New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
August 6, 2017
Jesus doesn’t have it. He’s reached in deep and he thinks he’s come up with bupkis. He’s just heard that Herod has killed John the Baptist—the prophet who baptized him, the one who prepared the way of his coming, the one who started this whole kingdom of God talk—in essence, his mentor. Working for God has been hard enough already. He’s got nowhere to lay his head. People think he’s a drunkard and a lowlife because he hangs out with tax collectors and sinners, you know, the people who need him. He’s preached in his hometown and they rejected him. Everywhere he goes, people come to him for healing. Now this terrible loss, this heinous crime. It’s enough to give anyone compassion fatigue. It’s enough to make anyone walk away.
So Jesus gets in a boat and goes to a deserted place. No private island in the Caribbean. No cell phone service or free Wi-Fi. No Starbucks and Domino’s doesn’t deliver.
But these empty, hurting crowds follow Jesus and show up anyway. Herod can snap his fingers at servants and guards, order anyone to be murdered, and yet guests still come to his table. Two very different crowds and yet I doubt Herod ever invited thousands to a meal, especially the poor and the sick.
But that’s just what Jesus does. And maybe that’s the real miracle—Jesus doesn’t send anyone away. No green card. No checking to see if they have health insurance. Instead he says to the disciples—and to us—“you give them something to eat”. Find out what these hurting folks need. Even though you think you haven’t got enough. Even though you’ve scrounged and you think all you got is bupkis. Find out what these hurting folks need.
Because the power in this story isn’t about just about the bread and the fish. It’s about not being sent away, even when we’re in a wilderness place. It’s about when we’re in an aching, broken place, we’re welcomed anyway. Rather than focusing on what we think we lack, it’s about lifting up what we do have, giving thanks for it, blessing it and sharing it. It’s about giving even when we think we have nothing to give and no way is there enough to go around.
Lately I’ve been witnessing a fair amount of nastiness, meanness, snarly behavior from folks—online, in the paper, in the news, on the highway, in the varied levels of government, maybe you can name your own eyewitness accounts.
We are in danger of becoming a people that does not trust each other. The wilderness, the forsaken place is in danger of becoming a battlefield. The walls are coming down and we are desperately keeping the lines drawn. Need I remind any of us that today is Hiroshima Day of Remembrance. On that day alone it is estimated that 70,000 people were killed. Every year since 1947 the city of Hiroshima hosts a Peace Memorial Ceremony. Everything about WWII and every war since reminds us what human beings are capable of and what is at stake.
If we solely think we are weak, that there is no power within human beings, and we need only wait for rescue, we make ourselves playthings of an inhuman god.
But Jesus says no. It is all this. We are weak, we’re hungry, we’re hurting, we need saving AND we still have power, strength, resources, the capacity for grace and compassion even when it looks like we’ve got nothing.
Unlimited, undeserved, unconditional love. A transcendent mystery we call God. In you and in me. It’s there in everyone, if we dig deep enough. Lift it up, bless it, give thanks, and share it. There will be more than enough.