Series: Itís All About Jesus!
Sermon: The Power to Fill the Hungry
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
February 26, 2017
Scriptures: Exodus 16:10-18 and John 6:1-15 NRSV
††††††††† God has always known that people need sustenance Ė meat and bread being the foods supplied in the Old and New Testament stories that weíve read today. People following Godís leading, whether it be the Israelites recently escaped from slavery and Pharaohís wrath or the crowds who came out into the wilderness overlooking the Sea of Galilee to listen to Jesus teach, both were hungry for food and so much more.
††††††††† Thereís a pattern here that needs to be noticed. When someone leaves the comfort of the known to follow where God wants them to go, either physically or spiritually, they have made themselves vulnerable. But in that vulnerability our heavenly Father gives them what they need.
††††††††† The people following Moses for forty years in the wilderness never really traveled all that far, and had they been more obedient and grumbled less it wouldnít have taken so long and they could have stopped going in circles. Had they been open to a change of heart, it might not have taken until the next generation for God to bring them home to the promised land. Even so, God was faithful and supplied them quail and manna the entire time as they traveled through the desert.
††††††††† When my husband and I traveled to the Holy Land three years ago we had the opportunity to go to Mt. Nebo, the last place Moses was with the wandering Israelites before he died. There on the top of this desert mountain, all covered with grasses and reddish-brown dusty dirt and rocks, we could see on the horizon a strip of green. This view of the Jordan River and Jericho was to them a miraculous sight. It was the promise of a place flowing with milk and honey Ė both products dependent upon water.
††††††††† As Jesus traveled on foot through the hills of the Galilean region, people came out from the towns and cities to hear him teach and to be healed. The crowds were massive and they overwhelmed the towns, but the countryside gave space for everyone. What it didnít have was markets and bakeries, places to buy food for those who had traveled miles in search of the Living Water that Jesus offered.
††††††††† Johnís telling of one such event numbers the crowd at 5,000, but this probably only counted the men, so there were many more when we consider the women and children, whole families that traveled in hopes of seeing Jesus.
††††††††† Once again, God supplies meat and bread in the wilderness for a people hungry for all that God has to offer them. The fact that there were leftovers is a testimony to Godís providence. Unlike the manna that would rot if kept overnight (a teaching tool that showed they could trust God to provide in the future and didnít need to hoard supplies) now there was bread and dried fish enough for those who came late or had to travel far the next day. Godís bounty and ability to supply are without limits, but can come through channels that require our participation.
††††††††† In Jesusí case, it was aided by the donation of a little boyís lunch box filled with a couple smoked fish and a few barley loaves. And faith, which was something that even Jesusí disciples were still learning to have. Faith, we know, is the key. The ground of faith is trust, to trust God will guide us in the way of life, the way of fulfillment of our deepest desires and hungers. To believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and to follow him all the way to the end, is the mark of faith.
††††††††† When we act on our faith in Christ, we participate in Godís work in the world. All who recently brought kitchen wares for our Kitchen Ministry have participated with God in feeding hungry families. One lady this week saw the pots and pans she was receiving and remarked at how happy her children were going to be because now she could cook meals for them. God was feeding her hungry family, but needed our participation as we shared.
††††††††† I suspect that there was another level of feeding going on. That woman was surprised when I said I didnít need any signature or I.D. from her. This was pure gift, given in love. Her smile and the look in her eyes was proof that she felt loved and cared for Ė first by us, but only as we did Godís work. She felt the love of God in Christ Jesus, whether she could name it or not. Now she had hope of being able to feed her hungry family a nice, hot meal.
††††††††† Each of us is hungry for something that God can supply. For some itís food, but for others itís a sense of belonging. To be a part of a community of faith where we are known by name, welcomed to participate in giving glory to God and serving as Jesusí hands and feet in the world. There is a price to a true sense of belonging though. It requires connection, letting others get to know you, and developing a sense of trust that says, ďI know I am not perfect, but I want to work together with this Body of Christ to bring what gifts I have to help create something beautiful for God.Ē It requires being vulnerable Ė depending upon Godís grace and the grace of others, to work through our brokenness, accept our imperfections and open ourselves to the healing power of Jesus.
In all this our spirit is fed with a sense of belonging, acceptance, and forgiveness; Godís forgiveness and grace.
††††††††† My deepest longing is for a community of faith that truly loves and cares for one another; a church that, by proxy, does Godís work in our community, feeding the hungry, supplying hope for the hopeless and care in times of need.
I made a promise this week that I will need your help in fulfilling. One of our members had heart surgery on Thursday, after a postponement due to the surgeon being called to do an emergency surgery on Monday. His hope is to come home later this week, and I promised that we, his church family, his neighbors and friends, would help him and his wife through this time of healing. Iím counting on you to help me fulfill this promise.
Imagine how different our world would be if each of us could admit what it is we need, what weíre hungry for, and those around us cared enough to share, to feed, to supply, to listen, and to encourage. The thing that often prevents this is the fear of being judged. We are afraid to admit our need because of past experiences of being criticized, belittled, and judged by the very ones we had hoped would help us. And if it wasnít us they were belittling and judging, it was someone else and we donít want to end up like that someone else, so we isolate ourselves in loneliness and longing, hungry for human connection, love and care, hungry for Godís grace, the bread of life and the living water.
ďCome to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Ē Matthew 11:28-30
ďBlessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.Ē Matthew 5:6
Come to Jesus, and find rest and sustenance for your souls. God is able, and willing to create amongst us a community of believers who, like the early Christians, found ways to work together so that no one went hungry or lacked basic necessities. All worked together for the good of the community, sharing and encouraging one another, as God led them through the wilderness times and on to new life in Christ Jesus.
As we begin the season of Lent this Wednesday, remembering our mortality and human bent to sin against God and neighbor, may we dedicate ourselves to a season of self-examination. What is it you are hungry for? Amen.