been provided, that we realize that more will be provided where there is need. An attitude and trust in abundance wins out over the attitude and fear of scarcity.
So who knows the exact physics of the miracle? How did 5 loaves and two fish feed 5000 people and leave 12 baskets of leftovers? I don’t know how, but I know that it did. God was at work in that place making sure no one went hungry, just as God works in the world through the hands of neighbors to reduce poverty and hunger in this time and place.
First, at the communion table, we are fed with Jesus body and blood. We give thanks for all we have been given, which is an ever present reminder of just how much that it. Then, we are sent out with that abundance to share with others and to receive others of God’s blessings from them as well.
It may not always seem like it, but there is plenty to go around, it is just a matter of really paying attention to all of God’s gifts throughout the world. With all that God provides, especially “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and “the fullness of God,” anything is possible, so no one need go without.
The last verse of our sending hymn today wraps it up perfectly: “Jesus calls us in, sends us out, bearing fruit in a world of doubt, give us love to tell, bread to share, God (Immanuel) everywhere. Jesus live again, earth can breathe again, pass the word around, LOAVES ABOUND!” Amen.