Category: Sunday Morning Sermon
Speaker: Rev. Dr. Steven E. Albertin
“WHEN THERE IS NOT ENOUGH”
Pentecost 9A Lectionary 18 A
August 6, 2017
Christ Lutheran Church
Rev. Dr. Steven E. Albertin
The National Geographic network some time ago ran a series on the growing food shortage facing our world. The rapid growth of population is threatening our ability to produce enough food to feed ourselves. We have made enormous progress in productivity by developing new strands of grain and more efficient sources of protein. Just talk to some of our members who work at DOW Agro Science and they can give you glimpse of big business trying to develop better agricultural products so that we can better feed a world where never seems to be enough to eat.
However, not having enough to eat is not the only place in life where there does not seem to be enough. There never seems to be enough money. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few while the middle class shrinks and the numbers of poor grow. Jobs are tenuous. The stock market is up now but we all know a correction is coming. Maybe I am listening to the wrong radio and TV stations because I have never hear so many advertisements for financial planners, . . . because you never want to be caught no having enough. This summer we are fortunate in Indiana. We have had more than enough rain. However, in other parts of the world, there has not been enough. Drought threatens the life we thought was possible. A look at the conflicts in the Middle East, Asia and Africa reveals not enough understanding. The violence of our cities reveals not enough kindness. Behind it all looms the specter of scarcity. We live with the fear that there will not be enough.
The world has not changed much. Hovering over today’s Gospel we also see the threat of scarcity, a world in which there is not enough to go around. John the Baptist had dared to criticize King Herod and paid for it with his head, . . . literally. When Jesus and his disciples heard about it, they got in a boat and “withdrew” to a “deserted place.” In a world ruled by tyrants, no one is safe. However, even tyrants are afraid that there is not enough to go around. Therefore they crush all who threaten them.
Despite their attempt to get away they could not escape the admiring crowds who followed them on foot along the shore. The disciples were afraid . . . but not Jesus. The disciples were afraid that there was not enough to go around . . . but not Jesus. He is unafraid. He has compassion for the crowds. He returns to the chaos and goes ashore to cure the sick and care for those who do not have enough in their lives. Jesus is willing to give himself away, because he trusts that there will always be enough. Jesus’ disciples only want to cover their bases. Unlike Jesus, they believe there will never be enough.
Finally, the disciples have had enough. “The hour is now late.” Time is running out. The sun will soon be setting and the crowds are hungry. They want Jesus to send the crowds away. They can’t feed all these people. If they don’t do something soon, they will have an angry, hungry mob on their hands. There is simply not enough to go around.
In the disciples, we see ourselves. Is that not the way we live our lives? We too believe that there will never be enough to go around. Afraid of scarcity, we always want to know “What’s in it for me?” before we do anything for someone else. We must first cover our bases before we can go the extra mile or turn the other cheek. Convinced there is “no free lunch,” we spend our lives making sure that our wallets are stuffed before we hand out anything to someone else. However, because we never seem to have enough in our wallets, we are reluctant to give ourselves away to others. .
That is how you run a business and live in a world where there is only so much to go around. That is why the disciples want Jesus to send away the crowds. There is simply not enough to go around. To send them away is good stewardship of your limited resources and a compassionate way to care for the crowd.
However, then Jesus something that is frankly bizarre. He unexpectedly says, “They need not go away. YOU give them something to eat.”
What is Jesus thinking? Does not he see that they have nothing to feed a crowd thousands? They have managed to confiscate some kid’s lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish but that will never be enough. Jesus, be realistic!
“Jesus, if you want to be compassionate, send the crowd back to town where there might be a McDonald’s or Taco Bell. Here in this deserted place they will only starve. Isn’t that what God would want us to do?”
Jesus not only sees differently. He believes differently. He trusts God in way that the disciples must have thought was crazy.
When Jesus says, “Bring them to me,” he invites them to give to him everything, not only the boy’s lunch, the meagre five loaves and two fish, but their fears, their worries, their anxieties and their faithless conviction that there was not enough to go around. Jesus wants them to give to him everything that weighs on their hearts and lives. Why? So that he can bless them, so that he can make them his.
That is what you do when you have compassion. That is what you do when you love someone. You are willing to carry their burdens for them. That is what Jesus asks to do. He will carry all that is wrong . . . . all the way to the cross where he will suffer the consequences for them, the consequences of living in a world where there is not enough and eventually everything runs out and you die.
In exchange, Jesus gives them what those disciples and crowd never thought was possible: faith in a future where there would always be enough. Jesus demonstrates that as he hands out the fives loaves and two fish as if they would be enough to feed crowd, as if these five loaves and two fish would never run out.
This daring gesture of faith foreshadows that day when Jesus was raised from the dead and abundance finally defeated scarcity. On that day God confirmed everything that Jesus had promised including the authority to make a new world in which there would always be MORE than enough! That new world was taking shape that day along the seashore when miraculously . . . there was more than enough.
What happens next is utterly amazing. Not just one but two miracles happen! First, the disciples actually believe what Jesus had promised. Previously they had been cautious afraid that they did not have enough to feed the crowd. But now, transformed by Jesus’ daring action, they too begin to act as there will be enough . . . . and pass out food to the crowd.
That brings us to the second miracle: there was enough! Miraculously, in defiance of everything they knew about life, five loaves of bread and two fish actually do feed a crowd of “five thousand men, besides women and children.” There are even leftovers . . . 12 baskets of them!
The disciples took Jesus at his word. They dared to believe him. They were not disappointed.
The same is true for us. In a world where there never seems to be enough to go around, not enough food, money, time, patience, kindness and love, there is enough. In world where even God seems to have put limits on God’s patience and mercy, where finally everyone runs out of gas and no one escapes the cemetery, God bursts into our tidy little universe pushing back against the limits, breaking the tombstone we thought had sealed our fate. God defies the hold that Herod and his kind have on this world . . . . and gives us Jesus.
Just when we were ready to throw in the towel because there was not enough, Jesus starts passing out the loaves and fish but this time at the communion table. We hear those same four verbs again: take, bless, break and give. What Jesus did at the seashore, he now does as we come this table. We act as if there will always be more than enough: bread is broken, wine is poured . . . . and all is forgiven. All are welcome, regardless of where we stand in the pecking order of life. There is no rationing, no measuring and no limits. There is no sin too awful, no poverty too terrible and no shame too damning. Here the is always more than enough love.
The words of the prophet in today’s First Reading come true. First uttered at a time when Israel had lost everything in exile in Babylon, only someone who believes in a world, where there is more than enough, can talk like this:
Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money, come buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price.
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourselves in rich food.
Let us pass out the loves and fish, the bread and wine. Let us delight in rich food. It may not look like much. The problems in the world persist. We cannot seem to overcome the grudge. We cannot forget the betrayal. The wounds never stop their throbbing. There never seems to be enough, but Jesus promises that there will always be enough.
Trusting his promise, believing that we are already rich with Christ’s love, we discover that we actually do have enough to give away to those who are in a deserted place. We volunteer at LCFS, give time and money to Habitat for Humanity, go out of our way to greet a teen here at church or in the parking lot. We help a colleague at work. We assist that aging neighbor with their yard. We discover that we get to live generously because there will always be enough, which, of course there is, . . . . twelve baskets full. . . and more.