Enough For Tomorrow

a sermon for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12)

By any measure, the feeding of the 5000 was a miracle, the only miracle that appears in all four accounts of the Gospel. But as amazing as the feeding was, the most important part of the story was what happened next. “They gathered the fragments of bread and fish left over, so that none may be lost.”

This was a sign, a sign that said, “there is more than enough for everyone to eat today, and be able to eat again tomorrow.”

At the end of the Second World War, Allied troops started turning their attention to the problem of what to do about the number of orphan children living on the streets of Europe. So they set up special camps where they could be cared for, and gathered as many of the children who had lost their families as they could find. The camps provided everything they needed: food, shelter, safety, medicine, play and entertainment. But in spite of the excellent care they received, many of the children were so traumatized that they simply could not sleep at night. Then someone came up with the idea to give each child a loaf of bread, not to eat, but to sleep with. Holding their bread, the children were finally able to sleep. It seems that the bread was a sign to those children – a sign that said, “I have eaten today, and will be able to eat again tomorrow.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives the people a sign. The people had come to know that wherever Jesus went, miraculous things happened. So they followed him from village to village, asking him to heal their sicknesses and bless their children. Day in and day out they came until one day, Jesus took his disciples off for a well-deserved retreat in the mountains. But the people kept coming, wandering about “like sheep without a shepherd.” In spite of his exhaustion, Jesus realized that the people needed to be fed. One of the disciples objects based on extremely solid, financial grounds. So Jesus takes a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, gives thanks, blesses it, and feeds all of the people.

si4pa08By any measure, the feeding of the 5000 was a miracle, the only miracle that appears in all four accounts of the Gospel. But as amazing as the feeding was, the most important part of the story was what happened next. “They gathered the fragments of bread and fish left over, so that none may be lost.”

This was a sign, a sign that said, “there is more than enough for everyone to eat today, and be able to eat again tomorrow.”

One of the things that I love about our congregation is that we have always been great at sharing our bread. Our outreach ministries have always been very active, and “feeding” has been at the heart of that. Lots of us have been involved with Hotdogs for the Homeless, and we’ve long supported Sharing God’s Love, which provides food and clothing to people here in Irmo. We have worked to understand poverty right here in our own backyard, and started a backpack ministry for kids at Oak Pointe Elementary. Feeding people is absolutely the most important thing we are called to do as Christians.

Maybe that’s why there are so many stories about Jesus and food. When people are hungry, Jesus says to feed them. But what if folks are hungry for something other than food? Folks who are lonely, and need someone to visit with them; folks who are grieving, and just need someone to sit with them and listen; folks who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, and need a place to recover; folks who have been abused, either as children or as adults; folks who are out of work, and have lost hope in finding a job; folks who are sick, whether in body, mind, or spirit.

Jesus fed the people on that mountain that day, but he gave them so much more than food. He gave them love, he gave them attention, he gave them hope that this was not a one-time event – they would be able to eat again tomorrow. He gave them what they needed so that none may be lost.

And Jesus showed them something else. He showed them that their lives could be about so much more than simply looking for their next meal. They, too, could help feed and nourish other people around them. After all, that’s how the food was distributed – it was passed around, from one person to the next, from one family to another, from neighbor to neighbor. Jesus served the people, so that they, in turn, could feed one another. They fed one another so that none may be lost.

I have been thinking a lot about just what kind of church St. Simon and St. Jude is. Although we have wonderful teachers, but we are not primarily a teaching church. Although we know how to have a good time, we are not primarily a party church. Although our musicians are outstanding, we aren’t primarily a musical church. We are a sacramental church – our primary reason to come together is to share in the mystical body of Christ. Each week, we gather to be fed so that we can feed others. And we are called to feed not just the body, but also the spirit and the soul.

We are a sacramental church, called to be an outward and visible sign of what it means to be Jesus in the world. We are called to reveal the love of God through Jesus Christ, though our love and actions in the world.

And how do we do that? We do that by sharing the Good News that we are all created in the image of God, and that God loves us unconditionally, just the way we are. The news that God loves us so much, that he came to live among us as Jesus, to teach us how to love each other, and restore us to the fullest life possible, a life of abundance through Jesus Christ. That no matter how far we stray from the will of God, or how often, we will be forgiven simply by turning around and asking for forgiveness. And that one day we all will be reunited with God and each other, not by anything we do ourselves, but through the grace that God so freely showers on us.

Sometimes people need bread for the body. There is no question that there are lots of poor and hungry people who need help with groceries or just a simple meal, and we should do everything in our power to make sure they have food. And, sometimes people need bread for the soul. They need a companion to share the burdens of life or someone to simply show them they are loved. Either way, as Christians, our job is to feed God’s people. But first we must be fed by the spiritual food that Christ has given us at the altar. Christ feeds us with sacramental food, so that we, in turn, can become a sacrament – an outward and visible sign that there is enough for everyone here, and there will still be enough tomorrow.

The children who were given bread during the war were given much more than something to eat. They were given something to hold on to, a sign that they were loved and they would not be turned back out into the streets to face starvation and death in the morning, a sign that none of them would be lost. Jesus gives us something to hold on to as well. He gives us a sign that God will still be here – to love us and to feed us – so that we can feed others, this morning and every morning to come.

Thanks be to God.

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