(Here's the sermon I gave today at St. James in Higganum. I really didn't prepare it very much--since I've been doing this forever and think I know what I'm doing....The thing was, the way it turned out sort of astonished me. I never meant to go where I went. Maybe the Spirit led me and maybe I'm getting 'a tad off' as we would have said where I came from if someone was slipping into dementia. I even sent it in an email to Bea at the Cluster office to forward to Cluster members with the notice that it was preached at Emmanuel instead of St. James! Don't tell Bern, we have a running total of reasons the other should be 'in the home'!)
The gospel today about the feeding of the multitude is interesting in several ways.
First of all, it is one of only three stories told in all four gospels.
In fact, Mark likes it so much he tells it twice! Chapters 6 and 8--look
The other two stories in all the gospels are the cleansing of the Temple
and the Anointing. John puts the cleansing story near the beginning of
his gospel and the other three have it near the end. And all four
versions of the woman anointing Jesus with expensive oil is very
different in each of it's telling--no one agrees who the woman is and
what the moral of the story is.
But the five telling's of the Feeding are remarkably alike--differing
only in minor detail. When we get the same story told five times it, we
should ponder it's meaning carefully.
It takes place in what Matthew calls "a deserted place"--though anywhere
where there are five thousand 'man', plus ever how many 'women and
children' there were is difficult to think of as 'deserted'! It's time
to eat supper and the disciples urge Jesus to send the crowds to
villages to buy food, but he tells them 'feed them yourselves'. Feed
this mob, he says, with five loaves and two fish. Right, Jesus!
People are always trying to explain this miracle. I had an assistant
once who preached on one of the Feeding stories and said the people were
so moved by Jesus' faith that they pulled out the food they had brought
and shared and that's where the leftovers came from. She and I had
quite a conversation after her sermon. I couldn't see why she just
couldn't be satisfied with it being a miracle--five loaves, two
fish...everybody eats and twelve baskets left over....
One of the reasons this story is so provocative is that eating is one of
the most basic of human needs. Stop eating and you'll die. We all know
Besides, how do we celebrate as human beings? Holidays and special
occasions a observed by sharing a meal with loved ones and friends. Not
only is eating vitally important, it is our way of acknowledging and
celebrating important events.
Plus, this story points to what we do at that Table up there when we
gather. We eat and drink. Not filet mignon and fine wine--rather bad
Port and bread more akin to fish food. But that wine and that bread is
the very blood and body of Christ. It fills our hungers, our needs, our
We 'hunger' after much more than food. We hunger after hope. We hunger
after joy. We hunger after peace. We hunger after safety. And most, most
of all. We hunger to be 'whole'.
Was it Pascal who said 'there is a God-shaped hole in each of our
hearts'? We can never be 'whole' until that hole is filled in. Jesus
never said we should be 'good'. But he said over and again we should be
'whole'--complete, full, finished....
Let me tell you something that might give you pause about coming to this
railing in a little while: when you leave here you will be carrying
Jesus within you--literally! You will have taken his Body and Blood into
yourself and will carry him out the door.
Can you imagine what truly understanding that would mean? It would
transform our lives! What if we were totally aware that when we leave
this place we are carrying Jesus into the world. What a difference that
would make in how we meet people and 'be' in the world. Our 'God shaped
hole' would be filled in. We would be 'whole' and would carry that
'wholeness' into our daily lives.
What a difference that would make! It would transform our lives and the lives we lead.
Ponder that. Ponder 'carrying Jesus' into the world.
Try to imagine....
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