30 Aug Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, July 25th, 2021
Holy Gospel: John 6:1-21
The readings today from the Old Testament and the Gospel run the entire spectrum. On one side, you have a story that is about as sordid as a Danielle Steele Romance Novel, complete with Betrayal, Adultery, Intrigue, attempted Bribery and finally what amounts to Murder for Hire. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Son of God performing what is considered one of his greatest miracles and, in this version from John, the short version of the story of Jesus walking on water to meet the disciples on the sea.
Now, for those who are interested (and this is a Spoiler Alert!) the Old Testament story does NOT turn out well for David. Reading further, we read that the prophet Nathan tells David in no uncertain terms that he is seriously in the dog house because David’s’ actions, David’s’ choices. David realizes that he has made a huge mistake and tries to plead with God. Nathan told David what the consequences of his actions was going to be, that the child that was conceived by adultery would die and, despite David’s best efforts to strike a deal, that is precisely what happened. Once Bathsheba was legitimately David’s wife, once David had atoned for his sins, Bathsheba had another son that grew up to be known as one of the wisest kings of Israel, Solomon.
One has to wonder what was going through David’s mind between the Prophecy of Nathan and the birth of Solomon. Part of the story says that David laid prostrate on the ground and refused to eat or drink for a week while the first child was ill and dying but, after the child died, he rose, washed himself, ate and drank. When asked why, he noted that the child was dead and that there was nothing David could do to change that so there was no point in continuing. David, at that point, had likely reached his personal Rock Bottom. He had come to the realization that, despite the fact he was king of Israel, despite the fact he had been in God’s favour and anointed by God, David had NO power other than what God had given him. David was, in reality, powerless compared to God. David also was confronted with the harsh reality that choices have consequences. Yes, my brothers and sisters, “adulting” is not all fun and games.
Now, at this point, I expect you may be asking yourself “What does this all have to do with the feeding of the 5000?”
Well, there comes a point when, like David, we realize that we are not in control, that there is absolutely NOTHING we can do… The disciples were at that point of desperation when they saw 5000 people (the bible account says 5000 men so we could even assume that there were more people in the crowd if women and children were in the mix) and they understand that feeding this crowd was a sheer impossibility.
God, however, had other plans. God had other plans for David (after he learned his lesson). God had other plans for the disciples and the multitude on the shore. It is often when we have reached that point of desperation that we find that God has set out a safety net for us. God won’t let us fall if we can find the strength to trust in God’s grace. It is at the point where we give up trying to “go it alone” that miracles happen.
The disciples were at their wits’ end when Jesus told them to tell the people to sit down. Philip realizes that six months wages wouldn’t buy enough bread whereas Andrew, trying to be helpful, told Jesus about the boy with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. But Jesus had a plan. Jesus knew that there was a safety net that was not going to fail. Jesus knew that God, the Father, had things in hand.
Many of us have reached our wits end or are getting close to it. We have been locked away and isolated from one another, from loved ones, friends, family by the ravaging pandemic. We have lost loved ones, lost jobs. Some may have even lost hope. But GOD has a plan, even if we don’t know what it is.
Paul , in the letter to the Ephesians that we read today, says “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” is talking about the safety net as well and is giving glory and honour for that to God and to Christ. God’s power, at work within US, you and me, is able to accomplish miraculous things.
We find examples of this throughout the Bible – In the alternate OT reading for today, coming from 2nd Kings, a man brings 20 loaves of bread and fresh ears of grain. The prophet Elisha tells the man, much as Jesus told the disciples, to let the people eat and there would be left overs…. And there were. In 1 Kings 17 we read the story of the prophet Elijah who God took care of in the desert and then, along with the widow and her son in Zaraphath. There are a myriad of stories throughout the Bible that all show us that, in the end, God had a plan.
GOD has a plan. We don’t know, can’t know what that plan is but GOD has a plan for each of us because each and every one of us is a beloved child of GOD. That doesn’t mean that our lives will be free of stress or strife or failure or loss because God also gave us free will to forge our own path, make our own decisions, do our own thing and those choices have consequences…. A somewhat more extreme and vivid example of this is the story of Jonah.
Those consequences, that resounding <splat> when I have gotten to my “rock Bottom, for me, often served as a “wake-up call,” that in the end, has me praying for God to grant me the wisdom to see Gods path before me, the courage to set my feet on that path, and the strength to walk it and be guided by God. God’s presence in my life has, so far, led me here, despite many of my own personal choices, my what I call “Jonah moments.” That I exist at all—that I wake up in the morning, walk my dog, show up to work, lay my head on the pillow at day’s end—all resonate with the presence of God in my life.
God has a plan for each and every one of us to thrive.
That may mean that we have to give up control, we may have to relinquish the reins and trust God to guide our steps. We are witness to the devastating flooding that has occurred in the northern and southern parts of Germany as well as Belgium and other areas. Combine that with the apparent 4th wave of Corona that seems to be taking hold around the world and we too are at the end of our ropes. We long for a sense of “normality,” of respite from bad news and more bad news, for just a little peace. Despite all of what is taking place in the world around us, GOD has a plan by which we can thrive. The physical things of this earth will pass away but GOD is eternal and, as children of God, we are heirs to God’s kingdom.
Like Elijah in the desert and in the home of the widow, like David after the death of his child, like Jesus in the face of a hungry crowd, when we have exhausted all our mortal ways, when we are falling towards our own personal rock bottom, GOD steps in and catches us and guides us through the times of trial if we let God be God and do God’s work within and through us.
Trusting in God’s power to keep us safe, trusting God’s grace to help us thrive, trusting God’s love to help us live, let us pray:
Almighty and ever living God who led the children of Israel through the desert and fed them, who fed Elijah by the brook and the widow of Zaraphath, who fed the multitudes by the shore, feed us with your grace and truth that we might come to see your plan for us in your world. Help us to follow the path that you have set before us that we might be your people and shine forth with your light, your grace, your love, to those around us so that the world may come to know your peace. All this we ask in the name of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Holy Gospel: John 6:1-21
Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.