Wayne A. Strohschein, pastor
August 6, ninth Sunday after Pentecost.
In today’s first reading God invites all who are hungry or thirsty to receive food and drink without cost. Jesus feeds the hungry multitude and reveals the abundance of God. At the eucharistic table we remember all who are hungry or poor in our world today. As we share the bread of life, we are sent forth to give ourselves away as bread for the hungry.
When you think of a feast, what do you think of? Do you think of going to that 4 or 5 star restaurant and having a meal prepared by one of the renowned chefs? Or do you think of that memorable dinner you had at your favorite restaurant or savoring that home cooked meal you had? What meal brings to mind memories, watering taste buds and wanting more?
Our texts for today, while containing stories of feasts, focus our attention on a different meal, one fashioned not to impress anyone but rather to invite everyone.
Taking all the jumbled mix that we are, God invites and welcomes us to His banquet table, feeding us that life-giving food, Jesus Christ.
In the first reading, God’s call is straightforward and uncomplicated. It is simply “Come.” This beautiful invitation is expansive, earnest, and reassuring. “Come.” It is God’s greatest delight that all should come.
It is the same as that of a mother preparing a holiday feast for family and friends, swiftly adding leaves to the table to make room for all who would come whether she knows them or not. It is a simple invitation to everyone . . . come.
The reading from Romans conveys a different yet similar picture of Paul’s desire for the abundant and generous presence of God to be made known where it has not yet come – to His people, the Jews. Paul deeply laments that his own people are not in the circle of the faithful who believe in the crucified and risen Christ. And so Paul goes back to that which he, himself, has written and preached and that we heard last week. “Neither death, nor life . . . nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul affirms the ability of God to include anyone and everyone because of His love. That is our hope.
In Matthew’s story of the feeding of the five thousand Christ serves. In that scarce desert setting, with meager supplies of just five loaves and two fish, and accompanied only by the paltry faith of the disciples who said “send the crowds away . . .”, Jesus serves. To the crowds he serves dignity and compassion. To the sick and their caretakers he serves healing and hope. To the hungry he serves real food. Jesus, who was looking for time to be alone, hosts their every need and points toward his journey to the cross, upon which he will again serve giving his life for the life of this starving world.
How many times have we heard the story of the loaves and the fishes and express a longing to have been there to experience such a great miracle. “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish” they said. “Bring them here to me,” replies Jesus.
Those two “here’s” constitute the gem of this story. Their cup is empty. His cup is full and running over. Listen to the dialogue. From these five loaves five thousand families were fed, and really fed. The verb in verse 20 means to eat to one’s heart’s content. Still left were a dozen baskets brimming with leftovers.
Matthew tells us that when confronted with the needs of our world, we often react like those disciples, seeing only problems, not potential. Needy creatures that we are, we can be overwhelmed by the needs of others and long for someone to send them away, so that they will not bother us, so that we can meditate and pray in peace. That won’t solve the problems, mine or theirs. History shows us that problems do not disappear just because we try to banish them from our sight.
Our strength does not reside in ourselves and our stuff. Our power resides in our coming to Him through whom all things are possible. Jesus does not ask what we have. He says of what we have, “Bring them here to me.” And the rest is up to Him.
Happy Birthday today to Lavon Carter. Blessings on your special day, Lavon.
Join us for a potluck immediately following worship today. Didn’t bring a dish? Don’t worry – there is always plenty for everyone.
Naomi Circle will meet Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. for a meeting and Bible Study.
Council will meet next Sunday following our communion worship.
Sunday school is at 9:30 a.m. followed by worship at 10:45 a.m. Council will meet at 12 noon.
Today’s lector is Jean Rutledge. Next Sunday’s lector is Walt Wittorff.