Monday, August 7, 2017


Matthew 14:12-21
August 6, 2017

So last week we talked about the story of Joseph in Genesis,
how Pharaoh, the richest, most powerful man in the world dreamed that there wouldn’t be enough, so he directed Joseph to take 1/5 of all the grain produced for seven years and then when the famine started, they sold the grain they collected back to the people
who produced it, basically until they were all in indentured servitude
and actually, the people were grateful to be there.

This was the closing to Genesis.
The story of the beginning of everything, outlines the beginning
of scarcity thinking for humanity and for the Israelites.
and the rest of the scriptures go on dealing with that:
slavery in Egypt, the Israelites wandering the wilderness complaining
about the food that God gave them,
their desire for a king to help them win more,
David’s conquests, Solomon’s insane wealth and accumulation,
All the prophets Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah…
they all talk about the imbalance between the  haves 
and the have nots, and the problems with always wanting more,
and how the fear and  feeling of scarcity -- of not having enough --
pollutes the people, warps the nation, and infects the faith
of those who were brought together by
faith in a God who would provide.

Now you might rightly say that in Joseph’s story,
the famine did happen
There were seven years where the crops didn’t produce,
the people would have starved.
Joseph did a great service. This is true.

But it was afterwards when the famine was over and the
consolidation of everything the people had
in the hands of the empire had still persisted.
When having enough grain to feed everyone wasn’t enough.
The Pharaoh needed sliver, livestock, their land,  then their bodies.

The trouble with the fear of scarcity is that it never ends.
Once it starts, there is never enough to feed
that empty hole of anxiety.
This is one of the challenges of scripture:
Don’t go down that road.
The world will never provide enough.

Now, you might rightfully say that there are plenty of people
who don’t have enough. there are people who find themselves homeless, 
there are people who have nothing to eat,
who  watch their children starve to death
and can do nothing about it. It happens.
Well, the challenge of scripture is not for them.

But the hope of scripture is,
the promise of the constant presence of God,
the widow of Zarephath, the manna and barley bread.
The hope that tells them that God’s Kingdom
 is breaking into this world all the time.
The hope that tells them that God is there in hunger and thirst
and that even death is not the end of God’s love.
The hope is for them.
But the challenge is for us.
Those of us with retirement accounts and
more than package of meat in their freezer,
For those of us who are more concerned about
tabulating what the poor have than what they don’t have.
Those who curse immigrants for taking away our jobs.
For those who put our own security first and put others second.
For those of us who would rather stockpile comfort
than jump into mission.
The challenge of scripture is for us.

And the gospel today continues in that vein:
Christ Feeding 5000Eric Feather
it is both a story of hope and a story of challenge.

By that sea shore where Jesus has gone to be alone,
The disciples have enough.
They have five loaves of bread and two fish.
They can feed their own group and be satisfied.
But there were five thousand people there,
plus women and children, of course.
There really wasn’t enough to feed all of them

But Jesus didn’t want to send them away.
And so Jesus took, blessed, broke, and gave the bread.
The four verbs of our sacrament -
And he made a Eucharist,
in other words a thanksgiving, a gratitude.

With that, Jesus showed that the world is filled with God’s blessing,
Even when it didn’t look like it on the surface,
When bread is broken and shared, there is enough for all.
With this act, Jesus is subversively reordering the world’s reality
that has been there from Genesis on.
The feeding of the 5000 is
hope of God for those who really have nothing
for those crowds who were following looking for a sign,
anything that would tell them that they were not abandoned.
And it is a challenge for the disciples,
those of us who have
but fear there won’t be enough.

Now It’s safe to just think that Jesus here is
talking about religious things,
that he’s just talking about bread and wine and the sacrament
and stuff that stays safely in our buildings.
It’s safe to think that Jesus just did a miracle
and because of that we should worship him. The end.

But Jesus is talking about more than that,
he’s talking about everything:
the economy, the government, foreign policy,
our lives, our habits, our refrigerators, our money
our choices and actions.

It’s a challenge: the world says there is not enough.
But when the time comes, don’t just trust the world.
Don’t go down that path because there will never ever be enough.
Trust in God.
He wants to teach us about the kingdom of God
Well the people at Agua Viva will lead it and our people will help.
And a challenge to those who have,

When faced with five loaves and two fish,
and 5000 people to feed, “We don’t have enough”
It is an absolutely reasonable thing to say.

But Jesus isn’t going for reasonable.
Jesus’ didn’t want to teach his disciples
to learn how to make logical, reasonable decisions.
He didn’t need to teach them the rules of supply and demand
or what makes the best business sense.
He doesn’t need to teach them about how if you give people
a hand out they become dependent on you.
He doesn’t need to teach us about the kingdom of the world,
we know about the kingdom of the world all too well.
and how it is breaking in to the kingdom of the world all the time.
When I was at my previous call in Texas,
we were partners with a Lutheran Church called Agua Viva
that was on the border of Texas and Mexico,
it was the poorest area in all of Texas, maybe the whole country.
We did a lot with them, bring Christmas gifts,
we did some playground construction,
we got them a van to deliver food.
We raised money to fix their air conditioner several times,
the pastors became friends of mine.
They had a great ministry there.

But they were meeting in two old mobile home trailers.
It worked, but there were lots of problems with them,
they were old and had not been kept up.
There were holes in the floors and they looked and smelled funny.

So another partner church, some Methodists,
had this crazy idea to build them a sanctuary.
The Methodists came and talked to us,
and our construction type guys.
They were hoping to do this,
and could St. Martin’s  be part of the team?

So we asked them lots of questions, do you have plans?
Well, we figured someone would step up and do that.
Well the land isn’t level there where you want to build,
Well, they said they thought someone had access to a bull dozer,
well what about people?
We figured our people and your people
would step up and offer to pay for it if we asked.
Well, how long do you figure this would take?
Well, we  were planning on one week and two weekends.

So, me and the guys met afterwards, and we said,
we don’t know. And we came up with every reasonable excuse:
it sounds like a hair-brianed scheme,
The Methodists don’t know what they’re getting into,
you can’t build a building there, the ground is rock,
we won’t have enough money,
our people are too old, we don’t have enough time.
Yada, yada, yada. So we came back later and told them,
we didn’t think it was a prudent idea and we’re
not going to be part of it. I think our guys even 
warned them about what they were getting into.

We don’t have enough, send them away.

Well, six months later, they had a beautiful
huge sanctuary built by the Methodists
and another Lutheran church.
And we went to the dedication, 
and we still helped them, but we could have
been part of something amazing and wonderful,
but we gave into the world’s view of scarcity.

As the church, Jesus knows that we will stand in the
same place as the disciples more than once.
Facing crowds of human need, faced with pain and hunger,
With limited resources, limited wisdom and limited ideas.

Jesus knows that when faced with that,
the greatest temptation of good, reasonable people
will be to send everyone home.
We don’t have enough, it’s too much to take on.
Ignore the needs, ignore the hunger, ignore the people.
Just go home and read a book and live my own life.
We just don’t have enough. It’s a reasonable response.

C.S. Lewis wrote
“The problem is not that we expect
too much out of God, but we expect too little.”

The lesson of scripture is hope and challenge.
Hope for those who have none,
that God will find a way into our messed up world.
that the way in that God finds in is through us.
Miracles come through our hands and our willingness take the risk.

Miracles happen every day. We can be a part of them.
God’s work defies the world’s rules.
God’s work even defies our own reason and logic.
This is what the kingdom of God is like.
Even when it doesn’t look like it,

there is enough for everyone.

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