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.