THE COVENANTS, WORSHIP, AND THE PROMISES
Sun Aug 3 2014: 8A Pentecost/ Proper 13
Isa 55:1-5; Ps 145:15-22; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14:13-21
A. CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCES AROUND US–AND THE MESSIANIC MEAL
We are often aware of the real need—for example, the wars, disease, and hunger–that there is in the world around us, the community around us, and sometimes in our own homes. In our Epistle reading (Rom 9:1-5) St Paul speaks about “the covenants… worship… and promises” God gave to the Israelites. How do these connect with the tide of needs around us?
Our gospel reading today describes a situation in which the crowd of many more than 5000 did not only have spiritual hunger, but they were hungry and thirsty and out of reach of basic resources. There were many children there. It could indeed quickly turn into a mob, a fiasco.
B. GOD’S COMPASSION
In our readings from Isa, the Psalm, and the gospel, we read that God or Jesus had COMPASSION. First, Jesus healed them. Then, repeatedly in these same three readings, this love of God is expressed as giving us (good) food to eat. Throughout Israel’s long history, the covenant of God’s loving compassion had constantly reached out to the People of Israel.
The book of Baruch also predicts that the Messiah, when he came, would again feed the people with manna, as God had before fed the Israelites with manna in the wilderness. Before that, in the Exodus, there was the Passover meal. So God’s compassion and the divinely anointed meal wove through the history of Israel.
So we read that, expressing God’s compassion, Jesus said to his disciples the following: That the huge crowd “Need not go away. You give them something to eat.”
“What?” We can imagine the disciples thinking, “Surely he is joking!?”
In terms of resources (of food), the disciples were more conscious of what they did NOT have, than they were conscious of what they DID have. At that level of consciousness is the level of the spiritual dimensions of the situation.
C. OUR RESOURCES
Then Jesus drew attention to the VERY FEW resources of food which the disciples did indeed already have. Like Abraham, Moses, and all the heroes of faith, WHEN THE DISCIPLES BELIEVED GOD OR JESUS, AND BECAME ACTIVE AND INVOLVED (<NB) in distributing the few resources they had, it released God’s miraculous power. This has recurred constantly throughout the manifold crises of the history of faith.
So we have that predicted Messianic meal in Jesus’ “Feeding of the 5000.” That Messianic meal predicted by the prophets continued not only in that Feeding, but further onward in the Eucharist, which Jesus instituted. Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and gave it to the people–a fourfold movement present in the Passover meal, the feeding of the 5000, and the Eucharist. It is the continuing covenant of God’s compassion, and steadfast, sure love being with us. Everyone then, and since then, has been welcome, invited, able to eat, and able to receive the grace of God, both materially and spiritually.
We often feel we do not have enough. I feel that I do not have enough with everything I do as a pastor. Parents may often feel that they do not have enough in raising their own children. And yet, as we step out in faith, sharing what we do have, miracles unfurl. Millions of people have followed after Jesus, and history changed because of it.
D. RESPONDING TO GOD
Most of the problems which confront humanity or any of us as individuals can be dealt with provided there is united action in faith. We all hesitate to begin with. It takes real faith and spiritual maturity to offer or tithe our time, treasure, and talent. Doctors without borders are examples of people who do offer, and of the divine result that appears. But the key is this very spiritual maturity to take united action in faith, and marshal our limited resources accordingly.
Through united action as a congregation we reach out to others with the gospel, echoing the gospel reading today. We can do the same thing as individuals when we engage with colleagues at work and every one we meet, offering ourselves to them with a sense of God’s compassion.
As we come forward to receive the bread which Jesus broke this morning, let it be an expression of our personal “Yes”, echoing that long ago “Yes” of the disciples. Let us, like them, respond to Jesus’ call to share our microscopic resources—our talents, time, and treasure–in faith and action.
Then we too will see the miracle of the Messianic meal right here.