In my parent’s home we were not always sure who we would be having for dinner. My dad used to pick people up and bring them home and give them a meal and a bed for a day or two. Or, sometimes when people dropped in, they were always invited for dinner. And each and every time my mom would somehow be able to pull rabbits out of hats and find enough food to put on the table so that everyone was able to eat a full meal. I was amazed how she could take a sparse pantry and pull from her supplies abundance. Nothing fancy, my mom was just a simple cook, she made plain food, but she made nourishing food and there was always enough, enough to go around, enough to assuage everyone’s appetites, enough…Mom was always able to pull together something for an extra two or four or even eight – but I am not sure what she would done when faced with 5000 on a hillside.
Teri Peterson reflects on Philips reaction to Jesus request and she writes: “I can imagine Philip’s face when Jesus springs this on him. Or rather, I don’t have to imagine, because I’ve seen it. I’m pretty sure I’ve made the face too. You know the one: the one where you don’t have what you need to pull this off, and the gap between what you have and what you need is so large as to be paralyzing.
It only takes a glance at the news to have this feeling. We live in a world where people are being killed for the color of their skin or the religion they practice or the uniform they wear. We live in a world where 25,000 children die every day from hunger-related causes. We live in a world where violence is seen as the solution rather than the problem. We live in a world where the CEO of a major company can say on camera that water is not a human right. It’s a world of fear, darkness, and scarcity, and somehow we have set up a game that only a few people can win while most lose. And any change in who is winning must be resisted, because there are only so many winning spots to go around.
No wonder the gospel sounds ridiculous. How can it possibly be true that God is love? How can it be that God’s love is for everyone? How can we follow Jesus’ command to love our enemies when we are busy hating our neighbors? What does it even mean to walk in the footsteps of a crucified Lord in a world that only values airbrushed beauty and big bank accounts? How on earth are we supposed to be makers of peace when violence stalks our schools, our churches, our neighborhoods? We have that face Philip is making when Jesus asks him where to get lunch for 5000 people. How can we possibly do anything about any of this?
When we ask questions such as these we are thinking from a philosophy of scarcity – This is where you live in the world like there is never enough that resources are limited and that if someone else has something that means that there is less for me. That is to say, that everything is perceived as finite only so much to go around, only so much food, only so much time, only so much happiness. And life then is about getting your fair share or even more if possible; because if you don’t than you will miss out – someone else will get your share of happiness or food or hope or oil or money. The world scarcity says:
• There is not enough time
• There is not enough resources
• There is not enough peace
• There is not enough hope
• There is not enough love
• There is never enough
Everything is finite – everything has endings and once it’s gone its gone. And if it is there and I want it I should get it because I deserve it. That’s scarcity thinking.
King David thinks in scarcity. For here we have a king who has everything he could possibly need, everything – power, fame, fortune – the blessing of God for his reign…and David is at the peak of his kingship…the battles have been won, there are no rivals for the throne. He is married and as the customs of kings in his day – he is married to more than one wife, he has at least two at this point in the story – the heir and spare have been born …he is also a really popular king, his people like and admire him all should be well in his world.
And so when we join the story today you’ve got to wonder why it takes such a strange detour? It is now spring time, in the spring the kingdom’s boarder once again targets for conquering armies As a rule, the king should be going out to the battles or at least be with his soldiers as they go into battle, by being in the tents behind the lines, talking with the Generals and coming up with strategies’ – but not so David, this year – this year he remains behind in Jerusalem, in his palace – and seems to be in a time of idleness, passing the days when he should have been at war – wandering on his roof…this is when he spies Bathsheba – or should I say he spies on Bathsheba – and lusting after her – and being a king with all sorts of power – he seduces her – she become pregnant.
You know whenever I read this story I wonder each time where he could have pulled back and said no – – if only David would have stopped before he ordered Bathsheba to come to the palace – if he had just been a voyeur and left it at that.
Or what if instead of trying to remove Bathsheba’s husband Uriah from the situation by basically setting him up to be killed in battle(I am pretty sure we call this murder these days) so that he could have Bathsheba for himself – what if David had just confessed to Uriah and worked out a different solution between the three of them….I wonder how far down the corruption path David would have gone without the intervention of Nathan – we don’t get to that part of the story today – where Nathan the high priest comes and calls David into account for his behaviour.
And I wonder why a person who has everything, who has more than enough, takes from others and destroys lives. I wonder why a man who lives surrounded with abundance lives such a scarce life.
In her book, God is no Fool, poet and author Lois Cheney tells a story about abundance and scarcity. She writes:
Once there was a man who said, “if I had some extra money, I’d give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.”
And the same man said, “If I had some extra time, I would give it to God, but every single minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs and what have you – every single minute.”
And the same man said, “if I had a talent , I’d use it for God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I ‘ve never been able to lead a group; I can’t think cleverly or quickly, the way I’d like to.”
And God was touched and although it was unlike God, God gave the man money, God gave the man time and God gave the man a glorious talent.
And then God waited, and waited and waited and waited….and then after a long while God finally shrugged his shoulders, and took all those things right back from the man, all the money, all the time and all the glorious talent.
After a while the man sighed and said, “if only I had some of that money back, I’d give it to God. If only I had some of that time back, I’d give that to God. If only I could rediscover that glorious talent, I’d give that to God.”
And God said. “O Shut Up.”
And the man told some of his friends, “You know I am not sure I believe in God anymore.”
Abundance on the other hand says that there is always enough – that everyone gets a piece of the pie; that the pie is not a pie – that the pie is infinite
• There is enough food to feed the whole world
• There are enough resources for everyone to be clothed and housed
• There are enough resources period
• There is enough joy
• There is enough hope
• There is enough love for every single person in the world
• And not only that – and here is the big idea – there is enough God not only enough God but more than enough God
Our God is a big God, bigger than what we can imagine, larger than what we can create, more creative than we can figure and what is more, this God our God, abundant God, loves us and gets into our lives abundantly and share Godself with us and others abundantly – and there is always more – more hope, more joy, more love, more blessing, more grace, more and more and more and more – infinite love, infinite hope, infinite joy, infinite blessing and infinite grace…
The story in John speaks to this abundance – Jesus and his disciples are sharing the good news, telling the people all about this God of abundance – and in the midst of the moment when surrounded by 5000 people Jesus asks Phillip to figure out how to buy bread for all these people – Phillip is flummoxed as you can well imagine – he is not able to see beyond the obvious problems – too many people not enough bread – Andrew – sees something else – he sees a boy with fish and bread – not a lot of fish and bread but food nonetheless. And here is where abundance come – Jesus takes this simple bit of food – blesses it and feeds the people – feeds all of the people – and everyone is filled and baskets of extra’s are gathered up –
Abundance – more than enough for everyone
In Phillip Clarke Brewer poem called Five Loaves and Two Fishes, we are reminded our place in God’s abundant world.
what you have
to fill a need which
you never could have filled.
where you are
to take you where
you never could have gone.
what you can do
to accomplish what
you never could have done.
who you are
to let you become who
you never could have been.
When God is involved abundance abounds
• There is always enough time do God’s work
• There is always enough resources to feed the hungry world
• There is always enough peace to end all wars
• There is always enough hope to go around
• There is always enough love for every single beloved child of God.
• There is always enough, more than enough.
Thanks be to God. Amen.