Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

They need not go away; you give them something to eat.

The feeding of the 5000 is easily one of the most famous stories in the Gospels.

It is one that people who have very little knowledge of Jesus or church or the faith will know.
Like ‘walking on water.’

And like that, it is one of those stories that people have tried to explain.

How did he do it?
He must have had some bread and fish hidden away.
He must have broken them up into such small pieces and everyone said they were filled.

No explanation or rationalisation will actually help us.
No explanation can really get us to understand it.

Because the how is not the important part.
That is something we have to accept.

It is a miracle, it is something that goes beyond the normal understanding of reality, that goes beyond the material laws of time and space.

And furthermore, the how is no way near as important or helpful as
why did Jesus do this.

Or even more significant as what does it tell us about God?

Jesus has just heard that his cousin John the Baptist has been killed.
He goes away to a deserted place, but the crowds follow him.
and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 
He wants to be alone.
He must know things are going to be getting difficult.
The people need to be with him, and he recognises their need as more important than his own.

He has compassion. He heals those who are sick.
This is not a great moment of teaching like we have had with the parables.
This is a time of doing.
He heals those who are sick, and he will feed those who are hungry.
The disciples start to worry about the crowd. They are hungry.
send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves
Tell this lot to go away. They need to go and sort themselves out.
We only have a very small amount of food.

The mindset of the disciples is conditioned by the way food was understood at the time.
There were strict dietary laws.

These laws were sacred, and they were from God, so they were an understanding of how God was.
Some food was clean and other foods were unclean.
These sacred laws in some ways speak of scarcity.
You can eat this, but you can’t eat that.
Think of what the mindset would be of the people who were there.
For generations, they had learnt that God told them what they can and cannot eat.
Think about being hungry, but not being able to eat something because God has said you can’t.
Think about what your understanding of God would be then.
These laws placed more emphasis on the separation of clean and unclean, not the feeding of people.
Then think of this Jesus who multiplies such a small amount of food
And all ate and were filled
How would your understanding of God of God be then?

This is a God of abundance and generosity not scarcity and stringency.
Jesus is showing God’s generosity to all.

He doesn’t interview or question whether the people need or deserve the food, he just provides.

But it is not just food.
This is about the kingdom of God.
Imagine it as a parable:
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who has five loaves of bread and 2 fish and feeds over 5000 people with them.

Jesus shows us that this feeding is more than just food in his actions:
Taking the five loaves and the two fish,
he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves.
He will do this again at the last supper, and we will take part in this later this morning.
When we do, we are sharing the same divine generosity and hospitality that the crowd of 5000 did.

While we share in that same generosity we are to remember Jesus words:
They need not go away; you give them something to eat.
We are to show the same generosity that God shows us in the eucharist.
As the Letter of James tells us:
If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 
As a church we are to be generous to those who are without.
By showing the same generosity of Jesus,
we can reveal God who wishes for all to be fed.

When those who are fed can see that God loves them for who they are,
they will see a time and a place where they can share in the eucharist with us.

They will see a time where there is a place set for them at the heavenly banquet.

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