Thursday, July 23, 2015


Today’s Gospel lesson tells of Jesus taking
         a small amount of food, blessing it,
         and turning it into a feast for thousands.
It’s a central story in the New Testament, the only miracle
         recounted in all four Gospels.
It’s obviously super important but what does it mean?

When Jesus did something miraculous
         it wasn’t to hear the crowd gasp and then applaud
                  like at a magic show.
He was trying to show us something.

The next time Jesus saw this crowd
         he challenged them for just eating the bread
                  but not seeing the sign.
They had missed the point.

Mark’s account of this story is close to John’s.
Jesus multiplies the loaves and fishes.
That night he walks on water to help the disciples
         when they are having trouble on the sea.
When he gets in the boat, Mark says,
         “They were dumbfounded because they had
                  not seen what the miracle of the loaves meant.”

So what does this miracle mean?
It’s a story of transformation, change,
         miraculous change that happens by God’s grace.
The point is not to get stuck at the material literal level.
It isn’t about changing a little bread into a lot of bread.
It’s about changing hearts trapped in scarcity
         into hearts of abundance.

It’s like the Eucharist.
One liturgical scholar reminds us
         “The Eucharist isn’t about changing bread;
         it’s about changing lives.”
Just so, Jesus’ miracle of the loaves
         is an outward and visible sign
         of inward and spiritual grace.

Let’s stay with the food situation and bring it up to date.
963 million people live with daily hunger.
Each year, 3 million children die of malnutrition before the age of five.
A child dies of hunger-related causes every five seconds.

But there is already enough food to feed everyone.
The cost of eradicating world hunger is less
         than the United States and Europe spend on pet food.
The problem isn’t our capacity to produce food.
The problem is with our hearts.
Hunger is a spiritual issue.

Senator Mark Hatfield said,
         “We stand by as children starve by the millions
         because we lack the political will to eliminate hunger.
         Yet we have found the will to develop missiles
         capable of flying over the polar ice cap and landing
         within a few hundred feed of their target.
         This is not innovation.
         This is a profound distortion
                  of  humanity’s purpose on earth.”

We don’t need more food, more houses,
         more of any material thing.
We need more love, more grace, more generosity.

St. Paul’s prayer in our Epistle lesson
         describes the kind of change of heart
                  the miracle of the loaves represents.
It’s the same change of heart the Eucharist represents.
He prays that God “out of the riches of his glory” will bless us
         in these ways:
         That we might be strengthened in our inner being
                  with the power of the Holy Spirit;
         That Christ might dwell in our hearts;
         That we might be rooted and grounded in love;
         That we might comprehend the depth and breadth
                  and height of God’s grace;
         That we might know the love of Christ
                  which is beyond the reach of human understanding;
         That we might be filled with God.

Brothers and sisters salvation does not just consist
         in what happens to us in the afterlife.
Salvation is becoming radically changed
         right down to the core of our being
                  – not someday – now, today.

Is that possible?
The resounding answer of Scripture and our faith is Yes!
Paul’s lesson concludes by reminding us
         that this isn’t something we do.
It’s something God does.
And, in Paul’s words, “God’s) power working in us
         can do infinitely more
         than all we can ask or imagine.”

There is no limit to what God can do.
Remember what Mary said to the Angel Gabriel
         at the Annunciation? She said,
         “ How is this possible?’
And the angel said, “All things are possible for God.”
God acting though an illiterate peasant girl in Galilee
         brought forth the savior of the world.
Do you think God can do anything less in you?
Do you think God cannot touch your heart
         and change your life?

What are our lives about, Friends?
What do we spend ourselves on?
“Getting and spending we lay waste our powers,”
         Wordsworth said.
And it’s true. We slog along through lives
         that are beneath the dignity of human nature.

But God can change that.
God wants to change that.
God wants to transform us
         – to transform each individual heart in this room
         – and to transform us together into agents of change
                  in this darkened world.

God did not want 120 children to die of starvation
         during the time of this sermon.
God wants to change that – but he’s not going to do it
         with a magic trick.
He wants to eradicate hunger though changing us,
         through opening our hearts to compassion and mercy.

Christ wants to live in us.
The Holy Spirit wants to empower us for abundant life
         and bold action.
Are we willing?

God can do anything,
         but some things God will not do.
God will forgive us whether we like it or not.
God will love us whether we like it or not.
But God will not change us without our consent.

When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ today,
         will we receive it as sustenance only
                  – or will we be transformed?

Are we willing to live a larger life,
         a life that will not tolerate the cruelty and injustice
                  of this world?
Are we willing to undertake a mission
         that is beyond our human power
                  so that we have to rely on God’s power?
Are we willing to be transformed into the likeness
         of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

How long will we live in his exile?
How long will we tolerate the desolation
         of a routine, respectable, mundane life?
When will we become the people our Maker
         intends us to be?

That is what salvation is.
Salvation is becoming whole.
Salvation is coming into our own,
         being transformed into our true selves.
When will we be saved?

Paul answered that question for the Corinthians.
He wrote: “(God) says, ‘. .  . In the day of salvation I helped you.’
         I tell you,” Paul says, “Now is the time of God’s favor,
         Now is the day of salvation.”

God speaks to us in the now.
Now is the time to become a new being,
         a child of God, worthy of our parentage.
Now is the time to be strengthened in our inner being
         and invite Christ to dwell in our hearts.
Now is the time to be rooted and grounded in love;
         so that we comprehend the depth and breadth
                  and height of God’s grace.
This is the day to know the inestimable love of Christ
         and be filled with God.
And before the sun sets, “God’s) power working in us
         will do infinitely more

         than all we can ask or imagine.”