October 27, 2019

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

Traditional Service:

Scripture Reading: John 6:1-14

Feeding the Five Thousand

6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.[a] A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages[b] would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they[c] sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

Footnotes:

  1. John 6:1 Gk of Galilee of Tiberias
  2. John 6:7 Gk Two hundred denarii; the denarius was the usual day’s wage for a laborer
  3. John 6:10 Gk the men


Sermon: “What if…We Shared?

We had our trunk or treat extravaganza out in the parking lot Friday night and, this week, at least some of us look forward to Thursday evening, when Halloween officially arrives.

 Of course, costumes are part of the fun, even though, let’s face it, some are better than others.

Charlie Brown

 

If you don’t have your costume picked out yet, do I have a deal for you! You could end up with a lot more than just a rock.

The Budweiser Brewing Company, and specifically its Natural Light brand, is running a costume contest which could score you $10,000 if you win the first prize, or a thousand bucks if you’re one of ten runners up.

Natural Light is asking drinkers to dress up in costumes that represent real-life “adulting” fears. Here are a few examples.

  • One is a person dressed in a prison uniform dragging a ball and chain, shackled by student loan debt.

 

  • Another is the adulting fear of moving back in with mom and dad.

 

  • Still another shows that scourge of living on your own, the bottomless laundry basket that fills up, as if by magic, just when you think you’ve reached the bottom.

 

As Daniel Blake, Director of US Value Brands at Anheuser-Busch put it, “It’s real life nightmares, like finding a job right after graduation and apartment security deposits, that are truly frightening.”

You don’t have to be a millennial for adulting fears to keep you awake at night.

In 2014, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the National Council on Aging, United healthcare, and USA Today, surveyed 1000 adults sixty and older and ask them about their regrets. Only 17 percent didn’t have any to offer.

Among the fifty regrets that made the list are quitting school, not taking vacations, and not eating healthier.

Then there’s the nasty trifecta of spending too little time with your parents, trying to live up to your parents’ expectations, or forcing your opinions on your children.

 Other regrets include letting friendships fizzle, not telling people you love them, and not spending more time with your family.

Holding onto grudges made the list, as did not apologizing more, being ungrateful, not standing up for others, being unkind, spending too much time worrying, and not seeing someone before they died.

As if all that isn’t scary enough, let me add one more fear that can affect people at any age, the fear of being “used up.” I have a little clip here does a good job of illustrating it.

 

Clip

 

Many of us know the feeling of trying to keep all our plates up and spinning. It becomes harder and harder to make room for more because, at least in our own mind’s eye, we have no room left.

We’re afraid that if we add even one more plate, not only will it come crashing down, but so will everything else.

We’re too overwhelmed to care, or at least to try to make a difference. All of which brings us to this morning’s Scripture lesson.

You heard the story. Jesus is teaching his disciples on a mountain when a large crowd who’d followed him from the other side of the Sea of Galilee showed up.

Jesus turns to Philip, who in John’s Gospel often speaks for the church, and asks him, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”

And Philip, in true churchy fashion, says, “We can’t afford it! Six months wages wouldn’t buy enough bread for each of them to get even a little. Send them home, Jesus. Tell them they’re on their own.”

There just wasn’t enough food to go around.

Stephen Covey talks about abundance versus scarcity mindsets in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

The scarcity mentality sees life as having only so much. There’s one pie out there. If someone else gets a piece of it, that’s means there’s less for me.

The abundance mindset, on the other hand, believes there’s enough to spare and more. It sees possibilities and options, alternatives and creativity.

Those two ways of looking at the world have some real-life consequences.

  • People with an abundance mindset aren’t afraid to think big, while those with a scarcity mindset only see life’s limits.

 

  • People with an abundance mindset are optimists and can be happy for others. Those with a scarcity mindset resent others’ success.

 

  • Someone with an abundance mindset embraces and accepts change as part of life. Those of a scarcity mindset spend their lives afraid, reluctantly accepting change, if at all.

 

  • Those with an abundance outlook are hungry for learning and for growth. They spend their life developing new skills. People with a scarcity mindset turn away from chances to learn more, afraid of anything that might challenge or change their ideas.

 

  • Those with a scarcity mindset focus on what’s not working, and so let worry, fear, anger, and resentment rule their lives. Those with an abundance mindset are open to life’s possibilities and, as a pastor, I would add, to the power of God’s grace. They focus on what’s working and see what’s possible.

 

In this story, the real miracle is Jesus showing a crowd of over 5,000 people that, in a world where we’re told to look out of number one and let everyone else take care of themselves, God is a God of plenty, and freely shares this plenty with the world.

 John makes that point over and over again in his gospel.

  • In the very first chapter, he calls Jesus the Word from whose fullness we’ve all received grace upon grace.

 

  • Jesus then turns water into wine at a wedding in Cana and later tells a woman at a well in Samaria about living water that gushes up to eternal life.

 

  • Later still, Jesus promises his downcast disciples that there are many dwelling places in his Father’s house.

 

With all those clues, the abundance that Christ made possible shouldn’t have surprised either Philip or the crowd. Yet it did, just as it surprises us today.

Jesus still asks us to come as we are, bringing what we have, our five loaves and two fish, our struggling faith and our flawed love. He’ll bless and miraculously multiply it in ways impossible for us. The first step, though, is finding the courage to give and to share.

Too often, friends, our faith mirrors that of Philip, who couldn’t see past six months’ wages or five loaves and two fish.

We live with a scarcity mindset, and so scrape and hoard and save and worry and live life in small, safe doses, shutting ourselves off from the abundance God offers.

It’s time for us to offer what we have in Christ’s service and take seriously God’s generous offer of life—going places we’ve never been, doing things we’ve never tried, and becoming people we never dreamed we’d be.

We might not end up wealthy as the world measures wealth, but we’ll set out on an adventure of faith that enriches our lives and helps us joyfully embrace the challenges God places before us.