God of Ridiculous Waste
8th Sunday after Penecost: Proper 13
August 3, 2014
Genesis 32: 22-31; Psalm 17:1-7, 16; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.”
These were good stories we had this morning, weren’t they? All of them! From Jacob wrestling with who some say was a Man others say was God himself, to the feeding of the thousands with 5 loaves & 2 fish.
Let’s go to the Gospel according to Matthew. This is NOT the Gospel about theories of who God is or how to define the Trinity. This is the Gospel that is down-to-earth. The Gospel that bridges the Old Testament with the New Testament for us. The Gospel that establishes the reality of God Incarnate.
The Gospel that reveals the earliest teachings of the church. Some scholars say this Gospel was used to teach people, new to the faith, how best to pattern their daily lives after Christ.
How to become little Christ’s in their worlds.
This is why some believe it has the prominence of being 1st among the canonical gospels.
And it seems as though all of Jesus’ life is recorded in the pages of this Gospel; from birth to resurrection. All the teachings, all the miracles, all the humanity of God living and breathing and walking and getting tired…
The patterns then that the Gospel according to Matthew reveals to us are that Jesus, as he walked and ministered, and taught, and ate, never lost focus of where his center was. He knew what his vocation was and what it would eventually demand of him. But what is more is that he focused on one thing…being faithful to announcing the in-breaking of Heaven on Earth!
Take the part of the story we enter this morning with the reading from the 14th chapter. Jesus has just gotten done with a CRAZY schedule of healing, teaching, and performing miracles; one after another.
And then, in what seems like the worst time possible, the news of his cousin’s beheading is delivered by his close friends. His response is to retreat. To withdraw. To re-center.
A moment was all it took for Jesus to remember that the well he draws from is deeper and wider and more alive than any resource we mere mortals have to tap into. He was centered and therefore could respond to their needs faithfully.
But first we read that all Jesus wanted to do was to be alone. He was tired. And profoundly sad from the news of his cousin’s death. And he was also likely realizing that his own fate was drawing near.
And what about these people. The text says there were 5,000 men, not including women and children. All crowding to hear, or possibly see maybe even touch, the Messiah.
Desperate enough that they even risked starving, being stranded, and going without shelter just to be near Jesus.
Fittingly then, what do we read Jesus did next?
Do we read he sunk behind a bush to hide until the masses of people gave up and went home?
Do we read that he hurriedly appeased the people secretly begrudging their request for his touch?
No. Of course not. Because that’s not the God we serve! We read that our Lord had compassion on the people.
To have compassion means that one is able to imagine the suffering the other person is experiencing and commits to suffering with them.
Jesus, God made flesh, committing to suffering with humanity.
He’s not going to crash. He’s not going to get grumpy with us when we need to be fed, clothed, and blessed. He’s going to dig deep into the living well from which he draws his strength and dare to love the masses to the point of ridiculous waste.
And the disciples. They couldn’t even imagine how God’s abundance could transform their scarce offering. They saw the crowds of tired, hungry, and sick people and their reaction was to become overwhelmed and send the people in need away. They couldn’t imagine how the small amount they had to offer could be used to feed the thousands of people moaning in pain from hunger, thirst, and in need of touch by this divine being.
But Jesus, upon seeing the suffering, had compassion. Jesus, God made flesh, dared to believe that there was enough.
Some people say this act of compassion Jesus had, in the feeding of the thousands, displays a liturgical act. That makes sense to me because liturgy is the work of the people. It is how we, who gather together in this physical place with all our bodies and voices, come to do what Jesus taught us to do. To reenact the stories passed down to us for generations and become the body of Christ.
Taking the gifts the people offered He looked up to heaven…blessed the loaves & fish…broke them…and then gave them to his disciples to give to the crowds. And when all had eaten and were full there were leftovers.12 baskets full.
It seems to me that Jesus’ whole point, and indeed the whole point of the Gospel of Matthew, was NOT to wag his finger at us “mere mortals” and shame us for being bound by time and needing rest and food and water.
Rather, to reveal to us what compassion can do and that the well from which he draws is available to us as well. So, when the masses of people found him and all he wanted to do was be alone, he dug deep into that well, breathed in the love of God, and got to work.
Therefore, my friends, when you open up your facebook, or newspaper, or turn on the t.v. news, and you’re bombarded with what seems like an overwhelming amount of need and hurt in the world…When bad news seems to cross your door at the worst possible time and you think, “I just want to be alone…”It’s ok. You are still encouraged to bring your measly-stale loaf of bread & your fish to the altar of the Most High. For he, who has promised to assume our offering is faithful to transform it into ridiculous baskets full of waste.