Unity in Lynnwood, WA
17th Sunday in Ordinary time
Readings - Roman Catholic
First Reading 2 Kings 4:42-44
Second Reading Ephesians 4:1-6
Gospel John 6:1-15
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people recline." Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, "This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world." Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Sermon - Fr. Dan Duval
In the readings we just heard, we have two similar stories. We here about two teachers doing the same exact same thing hundreds of years apart. Study of the Bible will reveal that there are many repeats or remakes, if you will in the New Testament from the old testament. Similar stories set in another time and slightly different places.
So what is it about this story that is interesting enough to repeat? Why is it important for the writers telling an old story anew to put this lesson in front of us again?
It is an amazing story in and of itself. A little bit of food being able to feed thousands of people. If we were to take the rendition in the Gospel at face value and literally, as many do, we would be talking about Jesus’ ability to bend the laws of nature. Some would say that this ability is what makes Jesus great and why we should worship him. Anyone that can do things that other people can’t must surely be a great man.
However, when we read in the book of Kings that Elisha was able to do the same thing, we then wonder, if this is a great trick by two men, or two men blessed by God with the same ability to bend the laws of nature, or perhaps, if we look a bit deeper, we may see the same teaching about the gifts that are available to us all from God and the knowledge that those close to God have about such things.
Could it be that this story is not to be taken literally and the food that is presented in both stories can be seen as the many gifts The Divine puts forth for us? What wonderful gifts are we offered that we mistake for the ordinary trappings of life? When we mistake these gifts for ordinary everyday objects or happenings, do we miss an opportunity to allow them to grow and multiply within us? What gifts do we miss because we are not ready to see them as such?
How many wonderful opportunities do we miss to serve others because we believe we do not have not much to offer? Do we hold back from giving because we are shy about what we can offer? Is it good enough? Will my kind word or simple smile to a stranger make any difference in this world? Will holding a door open for someone change anything in the big picture?
In these times in which we are living, we see big things we would like to influence. Many of us feel helpless to move the mountains if injustice that we see. We feel helpless and insignificant when confronted with the magnitude of what is happening in our world. We buy Into the idea that a few loaves of bread, a few ears of corn or a few fish can not possibly make a difference to a multitude of hungry people.
One of the explanations that is often given for how Jesus was able to provide so much food on that mountain is the possibility that when other people, who had brought food but did not want to take it out and share with their neighbor saw the lone boy coming forward with his offerings, they were encourages to share with each other. Perhaps they shared a few olives, or some bread of their own. Perhaps others had grapes or figs that they added to someone else meager meal of dried fish? In this way, as meager portions were shared, all had more than enough to eat and there was more to share.
Imagine that scene. People trying to hide their meager snacks and keep their food to themselves. We can almost see them shrinking into themselves and turning away from each other so as not to be found out or embarrassed by their own lack. Imagine the scene when everyone started turning toward the people around them to share what little they carried with them. People turning toward each other. Conversations happening. People sharing a meal and fellowship.
It reminds me of a meal that I had earlier this week with a number of people, some in this room right now. A meal that started out with people being polite and reserved as custom dictates. Then, as we all began to share with each other the meager offerings of ourselves, we were transformed. We were drawn toward each other in a new way. We began to see ourselves as compassionate human beings as well as part of a greater sameness . We were no longer polite strangers but now we could see how similar we are in that we all have our pain and struggles. We all have our joys and celebrations. Somehow this sharing transformed us, just a little.
Can this be a small part of what the readings of today are tying to say to us? Can we take this wisdom so recently experienced to heart? Can we explore how sharing from our perceived limited supply enriches us personally and those around us? How much of this risking and sharing of our resources regardless of how meager we believe them to be can actually tip the balance of the world of fear currently surrounds us.
May we take from this place the courage to share what we have and who we are, regardless of how worthy or rich we perceive it to be and may we be enriched many times over for our sacrifices.
Interfaith Mission of Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi, Tulalip, WA
The 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings - Roman Catholic Church
First Reading Jeremiah 23:1-6
Second Reading Ephesians 2:13-18
Gospel Mark 6:30-34
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Sermon - Fr. Dan Duval
As in all readings in the Catholic Churches throughout the world, today's readings are linked together by some com on threads. These groupings were made centuries ago and today it can be difficult to enter the mind of those who originally grouped them to understand what connections they were making and what connections they would like us to uncover.
Today seems to be a chronoloqical grouping of an extended timeline. In our first reading, the people of God are scattered and become "lost" apparently by being mislead and God promises to gather them back completely as a united people.
The responsorial psalm reminds us that The Lord is our Shepard, with an image that would have had much more resonance with the people of that time frame. In those days most people were at least familiar with shepherds and saw them on a daily basis either up close or from afar. Most knew that a shepherd's main job was to keep the sheep safe and this was done by keeping them close to each other and not allowing any of them to wander too far.
The second reading is telling us that Jesus came to repair the splintering in the first reading. He came to abolish the laws that had replaced the people as sacred beings so that all of creation can once again be reunited. This is a reminder that we are all beings from the same source and Jesus' goal was to remind us of that.
The Gospel, our third reading, takes a scene that comes on the heels of the beheading of John the Baptist. Last week we heard the story of Herod having John beheaded at the request of his step daughter and his wife because John was outspoken in that Herod and his wife were living outside of the law.
Soon after John's beheading, the apostles who were sent out by Jesus to preach and heal the sick, return, most likely frightened. John had been preaching against the ways of Rome and lost his head in return. Similarly, the apostles were carrying the message of Jesus, which was also seen as adversarial to the occupiers of the area. Romans and Jews did not live by the same laws and were culturally largely in opposition. Jesus and the apostles were also not only challenging the Romans but Jewish law as well. Jesus and the apostles were calling into question all of the formal rules of both predominant cultures of their time. They were questioning the morality of the laws and those who lived either completely outside any law or were so rigid with the laws that they were missing the point of them. We can imagine that the apostles, upon hearing about John's execution, put their own missions on hold and headed back to Jesus and perceived safety rather quickly.
Jesus, being empathetic to their fears when they arrived was wiling to take them away to rest and most likely lay low until the uproar over John had died down.
So, they set out by boat on this attempt to stay out of the public eye for a bit, but when they got to where they were going, Jesus sees people waiting to hear what he has to say. People who were desperate to find a way out of their poverty both body and soul.
The popularity of Jesus had made it quite difficult for them to sneak away until things cooled down a bit. When Jesus got out of the boat and saw numerous people waiting for him with hope, for a better life he made a decision to put his own safety second to the crowds desire to hear from him.
Those people were willingly risking their own safety by gathering in numbers, which would have surely gotten the attention of the Romans.
The Romans were careful not to let crowds gather in occupied territories. Crowds are difficult to control without proper reinforcements, so Jesus was very aware that he was putting himself at risk, especially so soon after John's execution, AND, he did it anyway.
Our times, are very much like the times in each one of our readings, which by themselves span a thousand years or more. This drama continues to play out of differences separating people; differences of all kinds, class, race, religion, cultures, gender, sexuality, and I could continue on about the things that have separated us over time, and they continue to play out.
It seems that the further we get from each other we lose sight of our commonalities and fear takes hold. As we heard in the first reading, "You have scattered my sheep and driven them away from me". How far do we have to go into fear to be driven from the unity of all creation; the complete essence of the Divine? And at what risk do we attempt to heal those divides? How far do we go with extending ourselves or putting ourselves in harm's way for another person, animal, plant, or any aspect of our universe that is under attack by fear or greed? At what personal risk are we willing to put ourselves out there to stand up for the other? At what risk to ourselves do we question the laws that hurt and further separate people from each other and the land that nurtures us? Are we willing to risk imprisonment? Assault? Or possibly even the loss of our lives by standing up for those who are under attack?
We each have our own causes and our own way of challenging the separateness we experience. We each have a place within ourselves that brings with discomfort and fear of going too far and possibly experiencing rejection, ridicule, physical or emotional harm. What is whispering in your heart as your role in the Divine's attempt to bring the flock of creation back into Atonement (At One Ment). How do we behave as Shepards to ourselves and that part of creation we are drawn to unite to the rest?
We are the Shepards that God is talking about in the first reading. We are the shepherds who will be raised up to answer that voice that is planted in our hearts and souls to reach out to others. We are being asked to find our own Divinity in our humanity just as Jesus did so we may see that Divinity in others. We are being sent as the apostles were to go out into the world for its healing. We are also being given permission to seek refuge from our own fear and after re-grouping, go again into the world as long as there is healing to be done.
May we experience the stillness in ourselves to hear our own calls, the support to nurture them, the confidence to enact them and a safe port in the storm when we are afraid of the magnitude of our tasks. May we always remember we are shepherded and called to be shepherds to all there is. Amen.