Sermon for July 25, 2021 Ninth after Pentecost “Worried about the Cost”
One of my good friends was always saying to me ‘in 5 or 10 years are you going to miss the money or the experience?’
It is interesting that in the recording of the feeding the multitudes it is the experience that emerges as important and not the cost. The surprise to the disciples and readers of this account is about left overs. It is interesting that after years/thousands of years of being God’s people and all the accounts of the miraculous, mysterious and odd, the followers of Jesus are surprised.
If we skip ahead for a moment to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he starts out ‘for this reason, the glorious grace of God is extended to all”. Paul understands that in Jesus all are welcome. From the first disciples (who were all very different from one another) to the tribal squabbles of the first centuries, to the sects of Judaism to cultural and social separations or our day…followers of Jesus have struggled with the full measure of grace given to all.
As I speculate on the scene of the feeding of the multitudes I imagine that all were fed. The disciples learned fast to feed all who were hungry not just those they liked. So the Samaritans, the outcast, the lepers, the Gentiles and yes, food was offered to the Rabbi’s and Roman guards who kept careful eye on the proceedings were all fed. No one was left out, all were invited. And there were leftovers.
As the layers of the story are revealed we discover that there are no magic tricks, no hidden stash of food, just a simple miracle. Such is the nature of God. If we try to overthink or explain it with some sort of reason, the story loses its impact. Jesus sees a need and responds. Jesus saw the sick and outcast and healed, saw the blind and restored sight. And so on.
Miracles are messy to explain and mostly leave us baffled. We want to get sidetracked with the story so we speculate about cost and the periphery. The message is simple…Jesus is prepared to meet your need. Jesus knows how this works but we resist. Recall the reading from Paul…that you may be strengthened in your inner spirit and rooted and grounded in love. That takes practice on our part. The Spirit may work with speed and efficiency but we humans are slower. We, in our day, are required to unlearn many traits and undergo ego transformation in order to feed the multitudes.
You may say…what? Say again. Paul teaches that the glorious spirit is extended to all. The disciples ask; what will it cost? Jesus says to the disciples; what inner ego changes do you need to make to feed the leper? The Samaritan? The Roman guard? with real heart and love. Now the disciples were trained from an early age to stay away from lepers, taught to hate the Romans and learned healthy prejudices about people who were not like them. And yes they had to unlearn and relearn… quickly.
We might ask ourselves the same question, or we may find ourselves being reluctant, even aggressively reluctant to go there. The wonder of the teaching of the feeding of the multitude is that Jesus does not need much to make a big difference. Jesus asks how many loaves and fish, the disciples reply; just a few and Jesus says perfect that is plenty. Jesus asks us; how much compassion do you have for those who are not like you? We answer; just a bit, and Jesus says perfect that is plenty. The wonder of grace and the capacity of Jesus is that there does not need to be much to make a big difference.
We have gotten used to counting the cost and finding we are often lacking so we do nothing or little. Jesus keeps reminding us that what is left over is far greater than what we have now. That you need faith as grandiose as a mustard seed, that a widow’s mite is of extraordinary value. Show up with what you have, in your eyes it might seem like ‘not much’ but in the realm of Jesus it is extravagant, it is perfect it is just enough, and just in case you might have forgotten…you, created in the image of God, named, chosen and redeemed… are amazing.