Isaiah 55:1-5; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21
Bringing together the kernel of each of these scripture readings, we find a challenging assertion: We believe and live, for the most part, as if we have nothing much and what we do have is not of much use because it is not enough. Yet, the truth of God’s power resident in our midst, is that we have a huge over-abundance, enormous gifts, already given to us by God and blessed for us to share.
The question preachers can always fruitfully ask is this: What is the risen one doing in the assembly by means of these texts?
Here, the story of Jesus’ feeding so many with so little pulls us toward a new understanding of creation as a gift filled with gifts.
Even as he grieves the loss of John, his baptizer, cousin, and friend, Jesus turns to others, healing and feeding, blessing and even chastising (“… you give them something to eat.”)
Actually, there are two meals laid side by side in this chapter [of Matthew], two contrasting meals. First was the birthday feast at Governor Herod’s palace. A gathering that features overindulgence and grasping for power is the setting for scheming and revenge—and the host orders the beheading of John the Baptist. In the next scene, we are with Jesus amidst a sick and hungry multitude and we see care and provision: the host sets a table for all . . .
The starting point of God’s economics is the distribution of what is necessary for life in the creation. God is love. And God also wills to set things right that are out of balance—to turn things around rightwise so that no one is left out. In today’s story, the pretense of scarcity is not tolerated by Jesus as the starting point for economics. The righteousness of God creates the justice that enables the five thousand to share loaves and fishes (M. Douglas Meeks, God the Economist [Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1989], 174).
–– The Rev. Stephen C. Kolderup, Interim Pastor, South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville, Florida
‘‘Ho, everyone who thirsts come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!’’ Part of the very evangelical reason that the Lord’s supper need be celebrated in each church on the Lord’s day is this invitation. It’s a remarkable thing really. Regardless of class, gender, race, nationality, ethnic persuasion, on any given Lord’s day people may gather and eat without buying. This is of course rooted in the character of who Jesus is. The evangelical presentation Sunday by Sunday is just this: The table is spread; come and eat; come to the waters. All are invited, and any one can. What matters is that this presentation of the table, Christ, tangible grace, his church, and a new life with the people, are presented and offered each Sunday.
––John E. Smith
Perhaps the best question for this day is one that points to the fundamental fears that keep us individually and as communities from living in a way that enriches us.
God is offering such abundant goodness, what keeps us from receiving these gifts with open arms? Why spend money for that which is not bread? Why labor for that which does not satisfy?
––The Rev. Beth Herrinton-Hodge, Presbyterian minister
Paul’s anguished words tell of his sorrow that those he most desires to be bound to the Christ he knows are not, in fact, coming to see the way he sees. He speaks “in Christ.” This is a power position but not one that may conjure up more in our time than a distasteful top-down authority. Paul’s desire is that something might penetrate the people’s inability to enter into the gifts.
What are those gifts? They are adoption as the people of God, glory, covenants, the law, worship and God’s promises, the patriarchs and the Messiah. This list is another way to see the abundance of life on earth in God’s keeping. The church stands as witness to these things.
Quotes are from Homily Service 41, no. 3 (3 August 2008): 128-137