I don’t usually string a series of biblical passages together as the primary content of my Preacher’s Post. But a key assumption at the center of my life has been challenged over the years and I want to share my journey this Sunday.
The Gospel stories of Jesus feeding the thousands connect me to several critical values that are at the core of the biblical message. When I reference the young man’s quote explaining his decision to sign the Barmen Declaration in 1934, these are the kind of values I’m convinced he was pointing to: “I’m not particularly devout, I only tried to be obedient to the word of God from one experience to the next.”
At the top of the biblical passages, which point us toward what it means to be obedient to God, are the following:
What shall I bring to the LORD, the God of heaven, when I come to worship him? Shall I bring the best calves to burn as offerings to him? Will the LORD be pleased if I bring him thousands of sheep or endless streams of olive oil? Shall I offer him my first-born child to pay for my sins? No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
I am telling you the truth: those who believe in me will do what I do—yes, they will do even greater things, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father’s glory will be shown through the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.
Finally, Mark 8:1-8 (See also Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15)
Not long afterward another large crowd came together. When the people had nothing left to eat, Jesus called the disciples to him and said, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them home without feeding them, they will faint as they go, because some of them have come a long way.” His disciples asked him, “Where in this desert can anyone find enough food to feed all these people?” “How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven loaves,” they answered.
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, gave thanks to God, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the crowd; and the disciples did so. They also had a few small fish. Jesus gave thanks for these and told the disciples to distribute them too. Everybody ate and had enough—there were about four thousand people. Then the disciples took up seven baskets full of pieces left over. Jesus sent the people away and at once got into a boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
When Jesus challenged his disciples to fix the food issue, the first thing they did, and the thing all of us do, is measure their resources against the need. It’s a no brainer: “We don’t have enough money to fix the problem.” In John’s gospel, Phillip calculates the cost to be two-thirds of a typical worker’s yearly wage. And because they lacked the resources, they figured it wasn’t their problem. With God, the issue is never ability—it is ALWAYS availability.
Andrew brought a little boy to Jesus who had what was a typical lunch in that time and place: some bread and a few pieces of fish. What happened next is supernatural no matter how you look at it. The one scenario is that the rules of the universe were suspended for a few moments and the ridiculously paltry lunch fed everyone as it somehow multiplied. William Barclay believes an even greater miracle might have happened. When the little boy offered up his lunch, those who had been hiding theirs because they didn’t want to have to share, pulled their hidden food out and shared with those around them. In John’s telling of the story (John 6:1-15), twelve baskets of leftover food were gathered after everybody had eaten all they wanted.
What does this mean to us as we navigate our lives here and now? That’s what we’ll talk through Sunday…
Here’s what I have on my desk…
COLUMBARIUM UPDATE: Grab a cup of coffee and a donut and join me in the South Garden 10-minutes following each service this Sunday, March 19, 2017, for a Columbarium Presentation.
Are you, or someone you know, living with grief? You are not alone! We are putting together a support group to assist those who are grieving and could benefit from the support of others. This will be a 3-week progressive discussion of our grief journey. This group will meet in the St. Andrew Conference Room on Wednesday, March 29, April 5 and April 12. We are offering two separate times to accommodate your schedule: 10:00 AM OR 7:00 PM. Please sign up on your Communication Card THIS SUNDAY and indicate IF YOU WILL BE ATTENDING THE MORNING OR EVENING GROUP.