The Miracle of Sharing
John 6: 1-14 July 5, 2020
Rev. David J. Clark
We’re nearing the end of our series, Don’t Just Go Through It, Grow Through It! We’ve been talking about the growth metaphors that Jesus used. These metaphors have been particularly apt in helping us think about how to approach these extraordinary times.
After the crops are grown, there is a matter of distribution, getting the food to the people who need it. The story of Jesus feeding the multitudes gives us keys to how we as people of faith are called to address hunger shortages today in a way that will lead to our own spiritual growth.
Feeding the Multitudes
The feeding story is told by all four gospel writers, some of the gospels chronicle multiple mass feedings by Jesus. There are always common elements to the stories. There is a huge crowd, and as it gets late in the day, the disciples ask Jesus to send everyone home so they can eat. But Jesus sees the opportunity for an object lesson.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus says, “You feed them.”
The disciples erupt with objections in essence saying, “What, Jesus, you think money just grows on trees that we can afford take-out for 5,000 people? ‘Take out’ won’t be invented for another 2,000 years.”
Essentially the disciples say, “It’s not my problem.” It always reminds me of this fun sketch.
Just then a boy emerges with his meager rations 2 fish, five barley loaves. Barley loaves were what the poor kids ate, all their families could afford. He’s willing to share.
Jesus says, “Okay, that’s good enough. Sit people in the green grass. Just like Psalm 23. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
The gospel writers use the same actions as at the last supper to describe what happens next. Jesus took the bread. He blessed it. He broke it. He gave it to them. The boy gave his all. Jesus gave his all. That’s where transformation and the miracles begin.
More than Enough
Somehow it was enough–more than enough, with 12 baskets full leftover. Twelve, of course, is not a throwaway detail in the story. In the Bible the number 12 recalls the 12 tribes of Israel, it stands for the whole nation. The object lesson is that Jesus provides for the spiritual hunger of a nation that had been crying out to God for centuries. God provides. God provides.
It’s a message we need right now. God has not forgotten us. God provides. Don’t get into the trap of deficit thinking. The parallel story is when Jesus turned water into wine. It wasn’t a tiny bit, but he turned 6 jars with up to 30 gallons each into wine. 180 gallons of wine for a party that had already run out. The message is: this is the God of abundance. Enough for you. Enough love, enough wisdom, enough strength, enough resources to see you through.
We tend to be fearful, skittish sheep. This lesson Jesus asks us to trust for ourselves there will be enough. Don’t make decisions based on fear. We should always be asking ourselves if our actions demonstrate fear to God or faith that we can do what we know in our hearts is right.
I’ve seen so many individuals never take the chance, never fully invest themselves in anything because they don’t let go of their fear and trust in the God of abundance.
There is enough for us. For our church, for our nation, for the world.
The Miracle of Sharing
It starts with someone sharing. That little boy and his meager 5 loaves and 2 fish. Biblical scholars point out that there is something odd missing from the text. It doesn’t say that the essence of the bread and the fish were miraculously altered. It just says after they were distributed everyone ate and there was more than enough. My seminary professor rocked my world when he said that, maybe the real miracle was that when they saw the example of that poor boy giving all he had, others were moved to reach into their bags and pull out and share the food they had brought, too. What? All these people go out for the day and not one of them except the kid thought to bring any food with them? Highly unlikely. And when sharing you don’t hoard, gorging yourself, you act modestly, concerned for others.
This is the miracle of sharing. Of people being inspired by the offering of one to do their part, too. Come on, tell me this hasn’t happened to you. You’ve been inspired by someone who has made a sacrifice, someone who gave of their time, talent, and treasure and you felt this compulsion to do your part. Isn’t that what’s kept this country going as well as it has for the last 200 years? Our church, our community also?
In the story, it wasn’t a food shortage problem, it was a distribution problem. Getting everyone to share and help each other out. There was more than enough food. Just so, in this world and our country where millions are food insecure, there is not a food and resource problem, there is a distribution problem.
I remember the farm crisis of the 1980s. People were losing their family farms left and right. They couldn’t get rid of their crops, there was a glut. Mountains of corn were piled outside the grain elevators, rotting, even though people were starving throughout the world. The then as now isn’t that there isn’t enough food, it’s not being distributed to where it needs to be.
God has given us this earth and it provides. We have enough food. Our food waste is more than enough to get everyone fed. So much is wasted.
“Just how much food do Americans waste? Here’s some “food” for thought: The United States is the global leader in food waste, with Americans discarding nearly 40 million tons of food every year. That’s 80 billion pounds of food and equates to more than $161 billion, approximately 219 pounds of waste per person, and 30-40 percent of the US food supply. Most of this food is sent to landfills; food is the single largest component taking up space inside US landfills. In fact, it makes up 22 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW). https://www.rts.com/resources/guides/food-waste-america/#:~:text=The%20facts%3A%20How%20much%20food%20is%20wasted%20in%20America&text=That’s%2080%20billion%20pounds%20of,of%20the%20US%20food%20supply.
We don’t have a production problem we have a distribution problem, and a waste problem. We have the knowledge to make incredible advances in food production and now we’re learning how to do it better. Growing things that are more healthy and looking at sustainability. The production of food and wealth are incredible right now.
We have a distribution problem. Getting it where it needs to be. For many families, it is a crisis right now. In the wealthiest nation of all time, nearly 40 million unemployed people right now. Millions and millions of people live in poverty and near-poverty rates. UNICEF says that 22,000 people die every day because of poverty. What if the news started showing that graphic every day, would it be enough to jolt us out of complacency?
Even in the world’s greatest food-producing nation, children and adults face poverty and hunger in every county across America. https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/facts
The coronavirus pandemic has left millions of families without stable employment. More than 54 million people, including 18 million children, may experience food insecurity in 2020.
A household that is food insecure has limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life.
Children are more likely to face food insecurity than any other group in the United States.
Unemployment has dropped a couple of percentage points but 1.4 million more people filed for unemployment.
Because healthcare is tied to employment millions are without it during a pandemic, right when they need it the most.
We see the problems. The surge in homelessness. There is generational poverty. Systemic racism and poor educational systems are surely part of the problem. America today is suffering from the effects of a chronic resource distribution problem.
And it is not okay to say, “It’s not my problem.” There is nothing in the gospel that lets us get away with that kind of thinking. In Matthew 25, Jesus gives the parable of the sheep and the goats. He says as you have treated the poor, the least of these, so have you treated me. It is not just about individual morality. The beginning of the parable he says this is how nations are judged. Our nation is under the judgment of God for how we treat the poor.
There needs to be public policy shifts. They are complicated and there are always unintended consequences with policy. Sometimes we build even more dependency. Good people have different visions of what’s best. We should immerse ourselves in learning and advocating.
But it starts with a will to say, yeah, it’s all of our problem. I’m willing to do my part. To get informed, to advocate, to open my heart.
Miracles can happen. And it begins by sharing of what we have. That we will make sacrifices. I’ve talked to so many children of the Great Depression era who have said we helped each other. That’s how we survived.
And so our church is dedicated to helping. We share we give to worldwide missions, hunger relief agencies in our community and country. We have COA, feeding homeless here. We give to food pantries that are such difference makers in providing food that helps make the difference for families to be able to use money for rent that keeps them off the streets.
We are Jesus’s disciples and his message to us is the same as he had for his disciples. You feed them. Get stuff organized and share. There’s more than enough. Experience the miracle of sharing and do your part. Amen.