The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13A (August 3, 2014)

LessonsIsaiah 55:1-5 Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 (16) Romans 9:1-5 St. Matthew 14:13-21

Semicontinuous Series Genesis 32:22-31 Psalm 17:1-7, 15 (15)

Prayer of the Day Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness, and you cover creation with abundance. Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit, and with this food fill all the starving world; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

St. Matthew 14:13-21. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Scarcity and Abundance

The disciples are faced with an overwhelming dilemma. They are in the wilderness, listening to Jesus preach and teach, and observing as he heals those who are sick. Quite a crowd has gathered. St. Luke records that there are about 5,000 men, besides women and children. This is one of the largest groups, ever, to gather with Jesus in Biblical times.

It is the end of the day, the disciples know the people will soon be hungry, so they advise Jesus to dismiss the crowds, allowing them to go and eat, but Jesus has something else in mind. He directs the disciples to feed them.

You can almost imagine what is running through the disciples’ minds as they look out over the vast crowd, and then back to the basket that holds the two fish and five loaves they have been able to pull together. There is hardly enough to feed the twelve of them and Jesus. How in the world does he expect to feed a crowd that includes 5,000 men? No reasonable person could disagree with the assessment that there just isn’t enough.

This is how we often respond, when called by Jesus to care for the needs of the world. By some estimates there are nearly 850 million people in the world who do not have enough food to eat. Somewhere in the vicinity of 100 million people worldwide are homeless. There are multiple wars taking place right now on every continent. Human rights abuses are even more prevalent than wars. Climate change (regardless of one’s opinion on what causes it…) threatens the poorest of those who live at sea level. Crime is on the rise in many major cities. Jesus calls us to care for the needs that surround us, but no reasonable person could disagree with the assessment that the need is so great, and the systems are so complicated, that it is hard to imagine how one person could make a difference.

This attitude — and the attitude of the disciples in this week’s Gospel lesson — is an attitude of scarcity. It insists that in the face of overwhelming need, there just aren’t enough resources to make a difference (“so why,” this attitude argues, “try at all?”).

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 3.43.14 PMYet Jesus calls us away from an attitude of scarcity, and towards an attitude of abundance.  Jesus calls us to make a difference, even when it appears to be impossible. Recently U2 front man Bono declared that we belong to the first generation ever in the history of the world that has the resources to do away with extreme poverty in the world, and if we stay on the current trajectory, this could become a reality by as early as 2030. His is an attitude of abundance, and in starting the One organization, he gives us a glimpse of what faithfulness to this week’s Gospel lesson might look like.

Two fish? Five loaves? Five thousand men and their families? From an attitude of scarcity, it seems like an impossible situation. But Jesus calls his Apostles, and he calls us, to an attitude of abundance. After all, with God, all things are possible, right?

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why do the Apostles ask Jesus to send the crowds away?
  2. Is it reasonable to conclude there isn’t enough food in the wilderness for them all?
  3. Why does Jesus command them to feed the crowds? What does he want them to learn?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I succumbed to an attitude of scarcity?
  2. How might God be calling me to a new way of thinking?
  3. What might I do, to reach out in healing to the needs that surround me?