First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Rev. Kent H. Little
October 21, 2018
Scripture: Mark 6:30-44
Sermon: “Ten Thousand”
Over the last several weeks we have journeyed together through this season of stewardship… you are acutely aware of this time of year as we prepare to end the year strong financially and also look toward 2019 in funding our budget. I have heard it said by some that Jesus spoke more in our texts on hell than he did on any other topic… which, by the way if you hear this it is not true… actually in the biblical texts he spent a lot of time talking about money and wealth… which I suppose for some might seem like hell.
Anyway, today is the culmination of our stewardship work on Sunday morning as we prepare to consecrate our pledges for 2019. I hope you brought your card… if you forgot yours… you’ll find one inserted in the bulletin so you can get it filled out prior to the time to bring it to place in the basket…
We have spoken over the last few weeks about the individual gift, the widow who gave a few pennies… yet in proportion gave more than anyone… one… even what may seem insignificant to some… makes a difference. One gift is important… it takes all of us.
We talked of being sent out two by two… and the building of community… one gift added to another increases the church’s ability to reach into the world with its message of justice, kindness, and humility… of love and compassion.
We spoke of the twelve and the continued building of community and that the whole community has responsibility to contribute… be it financially, physically, spiritually… it takes the whole community…
And finally, today… as we gather to make our pledge… our commitment to our community of faith here at First… we will take a few minutes to talk about the church potluck.
Think about it. It is the first image that comes to mind as I read and reread this story of Jesus feeding the multitude again for the first time. To reference one of my favorite Marcus Borg quotes, here we have the community of faith gathered… and seemingly with little or no preparation, little or no resources, the community comes together for church and then feeds 10 thousand people. Well, 5,000 men, those patriarchal writers have to remind us in those days… women and children didn’t count. It is the ultimate church potluck.
When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’ We have a resource and a crowd problem…
Jesus says…‘You give them something to eat.’
Followed by uproarious laughter… ‘Seriously?’ Actually the text indicates they said… “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?”
‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’
This… may be a clue to the story… granted there is the supernatural miracle interpretation that is the most common theme I hear when I have heard, listened, and I will confess early in my ministry… preached… somewhat. But there is a clue here. Jesus asks them how many “loaves” “they” have.
And they find… Five loaves AND two fish. They have already found… either among themselves or the crowd immediately surrounding them MORE than Jesus asked them for.
This is the miracle of the church potluck that has been going on for centuries! Everyone gathers. Those who can bring a dish… a salad, meat, side dish, dessert… not enough to feed the whole church… sometimes barely or if even enough to feed their own family… we put our offering on the table and Voila! Enough to feed the whole community of faith!
Even if it doesn’t balance out. The closest I have seen that come to reality was in the first church I served, a small church where 35 on a given Sunday was a good attendance, we had a council meeting every month after a church potluck. Once, everyone but on brought salad or a dessert. One person brought a small meatloaf. Everyone had a little sliver of meatloaf, but everyone still had plenty to eat. But the vast majority of the time a potluck invariably ends up with a balance of main dishes, sides, salads, and desserts… it’ the miracle of the potluck!
Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people.
And he divided the two fish among them all.
Ten thousand people, children running everywhere, gathered far from town, sitting in small groups… and this teacher, this rabbi, this Jesus and his group begins passing out 5 loaves of bread…and 2 fish. Can you see it? I am curious about the reaction of the crowd… indignation? Are you serious? There is not even enough here to feed our group of 50… let alone the other 200 groups sitting on the ground!
Or was the reaction laughter?
Or was the reaction about amazement, abundance, and compassion?
Imagine this for a moment… 50 people sitting in a circle and Matthew walks over and gives the group a crust of bread and a morsel of fish. And the one to which the chunk of bread and piece of fish was given looks at the other 49 dumbfounded… what does she even say? And just then one of the 50 reaches into his pack gets out a skin of wine, and another reaches in her bag and retrieves three apples. Another person brings out a jar of water, another a cloth folded and filled with fresh olives. Another produces a jar of figs, another shows the group a loaf of bread, and another, and another, and another, and another… until…
All ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.
It’s the miracle of the potluck…
It is the miracle of the community of faith as we invest in the Community First Church to impact the lives of our community and the world.
While we cannot all give the same amount… we can all give some. Looking ahead at the potential investment, we need to make in the immediate future for the coming year… on average… if each one of our giving members and associates would give $46.00 a week we could fund the entire 2019 projections… what would $46.00 a week look like for each of you? It represents something for each of us. Forty-six dollars a week is figuring a little long… but in my experience, at least with my own budget… it is always best to figure a little over what I think we need than to come up short. I am aware, in our community of faith there are those who are unable to invest at that level. Every amount matters even if it is a small portion of that. I am also aware, in our community of faith, there are those of us who are able to invest much more than that… and every amount matters even if it is many times over that amount.
But for me… As I think about First United Methodist Church… and I consider the incredible ministry we have done….are doing…hope to do. I think about the growth we hope for in our Children and Youth program and $46.00 is worth it. I think our work with Mercy and Justice $46.00 is worth it. I think deepening our Spiritual Journey $46.00 is worth it. I think connecting with the community and city of Omaha $46.00 is worth it. Strengthening our adult ministries across the age spectrum $46.00 is worth it… all that we do and the potential for impact we have on the world $46.00 is worth it.
The point here, at least in my estimation, is about community. The story in our text is about the community gathering together, investing a portion of each one’s resources until 5,000, 6,000, 8,000, 9,000, Ten Thousand are fed… Mind, Body, and Spirit. Fed to the point of twelve baskets of justice, kindness, and humility are spilled out of the community of faith feeding and changing lives for the common good of all.
And as we gather here week after week… and live into the Kindom of the Divine… each time… we all in our own ability reach into the resources we have and say… here is ours… for the common good of all.
May it be so. May it be so.
Salaam, Shalom, Peace be with you!