2 Samuel 11:1–15
6:1 “After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.” (John 6:1-21, NRSV)
Let us pray: O God, you are the sustainer of the hungry, like a mother you long to feed your children until each is satisfied. So, we pray that you would turn our eyes and our hearts to you alone, that, aware of our own deepest longings, we will reach out with Christ to feed others with the miracle of your love. Amen.
I have always heard it said that you had better be careful what you try to teach or what you say to your children because it may come back to haunt you.
Monnie and I decided when we had children that we did not want to raise spoiled kids and give them everything that they want. We really did! So, we frequently say to them when they beg for something, “Now you know you don’t really need that, you have enough toys or shoes or sports gear. I am not going to buy that for you.” Well, as in most cases this too came back to haunt us.
One story in particular that I remember from a few years ago. Monnie was in a shoe store and they were having a great sale, not just a good sale but a great sale. So, naturally she bought a pair of shoes for herself, just a basic pair of flip flops and as she told me they were cheap and it was a deal. Did I mention it was a fabulous deal? She went on to say that the whole way home, all she heard from the kids was “You did not really need those. Look at all the shoes in your closet. Did you really need another pair of flip flops?” To which she answered, “Yes I did.”
So, this week as I am reading this text the question keeps haunting me, “How much is enough?”
Some people say that “enough is enough.” When you have enough of anything it means you have an adequate amount. You have enough money to pay your bills, you have enough food to eat, and you have enough clothes to wear. But knowing what is enough gets really tricky, for we all know in our world today that there are plenty of people, me included, who have and enjoy much more than enough. In many ways it is what brought on our current economic divide in our country. Some people who have plenty don’t think they have enough, so they kept acquiring more and more. People began amassing great fortunes and stock piling goods and things and worrying that it is not enough. Others began to live beyond their means and if there isn’t enough money to pay the bills they just get another credit card and add on more debt. Buy now, pay later. Most all of us are caught in the endless cycle of thinking we never have enough and we are always in need of more, we live as if we don’t have enough.
Even so, what is enough is relative. In many third world countries it would take a family 40 years to earn the equivalent of the United States poverty level income. Pretty sobering thought.
So whether we are talking about a trivial thing of buying a cheap pair of unnecessary flip flops or much more important matters of basic food, water, clothing and a roof over your head, how much is enough?
Where and when did we start to think that we always need more? Living this way is living with a mindset of “scarcity,” thinking there is not enough to go around. It is right here in our Gospel reading.
The familiar story of the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle that makes it into all four Gospels. So obviously all four Gospel writers knew this to be a significant story in Jesus’ ministry.
Five thousand people show up to hear Jesus and it is time to eat and there is not enough food. End of story. You can’t feed people with what you don’t have. When the cupboard is empty you simply don’t eat. When the bank account is at zero there is no more money.
All these people had been following Jesus, frantically wanting him to heal them. When their stomachs start to grumble. Jesus asks Philip a pretty straightforward question. “How are we going to feed all these people?” It is almost like Jesus is testing Philip. And Philip responds, “There is no way. Half a year’s wages wouldn’t be enough to feed all these people.” Then Andrew, another disciple points out that there is a boy with a snack but what difference could that possibly make. How could five loaves and two fish satisfy this hungry crowd? Philip and Andrew are operating under that mindset of scarcity, unable to see the possibility of God’s great abundance.
But Jesus is operating under a whole other mindset, a mindset that has been present since the very beginning of John’s Gospel. The theme that runs throughout this fourth Gospel is a theme of abundance. It is a constant refrain. We see it in the story of the wedding at Cana when Jesus turns water into wine, wine in abundance for all the guests, plenty for everyone. We also see it in the passage we often read at funerals when Jesus says “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” There are not just a few, there is in abundance, lots of space to accommodate all who are held in God’s grace.
And here today we see this theme of abundance from the story. Of course there is enough, everyone is fed and in fact there are leftovers. There is more than enough.
Now, I am not trying to diminish this miraculous story to saying that Jesus will provide, all we have to do if ask. I am not saying that when we are hungry we simply hold out our hand and Jesus will drop of loaf of bread in it. That is much too pious for my belief. I know full well that there are starving people in the world, there are hungry people in the United States, there are struggling people in our Cincinnati, and there are desperate people who do not have enough to meet their daily needs right down the hill from us. And many of these people are Christians who have prayed and prayed and haven’t seen any manna dropping from heaven or food showing up on their doorstep. I know that. But there is still enough. The problem is that so many of us have taken so much, worried that there won’t be enough to go around. We have all heard that in the United States we have enough resources so that no one needs to go hungry. We do have the resources and the gifts and the talents so that no one need go thirsty. We have the ability to care for the sick and the dying and homeless. We have a great abundance of everything in our nation – the difficulty is how to meet the ever growing needs. The solution is much more difficult and it is way over my head, but I know there is enough for everyone.
That is the essence of this story, God provides enough to go around. God even provides a surplus, but that does not let us off the hook. In fact, it calls us to step forward and do our part. We can’t just sit back and wait for God to drop food from the sky, we have to share out of our own abundance. We have to look at what we have and offer it to others. Remember that there is no such thing as “my” bread or “your” bread but “our” bread”. After all every week we say “Give us this day OUR daily bread.” There is enough. We just need to start living like there is.
And of course the story is about far more than bread. It is about God and God’s abundance. It is about a view of everything, money, food, water, resources and grace. Abundance not scarcity. It effects everything from how we treat others to how we give to the church.
It seems to me that our church has been living with a mindset of scarcity and I believe that we need to open ourselves to the abundance that is all around us. It is shocking to admit that we good people of the Indian Hill Church have been operating under the mindset of scarcity. Our budget has gone down, down, down over the past few years and yet we struggle to meet it. We should have no trouble meeting our budget even exceeding our budget, we should have a great surplus to meet our own expenses and then be able to give to those in need around us. We should never have to cut out budget for outreach to our community, because ewe have more than enough. We have all been so richly blessed.
It is right here in John’s Gospel Jesus shows there is plenty, more than enough to go around. God’s grace is abundant. God’s blessing is extravagant and over flowing. It is not meant to be hoarded and saved and stashed away. It is meant to be used and shared and spread around. Just as we are called to break off a piece of bread and share it with others, once grace has been poured out on us, we don’t just hold on tight to it. We share it. We tell others about it. We want others to experience this abundant grace just like we have. Because there is so much to go around. It will never run out, it will never be scarce. There is more and more and more.
Because God is present always among us, there is plenty of grace, plenty for all the crowds. Grace upon grace. Amen.
Let us pray: