Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sermon - Aug. 3

Matthew 14:
The Feeding of the Five Thousand
“5000. But Whose Counting”

This picture is the scene for today's scripture/sermon.

I’m one of those who don’t count. When Jesus feed the crowd beside the sea in galilee, and the disciples were counting the people (One one thousand, two one thousand – five one thousand) they didn’t count me.
“There were five thousand. NOT COUNTING women and children.”
But even though I don’t count – I was there that day. I can give you an eye-witness ACCOUNTING of what happened. You can COUNT on that!
All right, maybe I didn’t see how it all started. I heard later that Jesus had taken a boat across from down the lake, trying to get some private time after he heard about the death of his cousin John. And the folks that had been with him saw where he was going and walked around the edge of the lake to meet him. From my garden, I heard the sound of the crowd down by the water. I looked across the field and saw the men passing by our little village. Where were they going? I wondered. So I wiped my hands on my apron and started in that direction. I got to the road before all the women and children had passed, and who should I see but Martha from down the road.
“What’s going on? Where are you going?” I asked.
She pointed to the lake. “We’re following Jesus”– she said, “You know, the prophet from Nazareth. He’s in a boat and some of the men think they know where he’s going to land. He’s been teaching about the kingdom of heaven like you’ve never heard it before, Suzanne. It’s crazy. Come with us and see for yourself.”
I fell in step with her, intending to walk just a little.
“What do you mean “crazy”? I have enough “craziness” in my life.”
“Yeah. But I don’t mean crazy crazy. I just mean “like you’ve never heard it before.” Like – he said the kingdom of God – bless his holy name – is like that infernal mustard that’s always invading our fields and gardens. Just a tiny start, Jesus says, and pretty soon you’ve got big problems.”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“When you own the field, like the Romans own us, I guess it’s not so good. But what if we’re the mustard seed? See what I mean?”
By this time, she’s got me thinking, so I go along a little more.
“And he says the kingdom of God bless his holy name is like leaven that a woman kneads into the bread dough.”
“A woman? Leaven? Doesn’t he know not to talk about God bless his holy name with unclean things like women and leaven?”
“Of course, where would the men be without us to get a rise out of them?” she laughed at her own joke. “This Jesus totally gets that. Clean and unclean don’t seem to count with him. He’s got bigger fish to fry. Come on. You’ve got to hear this guy.”
So that’s how I ended up in the crowd that greeted Jesus when he stepped out of the boat. And I have to tell you, what I saw was awesome. Even though he must have been tired and disheartened and heart sick over the death of his cousin, Jesus didn’t send anybody away. He waded into the crowd and began healing them.
And lots of us needed healing. Including me. I’d gone that day feeling beat up by life. Picked apart. Pulled in a thousand different directions. Dis-abled when it came to making things better. I was heartsick and tired, tired, tired. But Jesus compassion healed me. How isn’t important. But being in his presence healed my heart and made me glad to be alive again.
It wasn’t just me. People around me- people I knew had been suffering lately – were up on their feet, smiling, greeting one another. I looked around for Martha, but she wasn’t around. It was getting late, and I wanted to start for home. But I didn’t want to go without telling the person who brought me “Thank you” for a wonderful day.
I pressed my way through the crowd, looking for my friend. “Martha!” I called. A young woman in blue told me that she’d seen Martha heading down toward the lake, so I turned in that direction. I pulled my head scarf more closely around my face as I passed by groups of men. Still no Martha. I lowered my eyes and pressed on, hoping to see her sandle.
That’s how I ended up right next to Jesus, as the disciples huddled around him. So I heard distinctly what each one of them said:
One of the disciples, maybe it was Peter, said, “Lord. It is getting late. The people are getting hungry and we’re out here in the sticks. Dismiss the crowd so they can make their way to villages around here and get themselves some food.”
That sounded like a good plan to me. And to the other disciples, too. I fully expected Jesus to give his blessing to the disciples suggestion.
But Jesus surprised them. He raised his bowed head, look around the circle of men, made them meet his eye – really – look at him. Then he shook his head. He disapproved. And he said, really slowly and really clearly: “You give them something to eat.”
There was a moment in which the disciples glanced sideways at each other, checking each other for an appropriate reaction. But no one could come up with one. Finally, two or three of them spoke at once – We don’t have enough to feed this crowd! Said one.
Look! There must be 5000 men on that hillside. Come on! Chimed in another.
We’ve got nothing, Jesus.
That’s right! We don’t have anything.
It was the one they call Judas who said that. He was holding a sack with their provisions in it. Jesus looked at it.
Well, at least we don’t have anything EXTRA.
We don’t have even enough for ourselves. You took off so fast, and I grabbed this little bag and it isn’t full and . . .
We have five loaves and two fish. Five thousand men. You do the math.
What difference would 5 loaves and two measly fish make here?
Don’t you get it? We have nothing. Barely enough to get by.
Not enough to share.
Not enough to meet their needs.
His protests petered out. Jesus continued to look around the circle.
He sighed. Bring your “nothing” to me.
Then Jesus turned to the crowd, got their attention and ordered everyone to sit down on the grass. Like lambs, they did it. I hurried back toward the women and children. It was easier to find Martha with everyone still, and I sat down beside her.
From a distance we saw Jesus take the loaves and the fish from his followers, lift his arms up to heaven. We heard him blessing Baruch adonai Elohim – Blessed art thou, O Lord, who brings forth bread from the earth. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples began to distribute them to the crowd.
Jesus, who had done so much that day, sat down. It was up to the disciples now.
The men were served first. We women sat and watched. A few of the ladies from my village wanted to get up and help. The disciples had a big job. Have you ever fed 5000 people? Or even 500? At my daughter’s wedding there were 150, and I thought I would never get to sit and eat. But I told those ladies to sit back down.
I said, “I think this is something Jesus wants his disciples to do. This is for those who follow Jesus. A sort of training, I think, to see what they have learned from following him all these months.”
We talked amongst ourselves as the disciples worked their way through the crowd. Every once in a while I glanced that way. Peter had rolled up his sleeves. The twin disciples chatted with folks in the crowd as he worked. Judas didn’t. It was interesting to see that after each group was served, the disciples were able to go on to the next. I kept watching to see when their supply would run out. But they made their way from group to group and the nothing they had seemed to turn into abundance in their wake.
When they finished with the men, they approached the crowds of women. A couple of the older ones held their backs – sore from bending down, extending their arms. It was work. I could tell that. But their hands were not yet empty. I’m not sure where all the food came from. The folks in group had plenty. And my portion was delicious. Satisfying.
By the time we were finished, the disciples had gone back to the men and started to clean up. That’s what gets you about a big meal, isn’t it? The clean up.
When they came around to get our left overs, we ribbed them a little. “I bet when you signed up to learn from Jesus, you didn’t expect advanced leftover removal – did you?” He didn’t mind our teasing, “Look at all this!” He said. “Can you believe how much food we served? Look! I didn’t think we even would have enough. But Jesus was right. There was more than enough. There was an abundance. And look around. Each one of us has a big basket full of scraps and crusts and broken pieces. We could feed even more!”
How many did you serve? Martha asked him.
Between the twelve of us . . . we counted nearly 5000 men. Not counting the women and children.
Aw, Martha, don’t believe him! I said. He can’t count! He thought that all he had was 5 loaves and two fishes. He just smiled and shook his head.
So you see – I don’t count. But I can count. And by my count, the “not enough” of the disciples + the blessing of Jesus = an abundance, a feast, a experience of the overwhelming grace of God- bless his holy name. What happened when Jesus said, “You give them something to eat” filled our stomachs for a day and our hearts for a lifetime. I wonder if a hungry world can still count on Jesus and his disciples

No comments: