Tuesday, July 15, 2014

According To Luke: It's Up To You

Luke 9:12-17    (NRSV)
The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

The story of the feeding of the 5,000 is the only one of Jesus' miracles that is recorded in all four Gospels.
An interesting note: Mark and Matthew have a second feeding story --- the feeding of the 4,000

And Luke seems to have set his version of the story very differently from the other Gospels.
·         Luke changes the location of the story and locates the story in Bethsaida

As we hear the story --- if we listen carefully --- we can hear echoes of some other Biblical feeding stories
·         The feeding of the Israelites in the wilderness
·         Elisha's feeding of a hundred people with 20 loaves
·         and of course the Eucharist (Holy Communion --- The Lord's Supper)

I think that this is one of the most important, and most revealing passages in the Bible about Jesus.

And the funny thing about this passage is that we have spent the last 2,000 years trying to find ways to explain away Jesus’ message to us.

But it is a great story.

Right before this story Jesus sends the disciples out and they begin to perform amazing deeds.
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.

Then we are told that King Herod is frustrated by all that Jesus has been doing wondering if John hadn't somehow come back from the dead

And that gets us to our story.

Jesus seems to be a little burned out by all that is going on and he invites his disciples to leave with him and head off privately to Bethsaida.

They try to get away for a little while, to give Jesus a breather --- but then Luke tells us:
When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.

Jesus spent the day teaching them, because we are told that it was getting late and the people were getting hungry
          The disciples were hearing the grumbling of the people and said to Jesus:
“Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” 

The disciples became concerned and had only one solution
          Send them away

It seems to me, that there are a couple of solutions to the problem.
·         Let the people fend for themselves
·         Let Jesus take care of them

But Jesus has other ideas
“You give them something to eat.”

And I love the Disciples answer, because it is often the answer I hear from so many people.

Jesus, I would love to help BUT . . .
“We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.”

How many times have we responded to the invitation that way?
·         I would love to help with the feeding ministry but . . .
·         I would love to teach at VBS but . . .
·         I would love to sing in the choir (tsunami) but . . .
·         I would love to help at Children of Abraham but . . .
·         I would love to go on a mission trip but . . .

And we can all add many other things can’t we.

But Jesus answer is insightful:
What do you have?

Jesus asks them ----- How much do you have ---- what can you do.

And of course, the miracle of the story is ---- it is enough!

“Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” They did so and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled.

When we use what God has given us to transform the world through Jesus --- it is always enough.

Jesus is inviting us to join him in the transformation of the world.

Think of the ways we see this happening in the world around us

·         Every Sunday we bring in $100’s of dollars of food that feed hungry parents and children in our communities

·         Children of Abraham gathers together medical equipment that is headed for the garbage pile and instead sends it to needy hospitals around the world so that lives can be saved

There is another way we sometimes try to deal with problems that Jesus is illustrating.

We think we can --- or should do it all ourselves

I know that this is my problem sometimes ---
          I don't want to put you out so I try to fix it

Gail Osgerby heard at the Finance/Trustee meeting last week that we want to upgrade the TV's in the sanctuary so that we have one that the Choir (and I) can see.

Gail volunteered to go and search out the best deal --- so Wednesday he and Carol did just that.

They found a great deal down at Wal-Mart, and offered to buy them, but I said,
"NO, I have to go that way on Thursday, and I have the credit card from the church, so just let me do it."

What was I thinking?  Somebody volunteered to solve the problem and I would not let them.

Well, my afternoon got screwed up Thursday, and while I was down that way, I did not have time to stop, so I made Nancy go with me Thursday evening to buy the TV's.

And guess what --- THEY WERE SOLD OUT

Friday, I told Gail what I should have said in the first place ---
it would be wonderful if you would just take care of this --- I will get the heck outta the way!

Jesus doesn't want us to solve all the problems of the world INDIVIDUALLY --- Jesus wants us to work together.

Remember he said to the disciples --- not A disciple
          You guys give them something to eat

As I ponder this passage --- and reflect on what Jesus is inviting us to do --- it causes me to harken back to one of my heroes

John F. Kennedy died when I was only 3 years old, so my memory of him is created by the images and histories that have been left behind.

I have watched --- and listened to JFK's inaugural speech many times in my life.  It is one of those speeches ---- Much like Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech that have impacted my life.

The night before the inauguration heavy snow blanketed Washington DC

The snow was so heavy there were thoughts of actually cancelling the inaugural ceremony.

If you remember --- the election in 1960 had been close and hard fought between Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon.
          Kennedy won 49.7%
          Nixon won 49.6%
          A difference of a little over 110,000 votes

Kennedy was anxious to get started on his political agenda and try and build the support he needed to make it happen

Kennedy started the day by attended Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown before joining President Eisenhower to travel to the Capitol.

Robert Frost read one of his poems at the ceremony. 
          It was called The Gift Outright

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.   

Then, in a rather short speech, Kennedy laid out his dream for the future, not only for the United States but also for the world. 

It was a dream that sought to end poverty
To seek peaceful solutions to the problems in the world

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms—and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah—to "undo the heavy burdens ... and to let the oppressed go free."

And then he challenged us:

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.

And what may be the most famous words from an inaugural address outside of Abraham Lincoln’s malice toward none, second inaugural, Kennedy said to us:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

Can you imagine a candidate saying something like that today?

Today our candidates wouldn’t dare suggest that we should sacrifice
          Today our candidates seem to be calling out for:
                    Less sacrifice
                   Less expectation
                   Leave me alone!

What kind of world do you want to live in?

What is the world that Jesus calling us to?
What does the Kingdom look like?

Is the Kingdom of God a place in which we ask ourselves when we do something or vote for someone:
          What is in it for me?

Or is the Kingdom a place where you and I are invited to join with Jesus and our brothers and sisters throughout the world --- giving them something to eat?

I dream of the world that Jesus envisioned

The world Jesus invites us to be a part of.
--- a world in which we share
--- a world in which we give the hungry something to eat
--- a world in which we cloth the naked
--- and care for the imprisoned

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
   and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God?

(Micah 6:8)

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