FOODS BANKS, FEEDING THE MULTITUDES AND THE EUCHARIST

NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON

12 Noon,  Sunday, March 2, 2008

St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church

Small Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave. (Toronto)

 

1st Lesson: Galatians 4: 26 – 31

 

The Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.  For it is

written:

 

      “ Rejoice, O barren,

      You who do not bear!

      Break forth and shout,

      You who are not in labour!

      For the desolate has many more children

      Than she who has a husband.”

 

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who

was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according

to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture

say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman

shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.”  So then, brethren, we

are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

 

Gospel: John 6: 5 – 14

 

Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward

Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”

But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient

for them, that every one of them may have a little.”

 

One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him,  “There

is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are

they among so many?”

 

Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in

the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus

took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the

disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the

fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His

disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”

Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the

fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had

eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said,

“This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

 

SERMON PROPER BEGINS

 

This weekend the Daily Bread Food Bank begins its annual Easter Food Drive—seeking enough food to ensure that the hungry of Toronto can have food.  While they never succeed in obtaining sufficient food to meet all the needs of all the hungry, they make a major effort towards meeting the practical needs of many whom we rarely see.  But from the grocery shelves and kitchen cupboards across our city, food is gathered to be shared with strangers.  And, while we don’t all think of it when we make our donations, our actions in supporting community kitchens and local food banks wouldn’t surprise the one who found himself asked to help a multitude of hungry people.  

Jesus could have easily panicked when he looked up and saw all those people coming towards him, hungry and tired and with no place near by to get something to eat.  It was bad enough that he himself was tired and perhaps wanted some time to himself.  But to be faced with so many people in need could have been overwhelming.  Jesus wasn’t overwhelmed this time—he didn’t demand that the hungry feed themselves or insist his disciples keep others from him while he went on his own to pray, which he did on other occasions.  Rather, he asked for advice from Philip and, when it didn’t prove helpful, was open to other possibilities.  Indeed, the passage indicates that Jesus had thought seriously about what to do for the hungry around him.

Peter brought forward a young person with a little bit of food.  It was likely the boy felt that there would at least be a little something for those closest to Jesus.  But with so little food and so many people, how could Jesus enjoy the food—he would be full while others suffered.  And how could he share with just a few close to him, when he knew that others would be excluded?  So, in a manner very close to our Eucharistic celebration,  Jesus blessed the food he had been offered and shared the loaves and fishes with all who were present. They not only had enough for everyone—there was leftovers.  And by this practical miracle of feeding the hungry Jesus was known as a prophet—someone who helped show God’s will for us. 

In our Eucharist celebration we ask for God’s blessings on ourselves.  We share in the living Christ.  We offer from the gifts of creation gifts to the creator which sustain us in our ongoing spiritual journey.  We share not only the intangible but real presence, we also share in the physical gifts of creation—bread and wine.   These offerings we make on the altar are made sacred in the offering and made real in the sharing. 

Our Eucharist is rooted not only in the events of the last supper but in the feeding of the multitudes.  In our responding to the Eucharist and our spiritual hunger, we are also responding to the compassion of Christ and the hunger of the world.   To be true to the spirit of the last supper, to be true to the spirit of Christ, we need to address the real needs of the hungry among us.  We are asked to share the life of Jesus by sharing what we have with all who are in need.  The offerings on the altar become truly manifested when we go forth to share the spirit in word and in deed.  In Matthew 25: 34 – 40 this duty of compassion is made clear:

 

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

 

We who are called to the table are called to service.  During this season we are asked to serve our neighbours directly—we are asked to share in the feeding of the multitude.   In doing so, we will bring the life of the Eucharist to life in our community.  

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