sermon july 31 and aug 3

Please pray with me

Yesterday I received a piece of mail that puzzled and perplexed me.

I saw the return address and knew who sent it.

But I had no idea what was contained in the package.

You see, this friend had posted a few weeks ago that she would be sending snail mail in July. And I had responded to her post saying that I would absolutely LOVE to receive some random piece of mail.

Which I got.

I opened my mailbox to find a long flat-ish package that weighed next to nothing.

When I got back to my house, I opened it.

And started to laugh.

Then I found the message attached and laughed some more.

“I figure this is what every female clergy person needs to harness the magical powers of the office. May it do good work for all people in God’s name!”*

Now, I bet you are wondering why on earth I would ever talk about a wand that is a means to harness the magical powers of the office.

I’ll tell you why.

Because I think that Jesus’ followers could have used such a wand as this.

Now, I will have to confess that I love all things magical, including witches and wizards. I heart Harry Potter, the sisters from the Charmed TV series, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

In the Harry Potter series, the wand is not a source of power (although it has its own magical abilities). Instead it usually amplifies and directs the power that is already in the witch or wizard.

I think in our story, the disciples could have used a wand to help amplify their own powers, their own faith so that they could feed the five thousand.

But they lack such a wand.

They flounder and stutter in disbelief that they are to help feed thousands of people.

But God does just that.

Jesus takes what small offering they had and makes it to be more than enough to provide for the people.

This is not the first time, nor is it the last, when we read about how God is able to provide for the people of God using what small gifts an individual has.

In Isaiah we read about God’s open invitation to those who lack, to those who are hungry and thirsty, to those who do not have enough.

God invites them to feast without needing to pay. Much like our gospel lesson, God provides abundance when others see scarcity.

God is able to use the small amounts already present to be the abundance.

Today we read about those who are more concerned with money than with feeding others.

Money becomes a stumbling block.

Money becomes a weakness.

Money prevents them from being able to do God’s work with what they have already been given.

Fortunately, the story never ends with lack.

Today we know that many are hungry and thirsty. We know that many people die each day because they lack.

But we also know that we can help.

I recently read somewhere that the overall extreme poverty has lessened somewhat in the world. Poverty still exists, but the extreme poverty is less. Even as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer (especially in comparison), people are making a difference when they share what they were given.

Last year I helped a mission program that focuses on feeding people overseas. Feed My Starving Children is one of many programs that looks at the world and sees abundance. They are actively trying to feed people by focusing on the food as opposed to the money first. The first concern for FMSC and other mission organizations is the fact that people suffer, so they keep it simple and give food.

Feeding people is easy when we are able to share what we already have.

I once heard a retelling of the story in which Peter and Jesus are chatting after the food had been blessed, passed around and collected to fill baskets.

But the difference is that the food multiplied because people would add food to the basket. Those who were hungry took what they needed, and many contributed what they didn’t require. In the end, there was more than enough.

While Peter may have been disappointed that the miracle was not Jesus’ blessing as the source for multiplication, Jesus had no such problem. Jesus was pleased and saw that the people’s generosity as miraculous. People shared what little they had and it was more than enough. Their giving was a miracle.

Now, this may not be how the food came to fill 12 baskets, but it does fascinate me. Isn’t it amazing to think that the miracle may not be the food but the giving? That the focus is not on the bread, but on the abundance?

Scarcity was transformed into abundance.

Like a wand that is able to multiply what is already present, Jesus’ blessing seems to push along the few loaves and fishes to become something miraculous.

This story is about how God is able to provide abundantly, where one small gift becomes much larger.**

This story has been told for generations and will continue to be shared. God uses people and objects that are offered in order to provide more than enough for others.

To paraphrase my friend, “May you do good work for all people in God’s name!” Amen

*{side note: i was sad not to received creepy art from a rummage sale, but this gift from L did make my day}

** i totally pulled out another harry potter reference at one of my services when i got to this point, but i don’t remember what i said exactly since it was spur of the moment…totally spirit inspired

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