Communion Sermon, Tabernacle and Richfield UMC. Scripture: Matthew 14:13-21.
Jesus is tired.
He had just learned that one of his cousins, John, has just died. Their mothers were friends, and Jesus and John are only about 3-6 months apart. They could have grown up together. Until John went and did his weird thing in the wilderness. But that’s just John. He’s odd. It runs in the family. His daddy was mute the whole time his momma was pregnant with him.
John preached the coming of a Savior. And then Jesus asked John to baptize him, and he was awed by what happened when the Spirit honored his act. Jesus had his disciples, and John had his also. They did work, they preached. And John was always pointing at Jesus as the true path to righteousness.
But John was trouble, so the local ruler locked him up. And then later that weak ruler was talked into beheading John for a dinner party. That is the news that Jesus was receiving at this time.
His cousin was just beheaded and ridiculed.
So Jesus went off. Jesus tries to go off quite often, trying to get some rest. It is also when he can go to talk to God. Jesus had a healthy prayer life. He would spend his days healing the sick, and then early in the day go to pray.
This was a time when he needed to recharge.
Surely we have all had those times, when it seems everyone is asking something more from us:
A toddler asking it’s mother to pick up the pacifier again.
A parent or teacher getting onto the students to do their busywork.
A uncompromising boss that has to have it done the right way.
Or when all the requests keep piling in on top of each other, and it is humanly impossible to accomplish all of it, ever.
Do you wonder if ever the story from Aesop’s Fables is how Jesus felt sometimes?
You know the story, when a father and a son and a donkey are on a route to market. The donkey was carried the load and the son and father were leading it along the road. Each passerby has a new way that the one should be carried or ride on the other. First it is the father that should ride. So he gets on. Then someone says that the son looks tired. So the son should ride. The father gets down. But then someone asks why they don’t ride the donkey together. Isn’t a beast of burden anyway?
A final passerby says that the donkey looks tired, especially with the father and son both riding, so why not carry the donkey. So the father and son tie the front legs together, and the back legs together, and then string the donkey up upside down, and carry it along hanging from a pole. They are struggling, but the donkey had been carrying them, anyway. They come to a narrow bridge, and as they come to the crest, one of the loses his balance, and the donkey drops down into the river. And because it’s legs are tied together, is cannot swim, and it drowns. Losing with it the goods for market.
The father and son tried to please everyone who came along.
Jesus is not trying to please anyone. We can see this by the answers he gives those who are trying to trip him up and trick him. The “Smart” do not get the answers they want.
Jesus is trying to escape the press of the crowd, and takes a boat to a deserted place. But on the way, the crowds learned where he was heading, and beat him to his resting place.
But these are not really the kinds of requests that Jesus gets when he arrives at this deserted place. These crowds are coming to hear more about the teacher and healer. Jesus is asked to heal, because he has healed. Jesus is asked to restore sight, because he can. And so, Jesus, instead of turning around, and getting back on the boat, goes into the crowd and cures the sick.
Jesus heals the crowds hungry for his touch, and does not leave them.
The crowds receive healing. And teaching. And love.
He teaches, and he heals.
The shadows grew longer. (The sea of Galilee is about parallel with Charleston. So the shadows do grow longer like they do here.) Dusk begins to threaten, and the disciples get nervous.
“Lord, send them away so they can go provide for themselves. There are so many of them.”
I mean, this sounds like the best plan: “Ok, Jesus, these people are getting hungry, they have been either walking or standing or sitting in the heat out in the desert for the whole day, send them out so they can provide for themselves.”
It makes perfect sense. Common human sense.
But God doesn’t work that way. Jesus says that the disciples can take care of it.
But we don’t have anything!
I mean, Jesus is a little irrational. The disciples were not planning to feed all these people. The community purse was not enough to feed them all. It was not in Jesus’ giving budget for a feeding program.
Jesus, you don’t make sense.
Then Jesus asks: what do you have?
The disciples say we have nothing but these small things. Five loaves and two fish. A snack. (Jesus , it won’t be enough, even for two of us. We know you are tired, but really, this… this… this is not going to work.)
Then Jesus says:
Give me what you have. —and then Jesus makes it enough. And more than enough.
Jesus takes what they have, he breaks it and shares it and it becomes something so plentiful that all around were filled. What was left of the broken pieces was enough to feed the disciples families also.
Jesus was generous with his time, with his tiredness, and then he healed others and shared himself.
Jesus solves the problem in a way that doesn’t make sense. I had a teacher who always told me: Common sense is not common. But for this I will improvise the saying: Human sense is not enough.
God opens up a way to provide for all who are hungry. And they are fed, and satisfied.
The motions that Jesus follows are not that different from those of our Communion, Lord’s Supper, Eucharist. In this story, when Jesus feeds the crowds, he takes the bread, he Looks to God, he blesses them and breaks them, and then gives them to the disciples and to the people.
In our worship and in our words of institution, in the three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it is the four actions of:
Jesus Taking the Bread,
Blessing and lifting it up to God,
Breaking the bread and
Giving it to those around him.
On the evening of his resurrection, in Emmaus, the same actions are present.
It is the resurrected Christ who joins us at the table, while we celebrate the thanksgiving of his offering and salvation for us. And while we join at the table with him, his body is broken for us, and we become the body, broken for the world.
Look, we are broken people. God uses our brokenness to share us with the world. As we are broken, we are also healed. We become one body, and present ourselves as living sacrifices for our Lord. And we become filled God’s Love.