Monday, August 1, 2011

If Jesus Was a Grocery Store

 7th Sunday after Pentecost – July 31, 2011
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

            Today’s Gospel reading begins and ends in abundance. Abundant compassion. Abundant food. Abundant Jesus. Even when he withdraws to a desolate place to pray and mourn the death of John the Baptizer – even then - Jesus gives and gives and gives and it doesn’t just burn him out, it kills him. And even in death he’s giving – bountiful life for our bountiful sin.That’s the way of the Gospel, always more.  5000 men – and more counting all the women and children, all fed from 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. All were satisfied. And there were more than enough leftovers: 12 baskets full. With Jesus, there’s always more.  More food. More forgiveness. More compassion than we ever deserve or imagined.

            Jesus was tired, grieving and needed rest but what did he do? Send out a disciple to announce, “Sorry crowds; take a number and have a seat in the waiting room while you fill out some paperwork; the Great Physician will see you when he can; he’s running a bit behind today?” No! Jesus looked on the great crowd and had compassion on them.
            He didn’t wait. He didn’t form a task force. He didn’t talk about it for hours.
            He simply healed their sick. Abundant compassion in body and soul. And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus fed them all too. Jesus never stops at, “That’s enough.” Jesus, our Greater Elijah, always makes sure the chalice, the font, the absolution – is always overflowing. Jesus keeps pouring out His forgiveness. Again and again and again.

            To any sensible person this whole scenario seems utterly crazy. The disciples even call Jesus out on it. “Jesus, look, we’re in the middle of nowhere. The day is spent. The people are hungry. Send the crowds away to the villages to buy food for themselves.”

            The disciples were right. The sensible thing would’ve been to send them away. There was no 24-hour Vons or Gourmet Galilean drive-thru nearby.

That’s our way of doing things: the sensible way. We measure. We limit. We decide what is fair. We live our lives quid pro quo: "I help you, you help me." “Oh you shouldn’t have, no really; now I am socially obligated to give you a gift in return.”
            But it’s not just the petty things in life that work this way. Showing mercy to others seems too risky, too uncomfortable. Will they really truly appreciate what I do for them? What if I show mercy to that homeless person or that family on Slater St. or that neighbor in need? They might take advantage of me.
            Yes, we live sensible lives, constantly comparing and measuring others by our own standards and rarely looking in the mirror. And that’s the ugly truth: deep down we think we’re better than others; I live as if I mattered most, not my neighbor. You see, the first commandment really is the fountain of all the rest. You shall have no other gods before me.

            Thank God Jesus doesn’t stay within our boundaries or do things the sensible way; we’d never make it through the checkout line. He doesn’t pull out the scales and weights and measure out each according to their wages. Isaiah knew it well too: abundant pardon. Abundant food without price.
            Jesus takes a recipe right out of Isaiah’s cook book: “Come! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come; buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
            How ridiculous! If Jesus was a grocery store he’d be broke and out of food in no time. But that’s the kind of Savior you have: abundant compassion. Abundant food. Abundant, gluttonous forgiveness. There beside the still waters and green grass of Galilee, the Shepherd fed his sheep. “They don’t need to go away. You feed them.”
            “But we only have 5 loaves and 2 fish; it’s not enough,” the disciples cry.
            “Bring them to me; it’s more than enough.”

            Jesus prepares the food, sets the table and seats the people. Then, looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Jesus blesses and gives thanks so the people are blessed and give thanks. He took bread. Broke it. Gave it to the disciples. And they distributed it.
            Do those verbs sound familiar? They should. On the night when he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to His Disciples. “Take eat My Body given for you. Take drink my blood of the new testament shed for you for the remission of sins.”
            Although that Galilean diner was a good, it was only a glimpse – no, an appetizer– of the real feast in heaven and on earth. Jesus blesses and gives thanks so you are blessed and give thanks. The Lord’s Supper. The Eucharist. The true Thanksgiving dinner.                      Jesus feeds you the same way he fed that Galilean crowd; without price, without limit. Abundant Compassion. Outrageous forgiveness. Reckless, unabashed love in body and soul.
            Christ is Crucified tips the scale in your favor. Jesus, who knew no sin, is made to be sin for us. All your debt is his. And all his life is yours. For all the sinful pettiness you measure out to others, He pours out his blood without measure for all. For all times you are unmerciful; He looks on you in compassion. For all the times we lived as if we mattered most, Jesus lives and dies because you matter most. Jesus loves you with uncommonsensible love.
            That’s why you feed your children, isn’t it? Of course, it’s good for them. Food is an enjoyable part of God’s creation. And family and church fellowship happens around the table. It’s all of this and more. You care for and feed your children because you love them.
            Your heavenly Father is no different. Although he’s perfect at it and a better cook too. Just look at his Son, the host, waiter and food at the best table in town: the Lord’s Table. He provides all creatures with daily bread. We have fellowship around our dinner table and the Lord’s table.  And it all happens because he loves us. Abundantly. Freely. Without limit.

            And while our earthly parents may tell us - “That’s enough; if you don’t eat your meat you can’t have any pudding” - Jesus never says, “That’s enough forgiveness for one day; No compassion for you.”  When Jesus gives, he gives bountifully. Abundant compassion. Abundant food. Abundant Jesus.
            That’s the life of the church to eat and feast on Christ’s gluttonous forgiveness, like hobbits and teenagers. Eat as often as you can; you can never get enough. With Jesus there’s always more.  More forgiveness than you have sins; more compassion than you could possibly need. So much that there’s leftovers: abundant love, abundant compassion, abundant forgiveness overflowing for your neighbor. Without limit.

            For how can we, who have received Christ’s blessings, say to our brother in need: “Peace be with you,” yet leave him hungry, naked or in need?  Our Great Physician calls us to be abundantly compassionate to all in need.  Our Great Chef calls us to wait on those in need of daily bread, feeding them food that lasts into eternity and food that lasts through the night.  Our Great High Priest calls and ordains pastors – to feed his sheep with his forgiveness. He doesn’t stop there. He calls all Christians to be priests, to offer your lives as living sacrifices. Your priestly work is as close as your neighbor in need.

            As YHWH fed Israel with manna in the wilderness,  from the shores of Galilee to the shores of Huntington Beach - by hillside and bedside – Jesus is feeding his people.  Jesus heals, feeds and Saves - in body and soul. He does the same for you.
            That’s why we confess the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. We eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. He strengthens you in body and soul into life everlasting. We know that much about heaven; there will be eating and drinking and plenty of it. More Jesus. More life. More joy.
            The dinner bell is ringing: “The Lord be with you; Come and get it!”
Come, Lord Jesus be our guest and let your gifts to us be blessed. For the eyes of all, O Lord, look to you and you give them their meat in due season; you open your hands and satisfy the desires of every living thing...

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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