Ninth Sunday after Pentecost 26 July 2015
(2 Kings 4:42-44 Psalm 145 Ephesians 3:14-21 John 6:1-21)
“Mind the Gap!”
In London when getting on or off The Tube (their metro system), you always hear a sweet woman’s voice from a loud speaker warning passengers to, “Mind the gap, please!” “Mind the gap, please!” And, of course, passengers know the reason. There is that narrow space between the platform and the train door, so the warning is given so as not to trip getting on or off of the train. “Mind the gap! Pay attention so as not to stumble into it!” Such courteous advice when getting on/off The Tube in London—maybe not so important when doing discipleship!
Last week in Detroit, each evening all 30,000 youth/adults gathered at Fords Field to hear exciting music, thought-proving skits and challenging speakers. On Friday evening, one of the speakers, Sarah Funkhouser, just returning as a volunteer with the ELCA’s Young Adults Global Mission program in Jerusalem and the West Bank, spoke. She spoke about building community, and then used the example of her own neighborhood where a housing development for low-income families had recently been built. She talked of how she has worked to create community in the neighborhood, trying to bridge the divide that separated people based on income levels. Yet these were families who lived in the same block on the same street. She admitted she felt she has not done well, that it has been a very slow process to bring these people together.
At one point she said, “in situations even when it seems as if we might have very little to offer, “our job is always to stand in the gap”—the gap between the extremes whatever they may be. I like that image!
Because I know, too often, it is so easy to give up, so easy to think we cannot make a difference, so easy to let someone else solve the problems, so easy to give up on God, give up on humanity, give up on ourselves!
…..which brings me to our Gospel text today. There is no other story in the entire Bible recorded as many times as Jesus feeding the 5000. The New Testament tells this story six times: twice in Matthew; twice in Mark; once in Luke and once in John. Today, we hear John’s rendition.
A large crowd keeps following Jesus. They are tired. They want to eat. It is Passover.
The Gospel writer John then tells us that Jesus puts a trick question to Phillip. He wants to see if Philip understands. He hopes that Philip by now would understand that when Jesus comes, life overflows with well-being. But Philip doesn’t get it. Philip is thinking old world categories of there never being enough.
“We cannot afford it,” he says. “We simply cannot spend it on people who want a free lunch.” Then Andrew steps in and says, “We have found some bread,” but then he begins to sound a little like Philip.”It’s not much, and what good is it among so many people?” They are still thinking in the old frightened ways of scarcity, that there is never enough.
Here comes the faith challenge for us: Jesus steps in and takes the situation in a new direction. He tells them to sit down—all 5000 of them! Jesus takes the bread; gives thanks; distributes it; does the same with the fish. When the crowd is satisfied, Jesus tells the disciples to gather up the leftover fragments—twelve baskets.
Notice: John doesn’t explain any of this. John is simply proclaiming a new way of being in the world, not focusing on what we don’t have, but rather, what might be, a new way of thinking, a new way of doing, a new authority in which all things work together for the good to those in need.
John calls what Jesus does a “sign.” That is, the real import of what Jesus does isn’t simply to feed those who are hungry, but to reveal something vital about Jesus, and in turn, about God. In this case, Jesus is the One who can satisfy every human need. Jesus is the one who will mind the gaps in our lives, not by stepping over them, but by stepping into them.
Jesus has come to reveal that God’s essential character is loving and God’s essential desire is to be present, part of, to be in relationship with, the people of God.
Think of the various gaps in our society—rich/poor, white/black, Christian/non-Christians, haves/have-nots, upper class/lower class, the generation gap, if you will…..Jesus calls us into the gaps, into the hungers, even when what we are holding seems paltry and insignificant.
This story is Good News because it tells us that God is concerned about people who hunger, so many different types of hungering in our world today. This story is Good News because it reminds us that God can work wonders with the little we have when we are willing to share, making a banquet out of what seems like so very little. This story is Good News because it guarantees to each and every one of us that God can use us, even in our ambivalence, in our lack of confidence, in our own poverty.
Regardless of how much or how little we think we have to offer, “mind the many gaps our society has created—bullying in our schools, domestic violence in our community, intolerance in our world. Now is not the time to avoid them, not the time to step over them or beyond them. Now is the time to stand right in the middle of them. Make a difference! Become the abundance of Christ, the living God, to the world. Amen.
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost 26 July 2015