July 29th, 2012 “It is Enough” Rev. Heather Jepsen
John 6:1-21 with Ephesians 3:14-21
We will be leaving Mark behind for a while and spending the next few Sundays in the gospel of John. In fact, we will be spending the next five Sundays simply working our way through chapter 6 of John’s gospel. You will find that John is a lot different from Mark, much different. In fact, John and Mark are probably two ends on a gospel spectrum. Mark has a relatively low Christology (or view of Jesus as God) where John has a very high Christology (making very clear that Jesus is God). Mark writes in very short snippets and John’s stories are longer and more complicated with lots of hidden meaning. Together they offer different yet complimentary views of who Jesus the Christ is.
This morning’s reading from John covers two of the most famous miracle stories about Jesus; the feeding of the crowds and walking on water. The writer of John spends a lot of time discussing signs that Jesus does. These signs are ways of showing those in the story and the reader just who Jesus is.
In the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus is being followed by a large crowd. Jesus asks Phillip how they are going to feed everyone. It is a trick question really as the writer of John tells us that Jesus already knew what he was going to do, he already knew that this was an opportunity for one of his signs. Poor Phillip looks around, does the math in his head, and finds that it would take at least 6 months wages to feed everyone, as if they could even find a market that could handle such an order. Phillip is practical, there is just no way to solve this problem.
Andrew seems to have already anticipated such trouble and has gone through the crowd looking for a possible food source for sharing. All he finds is a small boy’s lunch, five barley loaves and two fish. “But what are they among so many?” Andrew has examined the resources and what they need simply is not available.
Jesus instructs the crowd to sit, blesses the food, and distributes it. Unlike some other tellings of this story, the disciples do not help with distribution. The food passes through Jesus’ hands alone, as this miracle is about his ability to multiply the offering. All are fed, all are full, and the disciples gather up 12 baskets of crust and fish tails; much more than they even began with.
Right away the crowd senses that Jesus is something special. The writer of John tells us that they try to seize Jesus and make him king. And why not? If this guy can make a free lunch, let’s put him in charge and see what else he can do! Jesus withdraws from the crowds and the scene changes.
The disciples are in a boat on the water without Jesus when a storm arises. The writer of John tells us that they are not afraid of the storm, but they are afraid of Jesus when they see him walking towards the boat on the surface of the water. Jesus cries out, “Ego emi” or “I am, be not afraid”. He is basically saying, “It’s me” and “I’m God” at the same time. Unlike other boat stories Jesus doesn’t calm the storm. In a mysterious twist the disciples try to take him into the boat when suddenly they are at the other side of the lake. It is as if they see Jesus, they reach out to him, they blink their eyes, and the boat ride is over.
The writer of the gospel of John tells us these stories so that we will know who Jesus is. The feeding story is easy to understand, Jesus is the one who sees the needs of the people and is able to feed them all with a meager offering. The boat story is harder, as Jesus appears to be the one who can manipulate time and matter. The writer of John wants the reader to know that Jesus is not like a man, rather Jesus is like God. In fact, Jesus is God; hence the “I am” statement so reminiscent of God’s voice from the flaming bush.
As modern believers I think we sometimes struggle with these miracle stories. What once was used to draw people into the faith, or to convince them that Jesus is worthy of their belief, now is actually a bit of a turn off. The Jesus who feeds thousands and the Jesus who walks on water is sometimes harder to believe in than the Jesus who heals or the Jesus who challenges authority. It is easier to relate to Jesus the man than it is to Jesus the God.
I have found that modern people of faith, especially Presbyterians aren’t really interested in telling stories about miracles. What they are interested in is making a real difference in the world. They aren’t really interested in convincing people to become Christians. They are really interested in helping where they perceive there is a need. We want to give people real bread, and if they get spiritual nourishment as well, that’s just a bonus.
I think these miracle stories can speak even into this mindset. When we are looking to address the needs of the world around us, we find that those needs are great. In fact, there is a vast yawning chasm of need here in our own community. From the Food Pantry to the homeless project, from survival house to hospice, from those looking for a job to those struggling to make ends meet, from the sick to the dying the need here in Warrensburg is vast. If we look beyond our community the need simply grows. From the ravages of drought to the scars of gun violence, from the broken economy to the lies of another election cycle, from the endless wars overseas to the unrest here at home; our country is a grand canyon of need. In the whole world we find hunger and pain; in famine and war, crippling poverty and corrupt governments, broken systems and broken people. It seems as if the world is nothing but one great downward spiral.
The Christ the author of John shows us, the Christ who is more God than man, is a Christ who can address this need. When we look at the needs around us, and we look down at our meager loaves and fish, we are tempted to say “But what are they among so many people?” I have such a small offering to give, what difference will it make in the face of such suffering? The author of John tells us that such a meager offering will make all the difference in the world, for in the hands of Christ, this offering will grow to fit the need, in the hands of Christ, our small offering is enough.
I think it can be easy for us as individuals and as a church to loose heart. We are like Phillip, we look around and calculate the need, and then simply state, we can’t do it. We are like Andrew, examining the budget and declaring that there is a limit, this is all we have for mission. If the Christ is not among us to multiply the offering, we would have to give up.
I am going to jump to the letter to the Ephesians now. Here we find a prayer for the church, and I think it is just the prayer we need to hear. The writer prays that the church would be filled with the power of Christ. Our inner being would be strengthened through his Spirit, that we would be rooted and grounded in love, that we would be filled with the fullness of God.
This is not a prayer of scarcity; it is a prayer of abundance. If Christ is among us we will be OK, we will have enough to give, we will give enough, and we will make a difference. If we are rooted and grounded in love we will be like a tree reaching deep into the soil. Nothing, not even the limits of our own offerings will be able to blow us down. When we look at the deep hunger of the crowds, what better prayer is there than that we would be filled with the fullness of God? We can then go out into the world and share that fullness with those who hunger.
You see the church is more than what it looks like on paper. And it is more than what it appears to the eye. We are more than the budget we draw up or the amount of interest we earn on our investments. We are more than this worship place with its stained glass windows and comfy pews. We are more than simply those that attend worship and those who didn’t make it today. In Christ the church is more than the sum of its parts, in Christ we are filled with the fullness of God, in Christ we can do anything.
When we look at the hungry crowds around us, when we look at the world’s need, and Jesus asks us what are we going to do, we should confidently offer up all that we have. For the Jesus of the gospel of John already has big plans for our meager loaves and fish. Through our small offerings, of time and money, big differences are made. Big differences are made in Malawi, and big differences are made in Warrensburg. When we give what we have, our money and ourselves, to those in need, we find that even the smallest offering can make a huge impact. In the hands of the Christ our loaves and fish can feed thousands. In the hands of the Christ what looks like nothing becomes something. In the hands of the Christ, not enough becomes enough.
As we spend a month reading John chapter six we will discover that this is who Jesus the Christ is. Jesus is the one who can walk on water, the one who can manipulate time and space. Jesus is the one who can multiply matter, the one who can turn five loaves into five thousand. Jesus is the one who creates abundance from scarcity. Jesus is the one who takes what we have to give and makes it enough. The writer of John wants us to know that Jesus is the one who performs miracles and signs, so that we might see who he is and come to believe. It is this belief and hope which helps us make a difference. It is this Jesus the Christ who makes our small offering into enough. Thanks be to God for miracles. Amen.