I warn you that none of this may make sense. (But I do have a butt/bum joke embedded in my little sermon below)
I’ve been reading the words of Jesus a lot lately (at least those recorded in five different Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Thomas) in the shocking and lovely book Good As New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures. My reading mixed with conversations with folks in Malta on Guernsey and England has gotten me to think in a new direction (well new for me).
For weeks I have reflected and spoke about the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. (Auntie Doris heard this one over and over and over again) Here is one version of the story in Mark 8:1-10 (form Good as New version.)
It was during this visit abroad that Jesus again found himself with a large crowd of hungry people. Jesus called his friends together and said, “I’m concerned about all these people who’ve been with me for three days and haven’t eaten. If I send them away hungry some may collapse before they get home, because they’ve come a long way.” The friends asked, “How can we get enough bread to feed everyone, out here in the country?”
Jesus asked how many loaves there were and they told him “Seven.” Jesus told the crowd to sit down and took the seven loaves. He said “thank you” to God, broke the loaves and gave them to his friends to pass among the crowds. They also had a few small fish. Jesus thanked God for these and handed them on to be passed around. The crowd has as much to eat as they wanted and seven baskets of leftovers were collected. About four thousand people were fed before being sent home.
It’s a well-worn story that many people know. I have always seen it as one of those, “Jesus pulls a rabbit out of a hat” kind of tricks/miracles. Cool! Jesus can make bread miraculously appear! Now that can come in handy.
But I see another more challenging way that I can look at this story.
The disciples and the crowd are out in the countryside for three days. This is before the days of Subway Sandwich shops and Red Lobster restaurants or well-catered retreats. This is a people used to carrying food around when they travel. Jesus rightly discerns that some folks don’t have any food left and will need nourishment to get home. Wow, how thoughtful, how sweet, how unbelievably practical. I love this Jesus.
So he turns to his team, “What you got?” I love how even in the English you can hear the sarcasm and exasperation in the disciples’ response. But Jesus had a plan, a radical one that did not require any magic tricks, one that I believe serves as an even more impressive miracle.
Jesus sat everyone down. Then taking the scant offerings the disciples rustled up, he begins to serve the people. Now I don’t for a minute believe the disciples gave up all they had to Jesus. If they were like most of us, they probably squirreled away a secret stash for themselves for later in the day. In fact, in the John 6 version of the same or similar story, the disciples offer nothing of their own but instead take five loaves and two fish from a little boy (giving an entirely different meaning to “out of the mouth of babes.”)
Jesus provocatively begins to distribute the little he has to give. I imagine Jesus doing this very slowly, dramatically, taking his time with it. The disciples see the basket rapidly emptying. They dig into their hoards and pass some more food forward. The news spreads quickly and quietly through the crowd, first to those closest to the disciples then radiating out. A supply line forms as each one who has food passes it along through many hands to the disciples then to Jesus and then back to the people.
In the end EVERYONE eats, including those who had no longer had food as well as those who carried more than enough. The crowd had such vast resources of food among them that stacks of leftovers remain.
A “magic trick” Jesus is cool and convenient to have on hand. One that calls on me to contribute from my own stockpile so that another’s needs can be met, challenges me and the society in which I live.
One of the classic clobber texts that has been used to silence and shut out gays, lesbians and bisexuals from the church has been 1 Corthinians 6:9,10. (I imagine some use it to keep out transgender folks too).
Many scholars dispute the accuracy of using the word “homosexual” in the text. Other renderings include effeminate and soft (as in living a life of luxury and ease). I am sure you can find much about this dispute on-line. What I do find noteworthy about the list of those who will not “inherit the Kingdom of God” is that it includes people partaking in everyday activities that I rarely hear mentioned from the pulpits in North America.
Neither will any thief or greedy person or drunkard or anyone who curses and cheats others.
Many have used I Corinthians 6:9,10 to stake claims on who can and cannot go to Heaven. Ah, but does this passage actually speak about our eternal reward in some galaxy far far way? The writer of Romans, in a long discussion about the discomfort among some believers with the culinary choices and practices of others, defines the Kingdom of God this way,
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…
Looking at the current credit crisis, I think many will agree that much of the trouble we get ourselves into in regards to debt has to do with living beyond our means–greed. Of course there are other reasons for getting in arrears, (tee hee) but if I am honest, I have to admit that buying those shoes on sale at Macy only felt like an emergency at the time.
Here is the formula that I see. When I am greedy, this can lead to stinginess and to debt. I then experience a lack of peace, joy and righteousness in my life. Makes sense. I mean instead of peace, I worry about how I will pay the bills. I feel depressed over the situation. I may also find myself tempted to be less than virtuous when someone at the checkout counter makes a mistake in my favor. (I may even ascribe the mistake to God’s justifying that it’s God’s way of looking out for me. The Lord is my accomplice; I shall not want!).
For years I thought God was mostly concerned with my sexuality. I spent nearly two decades and tons of time, prayer and money obsessing over the bits between my legs and what I should and should not do with them. Reading the words of Jesus, checking out how he operated, I begin to see that I lived distracted from reality.
I leave you with a video posted on my friend Mario’s blog. Wow, seems Disney and Barrack Obama, encourage us to consider the “least of these…”
God Help the Outcasts
hat tip to Mario at Gay, Christian & Campaigning