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Wonder Bread: the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, 8/03/2008

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Pentecost XII August 3rd 2008

Isaiah 55:1-5 Psalm 145:8-9,14-21 Rom 9:1-5 Mat 14:13-21

Wonder Bread

Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish and fed the masses. In this story, numbers reveal the secret of the Messiah, which I will explain in the course of this sermon. There are two stories of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. In this one there are 5,000 men plus women and children and in the next story, which comes in the next chapter of Matthew, there will be the feeding of the 4,000 men plus women and children. The stories keep the messianic secret, because only the followers of Jesus understand what is going on. Herod just beheaded John the Baptist and Jesus needed more time. “Go tell that fox for me,” he is referring to Herod, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow and on the third day I finish my work….but I must be on my way, for it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:32).

You see, “Kings often celebrated their inaugurations or establishment of their reign by providing a great banquet for their people. So God, the divine King, uses the metaphor of such a free banquet,” according to a note in my Bible.[1] That is what the first lesson is about. “Ho everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat” (Isaiah 55:1). Thus in terms of our Psalm, written in the form of a prayer, “The eyes of all look hopefully to you, [King Jesus,] and you give them bread in due season. You open your hand and fill the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15-16).

Jesus, as the blessed Messiah, as King David’s son, is presiding over just such a banquet for his followers, who name him their Lord and who wish to live their lives under his reign. But Jesus had no earthly wealth the way Herod did and many other earthly kings. Like Moses in the wilderness received manna from heaven to feed the children of Israel, so Jesus looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples, who distributed it, even as we do today, when you come forward for communion. Back then the disciples distributed it to the thousands, who all ate and were filled. Then they gathered twelve baskets of left over broken pieces of bread to bring back to Jesus.

I really believe that Jesus multiplies the loaves and the fish, when we bring whatever we have to offer him, and he can bless it as we share it through him. Jesus takes our bread and makes it wonder bread. So never say what the disciples implied. “But what we have is not enough. What is so little among so many? We don’t have enough.” When we bring our offerings to Jesus and he can bless them, then through him it provides for the masses, for the homeless and hungry, for the hungry millions starving in the world. When we make our offerings through Jesus then he will make them be more than enough. The King of our hearts, Jesus, will provide for our every need as well as those of the hungry millions.

I believe that this holds true for our individual needs, those of our families, for the needs of our congregation, Immanuel, for those of the church at large, and for all who are in the reign of Christ, under the spell of God, under the God-spell, or Gospel, as we shorten the word. We give and share and like Jesus we become bread for the world. We will see what the baskets represent, but let me jump ahead and say, they represent our congregations for us and the broken pieces of bread represent us, because disciples of Jesus have gathered us together in the baskets we call churches and brought us to Christ. Thus we give and share of ourselves, when Jesus reigns over us and when Jesus reigns over us, there is always enough, because God provides for us, even should there be a recession.

Do you remember the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath? She discovered that “her jar of meal never emptied and her jug of oil never failed until the day the Lord sent rain on the earth” (cf. 1 Kings 17:14). (When the rains came then the drought and the famine were over.) But the widow had to share her last portion of flour and oil to make a cake of bread for the prophet Elijah first, and then heaven provided for her and her son. In one version of these stories, it is a little boy who has the five loaves and two fish and gives them to Jesus (John 6:9).

Now the secret in the first story is that Jesus and his followers are celebrating his reign as the King of Israel, a very special king indeed, who had compassion on the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he healed all their diseases and made sure that they had livelihoods and food to eat. He was not like the tyrant Herod, who had just beheaded John the Baptist in that very sordid way. Jesus is the King of Israel sent from heaven and the twelve baskets of leftover broken pieces of bread represent the twelve tribes of Israel that the disciples gather up and bring back to Jesus.

Just like the five loaves and two fish make seven, so the 5,000 men plus women and children make seven things and seven is a perfect number that always promises to make something happen over and over again. That is why there are seven days in the week and seven notes in a musical scale and Jesus will multiply the bread and the fish over and over again.

In the second story Jesus feeds 4,000 men plus women and children. The 4,000 mean that Jesus will feed the masses coming from the four corners of the world. This story is not set in Jewish places but in the Hellenistic ten cities, called Decapolis, and Jesus just healed the daughter of a Canaanite woman. The Jews of that day held that there were seven nations in the world around them, and thus the disciples gather up seven baskets of broken pieces of bread and in effect, the story says that they are bringing the nations back to Jesus, the heavenly king, whom God sent us from heaven. Thus our story today about the feeding of the 5,000 and the one in the next chapter of Matthew with the 4,000 say that Jesus is the King of Israel and Lord of all the nations, yes all the nations, far flung from the four corners of the earth.

Thus we need to let Jesus rule over us even in the secret places of our hearts. Herod and the Romans did not know what was happening, but we do. Even the crowds may not have realized that when Jesus blessed the small offering of five loaves and two fish and looked up to heaven, that Jesus was multiplying them. But the disciples could tell because they could compare their small offering and see how all the hungry mouths of the masses were being fed and how twelve baskets of leftovers were being gathered up. They knew that wonder bread was involved.

Thus the kingdom of heaven is filled with wonder bread. Jesus is the bread of life, born in Bethlehem, which means house of bread, which makes me think of a bakery. We ourselves are also the wonderful leftover pieces of broken bread that the disciples gathered up into churches and we become the delicious people who feed the hungry and quench the thirst of those who will never hunger and thirst again, because they have come to Jesus, who multiplies the loaves and the fish again and again always providing for our every need.

We are made out of wonder bread. It is somewhat like the parable last time where the woman puts yeast into the dough and it keeps on rising and overflowing every container. The more bread we give away the more we have. It is the principle of love. We have to fill all the secret places in our hearts with love. The more love you give the more you receive. The more you give away the more you have. A bucket full of love never stays empty. The more love you pour out for others the more love you will have to pour out. That is like wonder bread, the more you give and share, the more you have.

So we respond to this very special king, Jesus Christ our Lord, the Lamb of God, the suffering servant, full of compassion and forgiveness for us. The disciples gather us, who are the broken leftover pieces of bread, and bring us into communion with Christ and we respond by communing with each other in his reconciling love.

That communion comes about when we let Jesus love and forgiveness also rule in the secret places of our hearts. In communing with each other, we learn to speak the truth with love. Never use the truth as a weapon. Also have the courage to speak face to face. If gossip burns on your lips, let it burn. Deny yourself. With gossip we tear each other down in secret, but with the gospel we build each other up in secret. Gossip mugs people from behind, while the Gospel brings new life and light and reconciliation, even when we least expect it. It is in the secret places that we have to figure out schemes to help each other and find ever new ways to be helpful. When we devise “random acts of kindness and senseless deeds of love” in secret, suddenly something wonderful and healing and refreshing befalls another person.

When people respond to the way God provides for them with wonder bread, then we take one positive step after another in the light of the love and forgiveness and reconciliation of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Lamb of God who reigns over us. Then all conflicts become marvelously changed into healthy tensions required to make the congregation grow. Our wonderful King, who is the wonder bread of our life, is not far off and distant, but deep down there in the secret places of our hearts, making us all one. All our hearts begin to beat in time with the throbbing heart of Jesus, which is full of love and compassion, because Immanuel means that God is with us. The communion and reconciliation that we receive from his multiplying the fish and the loaves is so strong that nothing can tear us apart and there is no conflict that the peace that passes all understanding cannot resolve. Our blessed Lamb of God heals our every wound, helps us recover from our every injury, then binds us together and remains with us, no matter what we have to go through. Don’t forget another story. Jesus stood up and calmed the storm. Jesus stood up and the storm had to die down. When we receive communion here, when Jesus looks up to heaven, blesses, and breaks the bread, and when we his disciples distribute it to you, then his wonder bread multiplies your strength for love and forgiveness and reconciliation. Amen.

[1] Wayne A. Meeks, editor, Harper Collins Study Bible, NRSV, (London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1989), p. 1092.


Written by peterkrey

August 3, 2008 at 8:08 pm

Posted in 1, Selected Sermons

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  1. […] Wonder Bread: the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, 8/03/2008 […]

  2. […] Wonder Bread: the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, 8/03/2008 […]

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