August 02, 2020
9th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13
Psalm 17:1-7, 16
What do you have?
Remember the parables we’ve been talking about for the previous 3 Sundays? Jesus gives lots of descriptions of the kingdom using seeds and soil, yeast and precious pearls.
In the bits we skip over between last week’s reading and today’s, Jesus is rejected in his own home town – the people who claimed to know him didn’t like what he had to say because it meant they’d have to change their own way of thinking and living.
And then, we are told, Jesus finds out that his cousin and friend had been murdered by Herod and so Jesus wants to spend some time alone in his grief.
We are told that when the crowds heard “it” they followed him. It isn’t 100% clear what is meant by “it” but perhaps they, too, heard the news of John and want to be with Jesus for their own comfort or to comfort him, or perhaps they had just heard where he went and didn’t think about why he might need time to himself and just wanted to be where he was.
Whatever their motivation, Jesus is again surrounded by the people who continuously seek him out. He has a message they think they want, he has a way of being that they can’t resist and they believe that he is going to make their life better if they just hang around him enough.
These people sought Jesus in their own way and he met them where they were with compassion and love and healing.
And then he begins to teach and model for them how to BE the kingdom.
We aren’t told what Jesus says as he cures the sick in this large crowd but it’s easy to paint a compassionate picture of Jesus speaking to each one he touches, sharing the message of God’s life-changing love with them.
As the day passes, the disciples, in their own way begin to worry about the people’s well-being, and their own. “It’s getting late,” they remind Jesus, “and folks are getting hungry. Send them away.”
Send them away so we don’t have to do anything about their needs.
Send them away so we don’t have to share what we have.
Send them away so we don’t have to think beyond ourselves.
And, again, Jesus demonstrates Kingdom living for them.
In this epilogue to his teaching about the kingdom in parables, Jesus shows them the actual kingdom, feet on the ground, hands reaching out to offer both physical sustenance and the loving, life-giving, liberating kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
This ancient story of love is for us as well. We have heard of this Jesus and have been told he has something to offer us that will make our life better and so we look for him and go to where we’ve heard he’ll be.
And when we encounter Jesus we have the choice to respond as the people of his home town rejecting what he says because we don’t want to change, or the people on the shore who wanted to be healed.
Jesus meets us where we are as we seek him out, he sees us with eyes of compassion, he offers the message of God’s love and then he says:
“Follow me.” I’ve met you where you are and now you must choose a new path, a new way of being.
He instructs us to “feed them,” to care for others and when we say we don’t have enough, he asks “What do you have? Bring it to me.” Everyone has something valuable to bring to the table because the most valuable thing in God’s kingdom is you.
You may think you don’t have enough but with God all things are possible and when you bring all you are and all you have to God, God creates abundance from your ideas of scarcity. God provides everything we need to live as Jesus teaches us. The abundance of God’s kingdom isn’t about stuff but about people and healthy, loving relationship.
God takes our ideas and thoughts of scarcity and turns them into abundant living in the Kingdom by showing us the real treasure of our life – our relationship with God and each other.
Jesus’ stories and actions are just as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago. People are hurting and stuck in the systems – family, corporate, societal, political – of this world that have decided human life is just another commodity in a transactional system, the same as the Israelites in the Rome Empire.
Jesus shows us that God’s way isn’t transactional but relational. A way in which we value the well-being of all people more than anything else.
God’s way is about seeing the world through eyes of compassion and doing all that we can with God’s help to heal the pain.
God’s way shows us that life isn’t a competition in which we come out on top but a relationship in which we all are created in the image of God as God’s children.
We’ve been given the abundance of God’s kingdom and as Jesus said to the disciples, he says to each and everyone of us:
You give them something to eat.
You share the message of God’s love in all that you say and do in every situation.
You live relationally rather than transactionally so that the systems of this world are weakened.
You build the kingdom by meeting people where they are in their pain and hurt and showing them the Way of Love to God.
You make the choice to see others with compassion.
You do the work to confront whatever it is in you that makes you choose the world’s way rather than God’s and makes you say “send them away” or “there’s not enough.”
God will meet us in the place of our scarcity and doubt and show us abundant life as we are intended to live it.
Following Jesus in the Way of Love is a life-long journey of healing and hope. It is bringing to God all that we have, giving thanks, and sharing the abundance with the hurting world around us.
We are God’s chosen method of revealing the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We all have something to bring to this holy work. We are all worthy to do this liberating, loving, and life-giving work. We are the Church we have asked God to defend. And together with God’s help, we can show the world a better way. Amen.