July 29, 2018 + Pentecost 10B + John 6:1-21
One of the highlights of my freshman year at California Lutheran University was winning the Southern California NAIA district Wrestling tournament. Champion at 177 lbs.! And more importantly, this victory qualified me to participate in the NAIA National Wrestling Tournament.
I remember very clearly the flight that took us from Los Angeles, California to Wheeling, West Virginia the site of that year's national tournament. I remember the flight because I was very worried. I wasn't scared of flying, I was scared of being a freshman wrestling in the nationals, and more importantly - I was scared that I would lose.
The school had bought me an expensive airline ticket, they had put me up in a nice hotel, they were proud of me and excited about the tournament - and I was afraid that I might lose. Also, on my mind was the fact that my dad was taking off time from work, he had bought an expensive air ticket, all to come watch me wrestle - and I was scared that I would lose. All that time and money to get there - and I might lose.
Once we arrived at the tournament I remember warming up for my first match. My Dad’s travel schedule was tight, if everything went ok he would make it just in time to see me wrestle. I was worried that he would be late, and that I would lose in the first round, and he would have traveled all that way, spent all that money, and would not even have a chance to see me wrestle.
Well, finally my turn to wrestle arrived. (My dad arrived just in time.) I was ready, the moment had arrived, I stepped onto the mat and the contest began. Eight minutes later it was over - and I had lost.
Not only did I lose but I wrestled poorly. I did not even come close to my potential. And I had lost to an opponent that I could have beat, that I should have beat. I lived up to my preoccupation, my expectations, my worries, my fears, - I lost.
Isn't that the way it is? All too often we choose to live out of the “sacristy” of our lives. We choose to live out of “the worst possible scenario.” We set ourselves up for failure before we even begin. We choose to be "lacking" from the start. The only thing we are not lacking is “excuses.” We're not good enough, not talented enough, we don't have enough money, and we don't have enough time. And in living from this foundation, a foundation built upon scarcity, we have no choice but to be defeated - because we have already been defeated. Yes, all too often, when it comes right down to it, we choose to fall back and to live out of “the scarcity” of our lives, the scarcity of the human condition.
Yet this "sacristy of the human condition" is not the only choice we have to choose from when it comes to how we might live out our life. The good news of the Gospel is that we can choose to live out of the abundance of God, an abundance that is ours – in, with, and through - Christ.
In today's Gospel, The Feeding of the Five Thousand,” we see the difference between living out of the “scarcity of the human condition” verses living out of “the abundance of God.”
In today's story there is a problem, five thousand hungry people and no food. What are we going to do? Philip and Andrew respond to the problem out of the scarcity of the human condition, limited by the human perspective they cry out, "We don't have enough money." "This boy has five loaves and two fish but that will never be enough."
Then the miracle happens, and I don't think that Jesus' multiplying of the bread and fish is necessarily the real miracle of the story. The real miracle is that this young boy hands over his fish and bread to Jesus. The miracle is that this boy does not operate out of sacristy, but rather faith, a child-like faith indeed.
Scarcity would "horde" for one’s self, it would be “afraid” to give. Sacristy would hold back because it never has enough for anyone, not even for its self. Yes, the real miracle is that this young boy operates out of the abundance of God, out of hope, out of faith. He gives, (what is seemingly very little,) he gives it over to Jesus.
The young boy is not afraid to give of what he has, he is not ashamed of what he has, he believes that it might help, that it might make a difference. He must have believed that Jesus loved him, and that in that love - that all things were possible. This faith is the miracle.
After the loaves and fishes are offered to Christ by this young boy, and Jesus gives thanks for these gifts, the crowd is fed, - fed to overflowing. And after all have eaten, the disciples gather up 12 baskets of leftovers.
Today we must ask ourselves, "Do we operate out of the abundance of God, or are we trapped in the perceived scarcity of the human condition?" We must ask, "What is the foundation on which we make our decisions regarding our time and our resources, - is it fear or hope?" We must ask, "Are we trapped and unable to give, or are we truly free to freely give?" Today we are challenged by the Gospel to see our sin and to dramatically reorient ourselves according to the abundance of God. We are challenged to be born again, to see the Kingdom of God present and alive, and at work, in our lives.
The other crucial thing that we must remember is the role of Christ. It is in our giving to Christ that we are opened up to the abundance of God. We're not talking about mere "positive thinking" or the "elimination of negative ions;" we're talking about a lifestyle of giving, Christian stewardship, loving your neighbor.
So where do we begin? I believe it's here, at church. For gathered together we are the Body of Christ. Here, in the Church, Christ is waiting to receive those things that you have to give - your gifts, your time, your experience, your life. We begin anew by stepping back and looking at our gifts through the eyes of the God who created us and who loves us. And from that perspective - we all have gifts. And every gift is essential. Though it may only seem like a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, the truth is that your gift may be the one that is needed to feed the five thousand. We will never know how important our gift is until we give it to God. In fact, the gift that you possess might be the one that is needed to set the person beside you free. If we all could learn to give of ourselves, our time, and our treasures - the abundance of God would rain upon us, setting us free, and giving us that “gift of life” that we all so desperately want.
The following year at California Lutheran I once again won the NAIA Southern District Qualifying Tournament and headed once again for the National Wrestling Tournament. In fact, I was even voted the “Outstanding Wrestler” of that qualifying tournament. I boarded a plane, for Kansas this time, ready to participate in my second National Tournament. And this year, - I lost again. I was worried about doing the same thing that I did last time. And I did. Scarcity.
It’s not easy to remain in that place where you have access to God's abundance, that existential place of love, grace, and truth. It's not easy to always believe that "your fish" and "your bread" can actually make a difference.
There’s just so much to worry about! And we all worry, whether we like it or not! It’s human to worry. I guess the question is really all about what we do with those worries. Do we tightly hold onto them, obsess over them, and consequently let them take over our whole life? Or do we acknowledge them, and then carefully and intentionally set them aside, and choose to live life from a different space, a holy space, a faithful place? Do we spend the precious moments of our life, the priceless hours and days allotted to us, paralyzed by fear or energized by hope?
I want to end today by going back to that amazing boy in today’s Gospel. We don’t know much at all about him, but I am confident of this, he was loved – and he knew he was loved! Because only love, and the experience of love, sets one free from “the fear of scarcity” and places us firmly in “the hope of abundance!” Only love can imagine that two fish and five loaves will make a difference! Only love can explain how thousands are fed, filled to overflowing. Only love!
And the good news today is that you too are loved! You are loved by God. You have been created with wonderful gifts and treasures. And they are not only wonderful, but they are essential to the work of the Gospel. The Church needs your gifts. You are in demand. The Kingdom cannot be whole without you. You are part of the abundance of God!
I would like to end with a song. You heard it before, "One More Life." Today I challenge you to believe that this song is written especially “for you,” that it is about “your baptism.” For in reality, from the perspective of abundance; from the perspective of God, the angels and the kingdom of heaven; that is the truth, the Gospel truth. As I sing, let us all return to our baptism and find the door that opens our life up to that abundant love of God, in Christ Jesus.
(Click title to listen)
One more life, a bright shining light
One more hope, that the world will be all right
You're a miracle child, love made alive
And water falls from heaven as God says you're mine ....
One more heart, begun by you
One more soul, and all things are new
And soon you'll know your name, loves made it claim
Heaven will be calling you and you'll never be the same ....
And you'll never be alone, when you feel lonely
You'll always be loved, you're part of a family (the body)
Somethings happened today that will never fade away
When God comes down from Heaven, He's here to stay .......