Sermon for July 29, 2012 Proper 12B

July 30, 2012

John 6: 1-21

We like explanations.  We like to make sense out of life’s curious happenings.  We like to pinpoint the exact place where sense and understanding broke in and stole the limelight from the miracle.  At least that is my impression after reading several commentaries on today’s gospel.  There are two noted miracles in today’s gospel.  The first being that Jesus, using just 5 loaves and 2 fish (which happened to belong to a little boy) was able to feed over 5000 people.  5000 people.  The other miracle being that Jesus walked on water.  There is so much discussion about both of these miracles- did they happen, did they not happen, symantics in word use… I would like to just focus on the miracle of the feeding the 5000.

Can you imagine throwing a dinner party for 500 let alone 5000 people?  The cost of that meal would be tremendous.  The time spent preparing the meal, shopping for the ingredients for that meal.  I mean, even if we clipped coupons, enlisted an army of volunteers- had access to the biggest kitchens in Wilmington, cooking enough fish to feed 5000, enough bread to feed 5000 would be a huge undertaking. 

Accomplishing that is an actual miracle.

At least in my book. 

I am used to cooking a meal for one, maybe two, sometimes even 4 people.  It is a miracle if I don’t burn something, scorch something, cut my finger or over-season the vegetables, to be honest. 

But our need to make sense out of these miracles has led some to write and share that the feeding of the 5000 happened not because Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, people were not fed through any magical miracle happening but because one little boy offered up his meager lunch to Jesus to be used as Jesus saw fit.  When the people around Jesus saw this others began to also open up their brown bags and water skins and shared with their neighbors.  Voila!  An instant feast catered by 5000 of your closest friends and neighbors. It was the mother of all potlucks.  No one left hungry.  In fact, there were twelve baskets of food left over. 

So, we feel comfortable with this understanding, this explanation.  Jesus didn’t do a magic trick.  He didn’t pull a baker’s rack of bread out from his sleeve.  He gave thanks for the food that was provided, he thought in terms of abundance and in that mind frame, more and more and more began to share because they weren’t protective of what they brought.  They weren’t consumed by the need to meet their own need of a meal, their own need of satiating their hunger.  They began to see, visibly see, that there was more than enough and in that security, they contributed their own food to party.

When I was 16 years old, I was sitting on the porch with my father and my younger brother.  It was late September and we were sitting there trying to be strong and brave.  We were participating in one of the greatest rites of passage for anyone growing up in the low country.  We were having a hurricane party.  Now, I’m not talking a party where you invite the neighbors over.  I’m talking a party where you go buy snacks, food you only eat every once and a while- chips and dip, candy, honey buns- and of course, bottled water, canned goods with a pop top- what good is a can opener if you have to plug it in and the power is out?  As a junk food junkie, this was almost better than Christmas.

We sat there on the porch waiting.  We waited and waited and finally the very outskirts of the storm began to knock on our front door, on our tall pine trees, on our small island of security.  In a matter of hours, my understanding of security was going to be washed out from beneath my feet.  In the mean time, I ate chex mix, drank fruit juice from a square box with a small flexi straw and watched jeopardy.

Oh how I can recall that night.  I close my eyes and I can hear the rattling of the 100 plus year old windows in their 100 plus year old frames.  I can hear the wind and see the flashes of green, yes, green lightening.  And I can recall the rapid heartbeat in my chest and the tension running through my whole body.  White knuckled.  Fear. 

My family was gathered in the family room on the 1st floor and right before the eye passed over us, we took a hit to our roof.  A pine tree top was resting in our 2nd floor attic.  It could have been worse.  We walked outside in this brief moment of calm in the middle of this calamity and the overwhelming stench of pine was enough to make you think you were walking in a Christmas tree farm.  It was dark, the power was out everywhere and while being surrounded by all these giant pine trees, my world felt at once extremely large and extremely small. 

These are trees I have gazed upon for years swaying gently in the breeze, standing very still and tall on fall afternoons, places that held generations of birds and their young- now they were in my yard. They were lying down like sleeping giants.  Mind blowing.

In the days that followed, life was anything but normal.  This event, this hurricane hugo continues to be a source of profound impact in my spiritual journey.  But what is resonating in me when I read today’s gospel is the 3rd miracle that no one ever really sees as a miracle.  The 5000 people came together and sat down together and ate a meal together.  That is a miracle too- or at least it would be by today’s standards.

Neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, family to family- all sitting down in small groups on the ground breaking open their knapsacks and tearing hunks of bread, cheese, fruit into parts to share.  I’ll trade you half of my tuna fish sandwich for half of your apple.  I’ll give you some of my carrots for some of your figs.  And they talked, I imagine, about Jesus, about Jesus’ teachings, about the healings they have witnessed or maybe even experienced.  They unplugged from their work, their to do lists, their obligations, their errand running and they sat down in that large field and they broke bread together.  No one mentioned political parties.  No one was clamoring to sound intelligent or bright, no one was trying to out boast the other.  No one was arguing.   They were just eating, just sharing, just being a community together- brought together through Jesus Christ, by the love, teaching and healing of Jesus Christ.  That, my friends, is a real miracle.

Two days after Hurricane Hugo finished giving us one heck of a thrashing, it was clear that the power was going to be out for a while.  The ice was melting and finding enough ice to keep our frozen things frozen was becoming a bit of challenge- not just for my family but for many families.  We either had to eat it or lose it.  A call went out through my street to come over to the Salvo’s and bring items to grill or fry, bring items that could be cooked without electricity.  Bring it all.  And we did.  So did everyone else.

12 families gathered and we feasted.  We sat down together and we ate like kings and queens.  As I reflect on this evening, I try to remember the last time I had seen some of my neighbors, let alone all of us gathered together.  I believe that this was the only time we all gathered together in one yard, the only time we all broke bread together, the only time we left our sports games, our hobbies, our work, our obligations, our errands behind and came together to eat and be a community.  There were tiny miracles among us.  No one was hurt by the hurricane.  No one lost anything that couldn’t be replaced.  No one was without their basic needs being met.  Those are tiny miracles but the bigger miracle is that we reached out to one another, shared what we had, stood there holding one another when the pain and loss and devastation was too much for one set of eyes and one heart to take in.  We wept together and we grew stronger together.  Fed by spiritual food of community, we indeed became community.

Through the healing and teaching and love of Jesus, we are each drawn to this table, to this holy and sacred meal.  We are drawn together as a community where we don’t have to bring anything to the feast because the spiritual food is in abundance, there is plenty for everyone. We move, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, family to family up to the table for a taste of the greatest miracle of all- light overcoming darkness, life over coming death.  We are fed and filled by that miracle every time and we allow our souls, bodies, minds and hearts to be transformed, to be prepared and continue to be Jesus’ love, teaching and healing in the world today.  We gather and as we gather, so do many many others today.  We are gathering with our family, friends and neighbors throughout Wilmington, throughout Delaware, throughout North America, throughout the globe to participate in this most holy supper, this miracle feast.  For this one moment, when the body of Jesus is placed in our hands, we are also placing our hearts in Christ’s hands and no one argues, no one fights, no one tries to one up the other.  We are quiet, prayerful, fed, filled and satisfied.  That is the true miracle.  Amen.




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