When I was a parish pastor, I always looked forward to this midsummer period in Year B, when I got to spend 5 weeks in a row with the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. The denomination in which I am ordained in eucharistically challenged, in that it has taken us a generation to move from celebrating the eucharist four times per year to celebrating it once a month. It is my sincere hope that, with a great deal of coaxing, teaching, wooing and begging, we will finally achieve weekly celebration in another generation or two
That is why the month-plus sojourn with the image of Jesus as the Bread of Life always attracted me as a preacher. It was an opportunity to increase the depth, color and sharpness of the eucharistic imagery in my congregation’s imaginations, particularly (in this week’s gospel lesson) the astonishing ability of something as small as a symbolic meal to enable us to take the mysterious presence of Christ into our ordinary material lives.
In 2009, Dean L. Francis invited readers of Homily Service to consider this relationship between small things and great realities, as illustrated by the unknown boy’s decision to share his lunch resulting in the feeding of the multitude.
All that we know is that this boy was somehow convinced by the disciples to share his food with this great crowd... The reality is that it is not the way we treat each other as adults or as nations. We still live in a world where sharing is not the norm. The result is that many go hungry while the rest of us wallow in our abundance. It happens in large part because we fail to believe that great things can come from small beginnings.
Over the years, we have lost our faith in that proclamation. But the early church knew it well; it was not some vast monolithic movement, but instead in consisted of small groups of frightened saints. So when Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am among them,” he underscored not just the reality of an emerging faith movement, but he also pointed backward to the reality that he had preached throughout his ministry - the reality of the mustard seed and the loves and fishes. It doesn’t take that much to make large changes in the world. From the small and seemingly insignificant can emerge a sign that builds upon a kingdom that knows no end.
Do you struggle with recognizing and celebrating the value of small accomplishments? Does our culture’s fascination with grand spectacle undermine the church’s proclamation of the sacramental nature of God’s relationship to human life?
Dean L. Francis, Homily Service 42:3, 96-97.
Dean L. Francis is senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Evanston, Illinois.