Notes for a More Coherent Sermon: Feeding the Multitude

NOTES FOR A MORE COHERENT SERMON
10:00 a.m.., Sunday, March 22, 2009
St. Andrew’s Old Catholic Church
Small Meeting Room, 138 Pears Ave.
Toronto

1st Lesson: Galatians 4: 26 – 31

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, “Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.”

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

Nevertheless what saith the scripture? “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

When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

Philip answered him, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.”

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?”

And Jesus said, “Make the men 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 to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”

Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.”

SERMON PROPER BEGINS

There is not a living person who does not hunger for something. It can
be a desire for safety, for love, for security, for inspiration, for a closer relationship with God. But none of these hungers, these desires can possibly be fulfilled if we do not have air, water and food. The essentials of life are primary and once they are secured dreams can have a chance of becoming real.
About 2,000 years ago a group of people followed someone that they saw as a religious teacher, a miracle worker, a political leader or possibly just an interesting celebrity. They obviously had not planned to spend a long time with him—they hadn’t packed a lunch, they walked by markets without purchasing food—but they did hope to gain something by following him.
Unfortunately for them it wasn’t a spiritual journey that Jesus took them on that day. It was a long walk in a hot, dry climate. They travelled
along an unpaved path into an area that had a lot of grass with little shade, no nearby lunch counters or grocery stories, no place where they could beg a meal.
As much as they may have admired Jesus, they were tired and hungry and perhaps a bit worried and scared. When they woke up that morning they hadn’t planned to be sitting on a hillside in the late afternoon sun, a part of a crowd of people who also hadn’t thought of bringing something to eat. And it wasn’t just the crowd of followers that we caught unprepared. Jesus and his followers didn’t seem to have a great deal at hand to feed themselves, let alone those that followed them. When Jesus turned to Philip, one of his disciples, testing him to solve the problem, there wasn’t a ready answer to meet the needs of everyone around. A second disciple, Andrew found one person with foresight—a young boy with some bread and fish. Five barley loaves and 2 small fishes doesn’t seem enough to Jesus and his immediate followers, let alone everyone gathered on the hillside. But it was the basis of a meal; it was a gift from the one person who was prepared when no one else was.
Jesus took this gift, blessed it and distributed the bread and fish to all who were there. There was enough that everyone was fed and there were substantial leftovers. Jesus didn’t offer prayer as a way of filling the moment and distracting from hunger. Jesus didn’t denounce physical weakness and hunger. Jesus took what was given and met the needs of his disciples and those that followed him. He didn’t ask for I.D.; he didn’t separate the Jews from the Samaritans or the rich from the poor. He shared a miracle with all who were there—he made sure that none were hungry before they were sent on their way. Food was offered to Jesus and he shared it with everyone.
Jesus was a very practical messiah. He didn’t judge people. He didn’t pull down a government and put himself in its place. He didn’t put off until after the revolution addressing the needs of those around him for love and hope, for food and community. And he expects us to do the same.
We are in a society where food banks and community meal programmes are essential to ensure that people have their daily bread.
During Lent we are especially reminded of the need to take what we have and share it with others. We are asked to take food and give it to others, to take our money and donate it so that charities can pool the money and buy fresh foods and staples.
On a global scale, efforts from famine relief to dealing with plant diseases that are destroying food crops to the need to preserve and enhance farm land are ongoing demands on the stewardship resources of all who share in the fruits of creation.
Jesus instituted the eucharist with real food, not symbols, blessing common elements of people’s meals in the society he lived in and then sharing it with them. Whether feeding us with bread and fish or sustaining us with bread and wine that has become the actual presence of Christ among us, Jesus did not and does not take food lightly. If people are to follow Jesus, if they are to be able to choose to take part in the Lenten journey, then they need to be sustained in this effort. Everyone needs food in order to live out their lives; those sharing in the Lenten journey need food to sustain us in the walk and in the building up of the shalom kingdom, the gates of which lay ahead at Golgotha. Those not on our journey need food to continue to be a living part of the family of creation. When we share in the Eucharist, when we donate to a food bank, when we pressure the government to ensure that those on social assistance don’t loose their food allowance, when we help preserve farmland from urban sprawl, when we support heritage seed preservation, when we work to end the violence that prevents food from reaching those that need it in places of conflict, we are doing our part to share our few loaves of bread and small fish. We ensure that the miracle of the loaves and fishes continues to feed those that are in the presence of the divine, all those that share in God’s creation, when we seek to put food on the tables of all.

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