Are people hungry?
In many places around the world, people are just plain hungry … not enough food - drought and war and bad economies condemn millions to starvation.
A major problem here in America is hunger for good food … childhood obesity, diabetes; a host of medical issues reflect a poor diet, loaded with “Iowa sugar,” too much fat, too much salt - highly-processed foods laced with too many chemicals and not enough food-value.
Beyond food, how many millions are hungry for safety?
A good roof over their heads.
A home where their children are safe.
Health-care for their families.
A living wage.
Respect for their work.
Hope for tomorrow.
The right to choose.
The right to marry.
How many hunger and thirst for righteousness?
Hope and love.
The kingdom of heaven … thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ...
Hunger comes on many different levels.
On every level of hunger, we find Jesus at work.
Wherever the hunger, Jesus is there.
Whatever the need, Jesus goes to work.
Our text this morning begins on a sad note … Jesus seeks solitude when he hears of John’s death at the hands of Herod; Jesus wants to be alone … like any of us, when hard times come our way.
To be alone with our thoughts and sorrows …
“Leave me alone; I don’t wanna talk about it.”
We need time to think.
Privacy for our tears.
We want to be alone, when there’s nothing to be said, nothing to be done.
I can imagine Jesus, wanting to be alone with his thoughts … the man who baptized him in the Jordan 30 years earlier, is dead now, at the hands of craven king, a king too drunk, too proud, to say no to Herodias and her dancing daughter at his birthday party.
This moment of wanting to be alone is one of the most touching chapters in the gospel stories … if anyone thinks that Jesus is above and beyond the trials and hurts of life, here’s proof that Jesus feels the deeps of life and its many hurts.
A friend wrote to me the other day, “I’m tired of being hurt.”
I understand that … for sure.
Yet I wrote back, “To live is to risk hurt, and the longer we live, the more hurt we acquire.”
We cannot escape “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
But God is at work in our hurt!
God walks with us in the valley.
Until we have some healing, and then God takes us by the hand and leads us back to life.
I think of Elijah hiding out in the cave of his hurt.
God comes to Elijah and asks, What are you doing here?
Elijah replies with a long of list of sorrows and hurt … I’ve got good reasons to be hiding in my cave.
Yet the LORD says to Elijah, There’s work to be done. Get on your way to the tasks at hand.
Here in our story, there’s work to be done: the crowds.
They find out where Jesus is, and that’s where they go.
Instinctively, they know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life … they’re hungry for life … and as the day wears on, their bellies grow empty!
It’s a large crowd.
5000 men, plus women and children.
A lot of people - stomachs growling all over the place.
The disciples are uneasy.
They know what Jesus will say to them.
So they make the first move … This is a deserted place, Jesus; it’s late; send the crowds away so they can buy food in the nearby villages.
The disciples are hungry, too.
They’re afraid there isn’t enough to go around.
The pie won’t be big enough.
All we have are five loaves and two fish.
Send the crowds away.
They can fend for themselves.
We have ours, and it’s just enough to feed us, and we’re not about to share any of it.
The message of scarcity - strange things happen when the message of scarcity takes hold of the soul.
Kindness and generosity evaporate, vision dies; the haves throw up barricades to the have-nots.
The message of scarcity.
Can we see how this creates boundaries?
Jesus looks upon the crowd with compassion … the disciples look upon the crowd fearfully.
Them versus us.
Outsiders and insiders.
Good folks, bad folks.
The deserving and the undeserving.
Hard-workers and the lazy.
When we think the pie is too small to feed everyone, we grow protective of the pie, especially if we think it’s our pie.
Before we press on with story, I pause here for a moment to consider what’s going on in America … the debate about health-care, Social Security, Medicare, raising the debt-ceiling, taxation, the Dream Act, immigration, and dozens of other issues …
So much of it’s driven by fear.
The scarcity message.
The pie is too small.
There won’t be enough to go around.
Send people away to fend for themselves.
The virtues of sharing and compassion are in short order these days …
The folks with the pie want all of it.
I suppose they’re frightened.
We’re all frightened, in some ways.
Fear is in the air.
And fear is never helpful!
Fear distorts everything.
Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness, on the borders of the Promised Land?
The spies return, and say, Yes, it’s a good and beautiful land, but there are giants there, and they’ll give us a good thrashing. We don’t stand a chance.
That day fear took hold, Israel turned tail, walked away from the Promised Land.
Fear does terrible things to us.
The young man in Norway, who killed so many of his fellow citizens - driven by fear, riddled with fear, upside down with fear … fear of the stranger, fear of Islam, fear of other cultures, fear of change … the pie isn’t big enough.
He claims to be a Christian.
He fashions himself a Knights Templar - a military order of Europe’s Middle Ages.
Because the pie isn’t big enough … we only have five loaves and two fish, and we’re not about to share any of it with anyone.
If the church of Jesus Christ has a mission for today, any meaning whatsoever, it has to be the fearless message of Jesus … and the message of abundance …
A message that seems ridiculous to us …
Yes, let’s be honest.
Have we ever said about the gospel, “Well, that’s Jesus. He’s perfect. He can think way. But we can’t think that way. We can’t live that way.”
The message of abundance, the message of no-fear, seems ridiculous to us!
But it’s not ridiculous at all - sharing is the reality of love; giving is still the truth about life.
As God created life abundantly there’s more than enough to go around; this is a world of plenty … the pie is big enough … don’t be afraid … don’t let fear twist and distort how you see things.
Something, now, of great importance in our story.
Jesus does NOT tell the disciples to share.
Jesus says to them, Give ME what you have.
Can we see what he’s doing?
A great favor to them.
Their five loaves and two fish … they cling to them … hold them tight … like Gollum and the Ring of Power … or Voldemort and the Elder Wand …
Jesus doesn’t command them to share what they have.
Because commands aren’t good enough.
Jesus doesn’t ask them to be charitable.
Because charity isn’t big enough.
No, something more important here.
Give ME what you have.
Jesus knows that as long as the loaves and fish are in the disciples’ hands, there won’t be enough.
There’s never enough when we’re in charge of the pie.
In our eyes, the pie is always too small.
Jesus does them a great favor.
Jesus asks them to surrender the fish and the loaves.
Surrender the pie.
Reminiscent of God asking Abraham and Sarah to sacrifice their son, Isaac … God had to know what kind of people God was asking to found a new nation … God needed people who could really give …
So God asks for the son.
And in the moment when Abraham is ready to plunge the knife into the boy, God stays his hand … There in the bush, the ram … there’s your sacrifice … but now I know the kind of man you are; you can give.
Jesus needs disciples who can give.
The cycle of selfish ends now … in this moment … give the loaves and the fish to me …
And when they do, Jesus knows.
And so do they.
The pie is big enough for the whole wide world, and then some … with plenty left over at the end.
The promise of abundance.
The message we proclaim and live, because of Jesus.
The pie is big enough!
There’s more than enough to go around, and then some.
Don’t be afraid.
We can feed the world.
No one needs to go to bed hungry.
It can be done.
It must be done.
And the church of Jesus Christ can lead the way.
The next time we watch the news, or read the headlines, pay attention to the message of scarcity - the pie isn’t big enough to feed everyone, so we have to send folks away.
Pay attention to that message, because it’s hell’s message.
Not heaven’s message.
Not the message of Jesus.
When we’re afraid for the pie we have, and we wanna send people away, we must listen to Jesus, and his message of abundance.
And his command to give what we have to him.
In his hands, there’s more than enough.
And then, Jesus gives the fish and the loaves back to the disciples so they can feed the crowd.
In the moment of their surrender, they give away their fear.
When Jesus returns the fish and the loaves to them, they gain their courage.
And feed the crowd.
With twelve baskets of leftovers.
Enough for everyone, and then some.
And that’s what heaven looks like.
Amen and Amen!