* This sermon was preached at Massanetta Springs Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center
23 Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven;
24 he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Mortals ate of the bread of angels; he sent them food in abundance.
26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind;
27 he rained flesh upon them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas;
28 he let them fall within their camp, all around their dwellings.
29 And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.
2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.
3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.
4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.
5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’
6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,
9 ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’
10 Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.
11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.
12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’
13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.
14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’
15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
* The Word of the Lord
Good morning! May the peace of Christ be with you! Before I start we will hear Josephine Elwood reading a short story written by a Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector called The Sharing of the Bread
Read it here: https://books.google.com/books?id=oHZI8U-6HCsC&pg=PA28&dq=Sharing+bread+Clarice+Lispector&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAGoVChMIk4vj94n-xgIVzHo-Ch2nQQnr#v=onepage&q=Sharing%20bread%20Clarice%20Lispector&f=false
Today the sermon is about one line:
“Bread is Love Among Strangers” Clarice Lispector
I am happy to be here with you one more time. Few people mentioned to me the saying: “preaching has to afflict the confortable and comfort the afflicted.” Since my first sermon was more on the afflicted the comfortable this morning I hope it will be about comforting the afflicted.
I want to go back to bread this morning and talk about bread as love among strangers. I wonder what we have in common… Perhaps our faith, perhaps our love for God, our stories woven through the name of Jesus, a denomination, hopes, the same destiny?
Wherever we come from, I want to suppose that we are here because of the gospel of Jesus Christ and due to that gospel, we have upon us a demand, one of many others: to feed each other and share bread among strangers.
I am guessing that wherever we came from, we came to Massanetta somewhat broken, with something pending, not resolved, yet to be accomplished and fulfilled. Perhaps you are going through grief, perhaps you are hoping for healing, perhaps your heart is heavy for something that happened to you or to someone you love. Be what it may, we all come hungry for the best of life, longing for life in fullness, a life without pain or one where our wounds can be healed. And it is our desires and needs what push us to go places, meet people, create dreams and interpret the gospel.
Our gospel story this morning is about people in need of something, looking for something in Jesus. And there, when they are gathered at that mountain, something happens. For there is something about a collective of people gathered that can make things happen.
So in this miracle story, there is a way of retelling our own story. There is love among strangers, there is a/the promise of healing, and there is transformation and change when they gather. And our stories are made of these very things as well.
In our story, Jesus was alone with his disciples, but then a crowd followed him. Many people went to see Jesus. It is about time to eat and Jesus feels responsible for them. Jesus asks his disciples how they are going to feed them, and they say, “We cannot feed them. It is way too expensive to feed these people. They are too many of them and the amount of food we need is too great. There is no way on earth we can feed these people.”
But then Andrew says, ‘Well, there is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ I always wonder why Andrew said that. Why? Was he making a joke? Why even bother to give this information?
Nonetheless, it was that very information that changed the whole story. Jesus sees in that ridiculous line a whole possibility of transformation. And Jesus says, “Great, we have plenty!” And the miracle was this: Jesus took the bread and the fish, gave thanks and offered it to the people. The same things he did at the last meal with his disciples. He took the bread, broke it, gave thanks and shared. And the story says that there were 12 baskets filled with leftovers!
Let us ponder some things here:
Like the story we heard from the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, someone decided to prepare a table to feed the strangers. The offering of a meal by Jesus was not necessarily based on a mutual love, but on the simple offering of one’s food.
Jesus didn’t ask if they loved him, he didn’t ask for their religious affiliation, he didn’t check their moral backgrounds, or anything else. He simply fed them. There is something about offering people food without having an obvious necessity that fascinates me.
Let us watch this video of this women giving food to passengers in a train.
14 poor women called Las Patronas, prepare a bag of food for immigrants in Central America. Every day a train with 600 immigrants passes by and they prepare food for hundreds of them: rice and beans, tortillas, bread and water. They have been doing this for 19 years. Let us watch a very quick video:
What is the reason they prepare food for this people they don’t know and can barely see? They are the new version of Jesus feeding these 5000 people. The same way as these women, Jesus fed the multitude because they were hungry and it was time to eat. There was love in the heart of the Patronas and in the heart of Jesus, and that was enough. There was joy in the sharing of food and trust in what the food could do for others: give them physical strength so they could continue to live.
What we see in Jesus is that the sharing of this food was grounded in thanksgiving, an eternal sense of gratitude. And this gratitude is what generates the need to feed others.
We don’t give because we feel blessed over against those who do not possess things. Instead, we give because our heart is filled with gratitude from God’s love. This Eucharistic heart, filled with thanksgiving, is what generates an open and even ridiculously generous, boundless heart.
Let us not confuse giving as a fundamental measure of our faith with giving as a philanthropic gesture. Because giving in a Christian sense is to give everything we have without admonishment to hold some back. The challenge is to give everything freely, without knowing if it will ever come back. Even when the guests can’t even see our face or say our name.
That boy who gave his bread and fishes exemplifies the idea of giving Jesus is demonstrating. He gave everything and didn’t withhold anything. He was no Bill Gates, who gives a lot, but out of the surplus of his billionaire checking account. No! Like the women who gave her coins to the temple, like these women in our movie, las Patronas, who give ourt of almost nothing, he gave everything that he had.
See, if our giving were in line with the gospel, we would crash the economic market. For the market runs on greed, profit and accumulation. The gospel runs on full givenness, and not on profit or accumulation.
So imagine! Imagine what would happen if our Christian denominations learned from this boy and gave up everything we have in the economic market to the poor! The Methodist church has almost 20 billion dollars in the market. The PCUSA about 9.2 billion. Imagine if we, all of sudden, took all of this money and gave it to the poor!!
That is the power of gathering together when we see each other’s need. Instead of hoarding, we give. And there are many stories of people being fed. This is what local groups across the globe that work for the rights of small farmers and economies of solidarity are doing. Again the example of Las Patronas! They are shifting the me me me of economy to an economy of solidarity where one is responsible for the other. Their work is to make the earth a better place for all the children of God to live, to make it ecologically diverse, so everyone can be fed. Their perspective threatens the power of the mighty agri-business and fuel companies who look at the earth only as a tool of profit.
In this story of Jesus feeding thousands, this boy’s gesture acts as a challenge to our current ways of living. The world out there is controlled by international companies like Monsanto, BASF, Dupont Pionner, banks, hedge-fund managers, the IMF, etc. Our food is in the hands of few companies: Coca-Cola, Kraft, P&G, Kellogs, Mars, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Pepsico. They are devouring our present and eating up our future. They kill small farmers and small business with their brand. They do not allow small products to survive and they control the land planting monocultures that destroy the earth. Very soon, this earth will no longer be ours.
That is why our gospel story is a very dangerous one. It talks about the power of peasants, grassroots people gathered to change things! Jesus and that crowd changed a whole situation. Out of nothing, they made something happen. As a saying popular in the black community teaches us, God, make a way out of no way! For the might of God is always present, as is people’s creativity in the struggle both to find life where it seems there is none and to find responses to life’s challenges.
This story, the feeding of the 5 thousand revamps the logic of the story our society tells. Our society says: you and only you matter! Don’t connect with other people; otherwise, you will have to share! No! Accumulate for yourself instead! You are what your checking account shows. Take care of yourself only! Even your partner should take care of his or her own retirement plan, not you! You are responsible only for yourself! Even if your parents are in need, it is their fault! They should have been better planners. Sorry….
That is why it is not easy to be church today! Because in church, we still have to hear about sharing, giving, caring, changing, transforming and fighting for justice!
And this is the very exhilarating aspect of our faith! We live with and for somebody else, not for ourselves! The logic of the gospel is always an-other story. Literally. The script of this miracle story is: here we are. Alone, we can’t make it! So let us get together! Someone has something today? Then let us share it!
Tomorrow somebody else will have something, and another miracle will happen! Meanwhile, we will work to achieve more just social structures and practices; we will join together with others working to make the ways in which we live more attuned to justice and equality that will change the ways we all live.
And this is where the gospel takes you and me: we receive and we give. We don’t hold. The leftovers are to be given away again. You should die without a single penny in your checking account! No house, no clothes, nothing! Just the clothes on your body! Because what we have belongs to others! In this way, this story of feeding people shows us the circle of life in operation, and reinforces a clear characteristic of Jesus’ ministry: around Jesus, no one goes hungry.
A fundamental aspect of this story is this: gratitude and a strange demand to feed others. Jesus took the bread and gave thanks… and share it with everybody so no one will go hungry! The love of God is that which makes us give. Freely! And that which makes us share bread! In exaggerated ways! Even scrumptiously! To whomever is in need! Bread is love among strangers!
In biblical times, people were healed by the care of Jesus. They were given sustenance through the bread and the fish they ate. And this is what we are going to do this morning! We are going to be healed and anointed so we can go on with our lives and ministries. I want to invite you to come forward for a ritual of healing. When people gathered on that day by the sea, they were changed by a story of solidarity, when someone gave to everybody else. Now, we will share with each other what we have received from God.
We are God’s bread, and have the power to heal each other. The early church has given us rituals of healing, and we will do/perform one right now.
Come! You will receive a piece of bread that you will eat first, and then somebody will anoint your forehead with olive oil. Healing will come through sharing love among strangers.
By doing this, we will feel that we are all part of this crowd that was fed and was somehow healed by Jesus. By doing this, we will reaffirm God’s healing power in us! By doing this, we will receive what God has promised us: to heal and empower us so we can go on with our lives and continue to share bread among strangers!
Come! And give!