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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Lent 4 – Year B

I like to buy things in bulk. I like supersaver 12 packs and two-for-one sales. Why go to the store and buy one of something when you can get 10, save money and have lots more sitting around when you need them. It makes me feel prepared. It gives me a sense of security when I don t have to worry about running out. However, this is not a trait Melissa finds endearing. For one thing our home just does not have the storage for that kind of shopping. For another thing, when I go shopping and get into one of those be prepared moods she is never sure what completely unnecessary thing I will come home with next. In fact, for sometime now my bride has banned me from both Costco and Sam s Club because what gives me a sense of security drives her absolutely crazy.

Some of you all have heard this story but a few years ago I made one of my misbegotten treks to Costco ostensibly to buy a few household items. After about an hour of shopping I loaded up the car and headed home so proud of the money I had saved and the brilliant purchases I had made. As I came in the door I called Melissa over to show her what I had gotten. She had sent me to get a duffle bag I proudly displayed my 5 piece luggage set for only $39.95. She wanted me to get some sugar I got a case of sugar. But not those cumbersome bags of sugar I got 24 tabletop containers of sugar like you see in diners. Imagine the look on her face when I suggested how convenient it would be to have one of those on the dining room table. But my greatest triumph came in response to her request to pick up some food for breakfast on school days, things that were easy to prepare. My grin was a mile wide as I showed her the 85 frozen sausage biscuits I had gotten for under $25.00. Needless to say she was not happy.

But when you think about it, who doesn t like a sense of security when life can be so unpredictable? Who doesn t feel better when they have rainy day funds, pensions, IRA s and a couple of life insurance policies? Who doesn t want some sense of control against an unknown future?

That s not what the Bible says though. The Bible says God provides in the now. Remember the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years? They had nothing. Moses led them but God provided for them. They found water when they needed it. Quail literally fell out of the sky when they were starving for meat. And most of the time they lived off this seemingly magical stuff called Manna. Every morning after the dew lifted the Israelites would find on the ground a layer of sweet flaky substance they called Manna, or bread of heaven. It wasn t much but it was enough to sustain them, to take them a little farther on their journey, to give them strength for that day. Every morning they would gather enough for each person but no more because every time they tried to save it, to store it away, they found this bread went bad and it was unfit to eat. The truth was they couldn t stockpile what God was giving them. Instead they had to trust that everyday God would give them what they needed for that day alone.

In a similar way we see in this morning s gospel that when Jesus feeds the 5,000 he makes sure that there is enough food to feed everyone but little more. He blesses the five loaves and the two fish, passes the food amongst the crowd and miraculously everyone gets the nourishment they need. Sure, there are leftovers but there is no Costco stockpile of sausage biscuits. The people are hungry and Jesus feeds them, satisfying their needs for the moment. That in and of itself was a great miracle; so great in fact that is it recorded at least once in all four gospels. The crowd wasn t disappointed that Jesus only provided dinner for them and not breakfast and lunch for the next day. They were so moved by his loving care for all of them at that moment that Jesus had to quickly withdraw before they took him by force and declared him King.

The Bible says God provides in the now . . . gives us what we need in each moment. So what do we do with those moments when it doesn t look like God gives what s needed? If God provides what we need, then why will so many children go hungry? If God protects us in each moment, why do innocent people die in war? If God cares for us just as we need, what do we say about the cancer we thought was in remission and has now returned? That s one of the great challenges of faith. It doesn t always add up the way we think it should. But faith says rest in God anyhow, trust God anyway. Faith says, regardless how it appears God s grace is the place to stake our lives.

Whenever I say the Lord s Prayer I am always reminded that Jesus taught his disciples to say, give us this day our daily bread. Give us what we need for today dear God and we will trust that tomorrow you will do the same. God provides for our needs – that is the message of today s gospel and in many ways that is the complete story of the Bible. What does this mean for you and me? It means that when the days are dark and the way is difficult we can trust that God will give us strength and courage for the journey. God will give us the bread to make it through this day of grief, or worry, or fear. While we should always pray to have our grief lifted, our worry removed, and fear taken away, that may or may not happen. But we can always trust that God will give us what we need for that day, for that moment. God will not leave us empty.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that as Jesus disciples it is our job to be his hands and feet in the world. It is our job to do what we can to make the miracles; the miracles that feed the hungry and care for the poor. Like Geraldine Johnson and the Children s Center staff whose work we celebrate today, it is our job to provide the miracles for children whose needs are great. It is our job to provide the place for them where they can thrive. The place where they can learn and grow and become the wonderful people God intends all of us to be.

Remember the baskets of leftovers collected after the crowd had been fed in our gospel for this morning? The word translated as basket in Greek is actually the word for the little satchel in which the traveling Jew carried enough food for one day s journey.1 There were 12 of these baskets, 12 satchels – one for each of the disciples. You and I are the heirs of these small packages. As Jesus disciples in the 21 st century, whenever we celebrate the Eucharist it is our turn to sit down on the mountainside and be fed. Every Sunday what happened there happens here. Don t ever forget that the bread we share comes directly from one of those twelve baskets of leftovers, and there is always enough.2 There is always enough to feed us for so that we can in turn go and feed others. There is always enough for today with the promise that if we trust in God there will be more where that came from for tomorrow. Amen.

1 Evelyn Underhill

2 James Liggett, Worship the Works.

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