Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, July 25, 2021

YEAR B 2021 pentecost 9

Pentecost 9, 2021
2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

In our first reading today, from the book of Second Kings, we heard a story that sounds very much like our Gospel reading today, the feeding of the 5,000.  The people we hungry; the people were fed; there was food leftover.  But I want to say two things about that reading from 2nd Kings.  Although as Christians we might think of this as foreshadowing, that’s not the purpose of this event.  By which I mean, things in the Hebrew scriptures stand on their own, and we Christians might borrow them or refer to them, but the events don’t exist solely to predict Jesus.

And the second thing I want to say is to put this reading in context.  What we don’t get from this short reading is what was going on at them time.  There was a great famine in the land.  People were starving.  Elisha, as the man of God, would have every right to take this food offered and keep it for himself.  In fact, he would have been expected to do so.  But instead he says, give the food to the people.  He could have hoarded it in the midst of scarcity, but instead he gives it away, and everyone is fed.  I kind of feel like I could end the sermon right there.  But let’s move on . . .

Jesus and the disciples are standing in a field with 5,000 people who are hungry and far from home.  They are there because they want to see something spectacular.  We heard the reason, right?  “A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.”  They’re chasing after Jesus the Rockstar who casts out demons and heals the sick.  They’re standing in that field because they want to see a show.

And Jesus sees them standing there.  And he turns to the disciples and asks, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”  Notice that Jesus is asking where; he’s not asking how.  But Philip responds with a financial statement:  "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little."  You see how Philip is not answering the question?  Jesus asks where they could buy bread for the people to eat . . . And even if they had a million dollars, the correct answer is “nowhere.”  There is nowhere in the middle of nowhere to buy bread to feed anyone, let alone 5,000 anyones.

The answer to the question of how the people will be fed is “Jesus.”  But then Andrew, the brother of Simon, says "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.”  And he can’t stop himself from adding, “But what are they among so many people?"  He’s got a hint of a possible solution, but he can’t move beyond the reality of what he knows in his daily life.  Philip goes to money; Andrew goes to scarcity.  Nobody goes to Jesus, see?

So Jesus steps in and says, “Make the people sit down.”  And then see if this sounds familiar . . . Jesus took the bread, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them . . . You almost expect him to say, “This is my body,” right?  Follow that connection in this story:  How will the people be fed?  Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to them.  In the presence of Jesus, the people are fed with the bread of life.  And then after the bread, as we heard, “So also the fish, as much as they wanted.”  Everyone had their fill.  And then comes my favorite part of this story.

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."  Some translations use the word “remnant” here, which is even better.  But the idea is that the leftover, the fragments, the stuff nobody wanted would be gathered up, so that none may be lost.  Jesus does not want anything to go to waste.  But, notice how those leftovers mean that Jesus values it all; Jesus wants to reclaim it all; Jesus does not want any to be lost.  "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

So, let’s review . . . The crowds have come to see Jesus because he has done signs and wonders, and they want to see a show.  Jesus asks his disciples where they can buy food to feed them all.  (The correct answer is, “nowhere.”)  Jesus feeds the people using what is already there, in a scene that sounds a lot like a Eucharistic moment.  And then Jesus tells the disciples to gather up the cast-aways so that none will be lost.  Quite an amazing little parallel to what being the Church is all about, when you think about it.

But then the Gospel reading totally shifts gears.  Suddenly the disciples are in a boat.  Without Jesus, by the way.  They’ve left him behind, for whatever reason, and they’re out in the sea where, of course, a big storm comes.  (Whenever the disciples get into a boat, you can usually expect a big storm or a big catch of fish.  Make of that what you will.)

So they’re out in the boat in the stormy sea, fearing for their lives, when Jesus shows up walking on the water.  And they are afraid.  Why?  Because they are sensible men, that’s why!  Of course they’re afraid!  And what does Jesus say?  He tells them, "It is I; do not be afraid."  They are afraid of the storm, but they are also afraid of . . . this person, right?  And the first thing he says is, “It is I.  Knowing that it is Jesus brings some kind of comfort.  

And then that little story has that bizarre ending, “Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.”  Strange, but interesting.  They want Jesus to be in their boat, and instead, they suddenly arrive at their destination.  It’s like Jesus is walking beside them, calming their fears, and suddenly they end up where they were meant to be.

And now, we put this altogether in light of our own experience here in Massillon . . .
We gather together because we have heard of the miracles of Jesus.  We come here as a small crowd hoping that some of the signs of Jesus will be made real in our lives.  We ask how we will survive.  And some voice inside us goes to our limited resources.  Some part of us says we cannot afford to keep the doors open and the lights on.  We don’t have enough!  But Jesus says sit down.  Calm down.  He takes bread, blesses it, gives thanks, and offers it to us.  As much as we need.  Then Jesus tells us to gather up the outcasts, so that none may be lost.  Gather in all the ones who are unwanted, cast off, cut off, tossed aside.  None will be lost or forgotten.

And, then, after we have been fed, we leave this place.  We leave Jesus behind, and we head for our destination, across some stormy sea.  The winds of life pick up; the storms of life press in upon us.  We panic, because we have left the safety of the shore without Jesus in our boat!  The sea becomes rough and a strong wind is blowing.  We are afraid, and someone is coming toward us.  Perhaps we fear judgment then; perhaps we fear the one coming at us is there to do us harm.  To drown us for some bad deed, or evil thought, or not living up to our potential.  We fear the one who can walk on water!

And then we hear, “It is I; do not be afraid.”  And our fear turns to joy as we try to grab Jesus and drag him into our boat.  We want Jesus in our boat, and we’re certain that if we just had him in the ship with us, then all would be well!  And, before we know it, we have reached the land toward which we are headed.  

This mysterious Jesus is walking beside us right now, ushering us to the land toward which we are headed.  After Jesus feeds us, and gathers the remnant, he walks beside us, and calms our fears.  All the while, we are certain that we are perishing, and we are convinced that the one who is coming to save us is really coming to do us harm.  But Jesus says, “No, people of St. Timothy’s.  It is I; fear not.”  Jesus is walking beside us through the uncertain days ahead.  And Jesus has been with us all along.  And before we know it, our boat reaches the land toward which we are heading.  

And so, this morning, we back up in the story and revisit Jesus’ question to Philip:  Where are we to buy bread for all these people to eat?  And Jesus tells us to sit down; he blesses what we have, and we have more than enough, knowing that Jesus walks with us, as we approach the unknown land toward which we are heading.


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