8th Sunday after Pentecost, year A, 2014 (preached August 3, 2014)
first reading: Isaiah 55:1-5
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21
second reading: Romans 9:1-5
gospel reading: Matthew 14:13-21
In three of our four passages from scripture today we read about banquets, feasts and miracles.
As human beings we may have a “higher consciousness” but when we look at the reality of our needs, we’re still animals. Still creatures of the Creator. Without food to eat and water to drink we die. It’s that simple. Along with breathing, they are some of the basic needs of life.
In our reading from Isaiah, the feast is spiritual in nature. He speaks to both the hungry, and those how are well-fed but really starving for something greater.
In our Psalm, which is attributed to David, we hear, “The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open wide your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
Our gospel reading tells us about one of the most famous miracles of Jesus. A miracle feast, the feeding of the five thousand plus (I say “plus,” because it was five thousand MEN, “besides women and children.”) Who knows how many were fed when you add in those women and children!
Because hunger and thirst are two of our most basic needs of life, they hold great power for us – so it makes wonderful and perfect sense that God would use both the image and reality of food and drink to explore our relationship with one another, and with God’s self.
Basically, what these passages offer to us is this – GOD PROVIDES.
The image AND the reality are that God is able to provide for our needs, and gives US the ability to provide for each other in God’s name.
In Isaiah God reminds us that we need food – both literally AND figuratively, to survive and thrive. Eat your veggies, but don’t forget to feast on the WORD. Gulp down that water, but don’t forget to drink in God’s love. God reminds us that “spiritual” food is just as important for our survival as our fruits and vegetables.
This food is free, this food never runs out, this food is a great banquet – this food can be had for NO money! “…You that have no money, come, buy and eat!” As my Great Aunt Helen used to call us to the table, “Come and get it!”
Why is there no currency involved? Because THIS is food that fills our hearts and souls. That’s why God also lovingly challenges us in these words to keep our priorities in order. “Why do you spend your money for that which is NOT bread, and your labor for that which does NOT satisfy?”
We human beings are often consumed by the desire for “stuff.” We think more “things” will make us happy. We work SO hard for money or power or prestige that can be snatched away on the whims of banks or stock markets or downsizing. God says, “Listen CAREFULLY to ME, and eat what is GOOD…. Incline your ear, and come to ME; listen, so that you may live.”
Our faith, God’s love for us, is something that no one can EVER take away. It will NOT disappear on the whim of some corporate stranger. It will stay with us long after all our earthly pleasures and strength have faded away.
This “rich food” is God’s relationship with us – God beckons to us, the feast is waiting. God provides for our true needs.
Our gospel reading presents the “other side” of providing.
God provides our spiritual food and drink, but God also call us to provide REAL food for one another, and shows us the way in Jesus. Jesus shows us listening to God’s Word also needs to be accompanied by action. I’ve said this many times before, but “love” is a verb because love is an action. Put your money where your mouth is.
Jesus leads by example. When it’s getting late in the day and the disciples want to send the people away to fend for themselves Jesus says no. And not only does Jesus say no, he says, “YOU give them something to eat.” And when they make the excuse that their stock of food is measly, Jesus said, “Bring them here to me” and makes a miracle happen.
Now, you and I are obviously not Jesus. “I” can’t stand here and “poof” feed 5,000 plus people with five loaves and two fish. Yet Jesus tells us repeatedly that our calling is to “love one another,” care for the poor, and “feed my sheep.”
We get our spiritual food, our spiritual strength, from God’s relationship with us: from hearing God’s Word, reading God’s Word, receiving the sacraments, prayer, and worship, and in sharing in community life through the Church.
God provides. God provides the spiritual food that gives us strength that can never be taken away. But then, through YOU and ME God provides physical, literal food so that none need go hungry. Jesus says to you and me, “YOU give them something to eat.”
Sometimes people will ask me, “How can you believe in God when there are children starving in the world?” My answer is that starving people are NOT God’s doing – it’s OUR doing – OUR sin. There is enough food in the world for everyone. Gluttony is just as prevalent as real hunger. Our challenge is to be able to share – to let go.
Jesus calls us to be a community that cares for each other, that LOVES each other, in word AND deed. WE are God’s hands and feet in this world, called to share Jesus’ love and feed his sheep – in our towns and all over the world.
God provides for our needs, and gives US the ability to provide for each other in God’s name.
We give to God what we might think is a measly offering, but then God provides a miracle – and ALL are fed – in more ways than one.