Meditation on This Week's Gospel
by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, July 26, 2009:
First Reading: 2 Kings 4:42-44
First Reading (Semi-cont.): 2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm: Psalm 145:10-19 (Psalm 145:10-18 NRSV)
Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 14
Second Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21
Gospel: John 6:1-21
It's sobering to realize that even in a land of abundance like ours, hunger is a real problem. Even in times when unemployment is at near record low levels (unlike the past 6 months), hunger is a real and pressing problem. It's easy to understand why the people who had just been fed from 5 loaves and 2 fishes would want to make Jesus king. Most of us, even if we haven't experienced food scarcity ourselves, are only a generation or two removed from it.
And even if we haven't experienced food scarcity, we've experienced that scarcity consciousness. Most of us don't operate out of a place of abundance. We have our little piece, and we clench onto it. We're not open to the grace of God's expansive love. Unlike that little boy who shared his lunch, we hold tight to whatever little shares of the good life we've claimed for ourselves.
Or worse, maybe we're like the disciples, who are so focused on the numbers that they aren't very open to the possibilities Jesus offers. I'm often like that. I get so focused on the way that I would solve a problem that I'm not open to other solutions. Worse, I get so focused on the way the world would solve problems that I forget that I'm worshipping a revolutionary God that doesn't need to be tied down by the ways we've always done things, by the accountant's ledger.
Sometimes, when we've heard a text so often, it's hard to hear it again. Reading the lectionary for this week, I was struck by how we have not one, but 2 miracles. Jesus makes the food stretch--everyone has enough AND there are leftovers. Like the people who were there, I find myself thinking, "Now there's a God I want to get to know." Then, we have the miracle of Jesus walking on the water.
I was also struck by verse 15: "Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” I can't remember ever hearing that as part of the story before, although, of course, I have. This passage shows up in the lectionary at least every three years. But this year, it leapt out at me.
It's another reminder that Jesus isn't interested in this kind of worldly power. Jesus came to model for us the Kingdom of God, starting here, starting now--not some distant time after we're dead, or some distant time when God comes again into the world. Here and now. What would that world look like, if we could fully realize the transformation? Jesus points the way.
So, what does this passage tell us about Kingdom living? It's not about power. We're not preaching, teaching, healing, feeding, and gathering together so that we can consolidate power and win elections and do whatever we want. Again and again, Jesus rejects that model. The Gospel reminds us of what Jesus can do--but first we must be open. We can't be hamstrung in our imaginations. We have to remember that we've thrown in our lot with a God that wants to transform the world so that everybody has enough and that there's enough for the next day.
The first step towards that reality is to share. When we share, we're less clenched about our possessions, and it's easier for God to do the transforming work for which we all yearn. When we share, we short-circuit our imaginations, which are busy envisioning the worst (we'll be poor, we'll have to eat grass, we'll run out of money before the end of the month, our children will have to wear clothes that we find in the dump--on and on our gerbil minds whirl around).
No, God has promised that we will be provided for. Again and again, God tells us that there will be enough. We can rely on God. We can share our lunches, confident in the knowledge that there will be more, there will be plenty, there will be leftovers. We can share our lunches, knowing that we live in a world of abundance, not scarcity.