10.2.22 Sermon Summary
Unfortunately the streaming failed and so I don't have access to a transcript but here is a summary of the key points.
How many loaves do you have?
Our theme verse for the “Reconnect to Faith” stewardship series this month is from Psalm 50:14: “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High.” That is commonly an offertory sentence in the Episcopalian tradition I grew up in. And as we begin I wanted us to hear it in the context of the whole Psalm. Psalm 50 is a festival psalm – to be sung as Jews were streaming towards the Temple for one of the 3 great festivals – and it is a challenge. Presented as a bit of a “dressing down” by God to those who go through the motions but don’t have changed hearts. Those who are quick to tell others how to worship, but whose words and actions are empty. And – or – to those who think their words and actions are necessary to God. Sometimes we get so full of our ways of worshiping that we think God needs them. As I quoted the artist Makoto Fujimura a couple weeks ago – God doesn’t’ need us. God wants us. God desires us to exist – but God is complete and sufficient. God does not require food or praise – God does desire relationship. Ritual is about drawing us closer to God and one another – not about meeting God’s needs.
Psalm 50 is essentially the same argument Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 12 – if we engage in ritual without love, without a transformed heart – we are just clanging cymbals. So we gather to “sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High.“
I had us read Mark 8:1-10 today. The feeding of the 4000. There are two stories that are told in all 4 Gospels. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus – although you could argue the shorter ending of Mark never quite gets to resurrection – just an empty tomb and witnesses afraid. But all 4 lead us to the Easter story. The only other story found in all 4 Gospels is the feeding of the 5000. But that’s not the story we read. This story, with 4000, is distinct. Mark and Matthew tell it also. The 5000 happens in Jewish territory – it’s told in Mark 6. It features 5 loaves and 2 fish. They collect 12 baskets of leftovers – pretty obviously symbolic of the 12 tribes and 12 disciples.
This story – two chapters later – is not a repeat. It’s not a mistake. Scoll space is far to precious for Mark to have just forgotten he already told this one – and the details are distinct. They are near the Decapolis – in gentile territory. The crowd of 4000 has followed Jesus for 3 days. We are reminded, on this World Communion Sunday - that including the gentiles, having compassion on them, seeing them as worthy of God's love isn't Paul's idea - it's Christ's.
Jesus “has compassion on them.” He tells this to the Disciples – and they seem overwhelmed – how can we find enough food here in the desert for all these people. Do they not remember Chapter 6. Maybe it’s been a few week… and I take some comfort in how clueless the Disciples often are. They’re following Jesus around and so often just don’t get it. Jesus asks his Disciples “How many loaves to you have?” “Seven,” they say.
And Jesus – as he so often does – takes, blesses, breaks and gives. And there is enough.
How many loaves do we have?
It’s easy to get caught up in scarcity. It’s easy to forget that God can do abundantly far more than we ask or imagine. But God can.
How many loaves do we have? What is God doing right here in our midst in Fort Scott.
United Methodists vow our prayers, presence, gifts, witness and service. What can God do with these loaves? What can God do with our little. What if we truly offered what we have – recognizing that it is really God’s to begin with? What if we offered even our brokenness and let God mend it, let God fill in the cracks. Let God make something beautiful out of it. Let God make us into enough for the people of this time and place. God, Christ who bears the wounds of our humanity and brings those wounds into the new Creation. Into wholeness and holiness.
Christ who invites us and our neighbors and all those who came before and all those who will come after us – whatever the church might look like in 10, 20, 50 100 years, again and again, Christ opens the table. Christ blesses and breaks the loaves. Christ invites us to become… to be the Body of Christ for the world. To offer ourselves as a holy and living sacrifice with him - to realize how many loaves we have and offer them - not out of guilt or obligation but in joy that we are already a part of what God is doing here and now. Thanks be to God. Amen.