This morning I want to share some of my thoughts on the Gospel reading – John 6:1-14 – that we just heard, about how Jesus takes the little boy’s meagre five loaves and two fish, and out of that, creates enough food, an abundance of food, enough to feed five thousand people.
In this story, we’re once again given a glimpse of the super-generosity and abundance of God.
Jesus feeds, not fifty, not a hundred, but five thousand people!
Abundance and generosity just oozes from God.
Not only is there enough food for the crowd, but an over-abundance of food.
The text says, that after all had eaten, there were “twelve extra baskets” of left-overs!
More than enough bread and fish.
Bread. Let’s think about bread for a moment.
We don’t often think of bread as a very exciting food option, especially when compared to all the other possible, creative foods and dishes out there.
We consider bread as just a basic food staple.
A kind of plain, bland necessity that wouldn’t easily inspire any hunger-cravings at all – the way a savoury steak-and-scalloped-potato plate would, or a home-made macaroni-and-cheese dish (with melted and dripping cheddar cheese)… mmmmm……
A slice of bread seems, well, plain.
And when the scriptures say, Jesus is “the bread of life”, well then what does that make Jesus into?
Boring? Plain? Uninspiring? A kind of so-what, no-big-deal person kind of Jesus?
Bread, however, is far more interesting than we might first presume.
As we know, there is, in fact, a great, multitudinous variety of ways bread comes to us….in so many ways, shapes, forms and sizes.
There’s the bagel, for example.
Or rye bread.
Did you notice the little detail in the Gospel text: the boy brought forward to Jesus “barley” bread, as opposed to sesame, wheat-germ, multi-grain or flax-seed bread?
Consider how bread comes to us as toast, with strawberry jam?
Or morning glory muffins?
Or chocolate tea bread?
What about rosemary ciabatta bread?
Challah – which is a special Jewish braided bread?
What about French toast with eggs and maple syrup?
Or a crusty baguette?
The reality is, these are so many different forms of bread, and many possible creative ways bread comes to us!
And I don’t know about you, but the mere mention of these different breads gets my appetite going, and thinking about lunch!
Truth be told: bread can be as interesting and exciting as any other food!
And so when we say: “Jesus is the Bread of Life” or remember the story of Jesus feeding the thousands with bread, we’re claiming the deeply interesting, exciting, surprising, abundant life that Jesus offers, and invites us to embrace.
We’re claiming a deeply generous and abundant god who gives us all we need, and more.
Have we really rested in, and pondered the idea, that God in Christ actually wants us to enjoy life … to step out confidently and embrace life.
God wants us to be happy … to find fulfillment … to be surprised in good ways and delighted with, and full of awe over, the beauty and variety of this world.
When we are aware of this good and generous and abundant God in Christ, something happens to us:
It frees us.
It opens up possibilities.
To use the theme of the 2015 ELCIC convention earlier this month: “We are liberated by God’s grace” – liberated from our self-focussed, inward-turned selves and fears, and liberated for open engagement with the world out there, engaging others in healing, joyous and compassionate ways.
Like that little boy in today’s Gospel text, we find the confidence to “put ourselves out there” into the world, and to share what even little we think we have with others, speaking and acting out of our own unique stories, experiences, histories, personalities and talents – imperfect or incomplete as they may be – knowing that God can use even that to do something of immeasurable good, beauty and value.
We don’t have to be “perfect” or “have it all together” or feel that we are spiritually strong enough before we step out in faith.
King David, as we saw in the first reading, made big mistakes with Bathsheba and Uriah – deceiving, murdering, and deeply damaging others and relationships.
And yet we see later on in the Biblical narrative, how God ends up using this deeply flawed, broken person for God’s purposes.
After King David confesses and is contrite over what he had done, God ends up using this deeply flawed person as one of the strongest and most celebrated spokespersons, one of the most effective instruments of God’s purposes, one of the most effective heralds of God’s abiding presence and steadfast love for God’s people.
To put ourselves out there, and let God do the rest.
The question for us to ponder is: What special or unique talent or gift have we been given, do we have, that we can share, for the sake of God’s reign, for the sake of the healing of the world?
Chicago preacher and pastor Otis Moss III tells of a time he and his wife recently vacationed in New Orleans, where they were enjoying the vibrant cultural scene of that iconic city in the US – the good food, music and art.
One day they were going through the French quarter, and entered a shop of an artist, who had on display his beautiful paintings for sale.
But they noticed something peculiar:
All the paintings on the one side of the shop were priced at around $20, and all the paintings on the other side of the shop were priced at around $1500.
Otis asked the painter why that was. Why such a big difference between $20 paintings on the one side, and the $1500 ones on the other side?
Especially since all the paintings looked so similar, were of similar value, and apparently painted by the same painter?
The painter says, “Well, I painted those,” pointing to the $20 ones, “but God painted those” pointing to the $1500 ones.
Otis says, “Wait a second, hold up, you mean to say that God pulled out a paint brush and started painting these over here??”
“Yeh, God did that,” the painter says confidently.
And Otis is thinking to himself: Yeh, right. This is some kind of scam going on here.
Otis says to the painter, “Explain to me exactly what you mean when you say God did those paintings.”
“Well,” begins the painter, “God spoke to me one day as I was painting these paintings.
There was a storm going on here in New Orleans that day I was painting.
God said “Paint as far as you can paint. But when you’re finished, take the painting out into the storm, and allow the raindrops to hit against the canvass, and something new will be created in the process. Because the storm will create something so beautiful that you can’t do with your own hands.”
We go out into the storms of life.
We take the risk and put ourselves out there.
We step out, and let God hit against the canvass of our souls, trusting that God will create something beautiful and good, something we couldn’t do by ourselves.