Monday, October 17, 2011
Receiving and giving
I just read the familiar story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. We all know how the story goes. About how Jesus was teaching out in the countryside, and about how he goes on and on, kind of like some preachers you might know, until it is meal time, perhaps past meal time.
Looking at the crowd Jesus tests the disciples. “Wow, look at all those people! Where are we going to find them all something to eat?!” The disciples pretty much freak out. Obviously no Subway, or McDonalds or Burger King there. “Jesus” the disciples reply, “we are in deep trouble. There is no food to be found. And even if we found a place to buy food… to feed this crowd? That would take half a year’s wages!!!!”
Jesus is not flustered at all. He takes what food there is… five barley loaves and 2 fish, and he starts to hand it out to the gathered crowd (Now we get to the critical part, the outcome), and everyone is feed. More than that! There is food left over.
And that is point of the story. Jesus can feed people. He can feed people until they are full, stuffed, sated. He can full people up, and still have more to give! Now why is that important?
Because we as people are chronically empty, hungry
Wayne Muller notes that most houses today have a working thermostat that regulates the work of the heater, ensuring that it pumps precisely enough heat into the house. When this devise determines that the house is warm enough, it tells the furnace that “enough is enough” and the furnace stops putting out heat, until more is needed. Without a thermostat the heat would just keep heating and heating and would never know that it has done enough.
According to Muller our thermostats are broken. We are people who are always hungry, who never have enough. I like that image. But I look at it a little differently. We are never at the point of “enough” because we have gotten things dreadfully wrong. We are pumping cold air into our house in the dead of winter, the system set on air-conditioning, rather than heat.
We are looking for fullness in all the wrong places
We are looking at jobs, money, power, success, status, things, sex,
We are look at a plethora of external things
Thinking, hoping, that they will fill us, give us a sense of ease
Make us happy
But they don’t. The more we have, the more we want
The more money we have, the more we want. Why do you think that the 1% of the American population we hear so much about continues to want to accumulate more, even at the cost of pushing other people into poverty? Why do you think we are driven, always, to have more, do more, get more?
Because none of that stuff actually fills us! No matter how nice our house, how amazing our car, how prestigious our job, how big our bank account, if those are the things we are relying on for a sense of fullness and satisfaction… we are always left wanting.
If we want to be full, we have to let Jesus feed us
Feed us with his spiritual food
With his love, his forgiveness, his acceptance
I know I know
That doesn’t seem very tangible
I mean we need money.
We need houses, clothes,
We need our stuff……….
But one author puts it this way. Our treasures, our possession, houses, responsibilities, our “stuff” our “toys” are simply tools, the “hows” of our life’s deeper purpose. And like all tools they are subject to loss and impermanence. And if we don’t know why we need them. Or how we are to use them, they are kind of useless. Oh look, I have a hammer? Why do I need this? Oh look, a “power saw” Brahaaaa.. Wait, what am I going to do with it.
They “hows” are not very useful without the “whys” And according to this author, and I really like this, the”fruits of the kingdom” are the ultimate why of our life journey.
To love and be loved
To forgive and be forgiven
To serve others
To share what we have been given
These are the “whys”, biblically speaking
Our journeys are about receiving and giving love and forgiveness
And only Jesus can give us the love, the forgiveness,
And the power we need to be able to live in the world
As loved, forgiven and empowered people
Only Jesus can give us the ability to relate to the world
To our jobs
Our fellow employees
Out of fullness and not emptiness and need
I thought a lot about a “take home” lesson for this passage, beyond the obvious, that Jesus could do miracles. I finally came up with this one
Which is amazing in its simplicity
We have to receive to give!
As long as we are hungry, our actions will be affected by our hunger
Our love for the man or woman in our lives will be tainted by our hunger, our need, and may become something that is not healthy or good, but controlling, manipulative, and graspoing
Our work may be tainted
Our efforts for the church
Our giving may be tainted by our hunger and may be efforts to get, rather than things we do for God and others.
If would be God’s people
We have to let God feed us.
Then and only then can we truly give
There is a powerful mystery at work here. In the scandalous idea that we must first seek to receive before we seek to give. Seems backwards somehow. First we give, we invest, we obey, we do all this “good” stuff, and then we receive. But no…first we receive. We let god love us, feed us. Then out of that fullness we give
Then and only then can we be people who are not only full
But are able to pass along the food of God
To the hungry people around us