This is the final post before I sign off. We have experienced such abundance lately. At Bay Lake Camp, with Wild Things in the park, waffle party at Claddagh Coffee. Overflowing grace. Cups running over. Here is last Sunday's sermon (preached at Bay Lake). It's a story of great abundance--where Jesus meets us where we are over and over. Then we forget. So Jesus does it again. I have the great honor to witness this sort of thing every single day around Humble Walk. I pray that you do, too.
MWAH. See you All Saints Sunday, you crazy sinner saints.
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."
So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world." When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
We call this story the feeding of the 5,000. It's actually more like 20,000. Because back in those days, they only counted men. Women and children didn't count. So, let's say a small prayer of thanks for progress.
20,000 people strong. A good sized crowd. Last Saturday, I found myself in an actual crowd of 20,000 people. A friend invited me to a music festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. On a river bank, out in the woods on the grass. 20,000 beating hearts. Sweating (it was really hot) and singing along to amazing music. My nerdy preachers' heart looked around and thought, “Huh, five barley loaves and 2 little fish in this crowd? I don't know, man. That would take a miracle.”
In our Gospel story today, no one brought any lunch or provisions. There were no food trucks planned for this event. No vendors. No pop up shops. No island cafes. No camp cooks. No picnic baskets.
Just a huge, hungry crowd. Hungry. Word of Jesus had traveled from mouth to ear from mouth ear. Like it does. Like it's always done and continues to do. Through stories. Of healing. Of hearts lifted. Of demons cast. Of thirst quenched. Of life given. Of dead raised. Of paradigms blown apart. Of new stories given again.
All that good news. People were buzzing about it. And so they came looking for more.
Jesus was unfazed. Jesus went up a mountain to pray and rest. But that crowd found him. I wonder what it looked like to have this crowd coming toward him?
The disciples looked at that crowd coming toward them and immediately assess that it's big. And they are huuuuungry. Spiritually, perhaps. And definitely physically. Do you feel your own belly rumble? Now imagine 20,000 others around you.
Jesus sees it all. Jesus sees them all and asks his disciples, “Well, now what?”
Philip gets out a pencil and paper, pushes up his glasses and quickly does a bit of math and calculates the actual cost of feeding this crowd. I thought I was the nerd in this story.
Andrew offers “Hey, what about this kid? His mom packed him a lunch.” Everyone rolls their eyes and says, “Thanks, Andrew. Five loaves of barley bread and 2 fish. What's that to this crowd. It's nothing.”
That little boy panics because he's the one who planned ahead. “Hey, that's my lunch.”
Jesus tells everyone to take a load off. Sit down in the grass, in the shade of the mustard shrubs. Then Jesus gave thanks and he broke that bread. Jesus takes the five loaves and the 2 fish and feeds the whole crowd. Everyone was filled with good things. Not just a little bit, but until they were all satisfied.
Not only was everyone filled, but there were left overs. 12 baskets left over. Jesus instructs his disciples to go out and collect all that's left so that nothing is wasted. Gather up the fragments—the bits, the crumbs, half-eaten loaves.
Gather up the fragments so that nothing is lost.
Gather up the fragments so that no one is lost.
Can you imagine this scene of abundance?
We have weird ideas of abundance. We think of Chinese buffets. Where there is food piled as far as we can see. So much that we can take a bite of something and if we don't like it, we can throw it away and get a new plate. We think of abundance as being able to have enough to waste.
But Jesus is different.
With Jesus, nothing is wasted. No one left behind or out. No one is lost.
When we feel like all we have is nothing. A bit of bread. Crumbs. Surely not enough. Actually, nothing. God in Christ Jesus, laughs and says, “I'm really good at making something out of nothing. Remember you are dust. Life from dust. Abundance from scraps.”
In ancient times-the time from when this story came—all the good, rich soil was used for wheat. Because wheat leads to delicious bread. Bread fit for kings and queens and for people with money. The scraggly land-the left-over bits of land was used for barley. Barley can grow in crappy soil. Bread made from barley is the bread of poor people. Of peasants.
Don't miss that detail in this story. These were barley loaves.
Jesus takes this peasant bread and feeds the world. Abundance from scraps.
That story is enough. But then there's a little more. This experience of abundance was life-changing, this crowd immediately wants to make Jesus their king. By force. Which strikes me as funny and also deeply human. You show us amazing miraculous beauty and love abundance? We want MORE. So we will take you force and make you our king!
Jesus slips away. Back up to the mountain to pray.
Evening rolls around and the disciples go down to the sea, get into a boat and start to make their way across sea. Across Bay Lake. It was dark. Maybe they should have been in bed. A storm whips up and swirls around them. They continue to row, waves beating against the sides of their boat. They were terrified. Not of the storm, but because they look up and Jesus is walking toward them. On the water. It terrifies them.
No matter that they just witnessed Jesus feeding a crowd with scraps.
No matter everything they have witnessed up to this point.
They forget it all in an instant and absolutely freak out.
Jesus says, “It's okay. I'll come to you. Again. I'll come to you. I'll meet you right where you are. I know you forget. You forget about the abundance and the life and beauty and love and feeding. I know that about you. So, I'll come to you.”
And Jesus does. And when Jesus meets them, they arrive on the shore.
When Jesus meets them, they immediately arrive.
When Jesus meets you, you arrive. You begin.
We do often want what I call the Cancer Miracle Story. We think, “If this miracle happens, then I believe.” “If Jesus heals this cancer, then I will believe.”
Today's story gives us a reorientation. It changes that direction. When we trust, we witness miracles all around us. Right now, this moment, every minute, we are being met by God. Right here, today, we are invited to trust that Jesus holds you, holds everything. We have in this very minute, a full connection to God. And that is when we arrive. That is where we begin. Again. Welcome. Welcome back. Welcome to this story of abundance. Amen.