Proper 13 A

Matthew 14:13-21
Plenty and the Boundary of Discipleship
Some years ago I was given an assignment to work at a church in the Peoplestown neighorhoo! in
Atlanta" It is aout a hal#-mile west o# the aseall sta!ium$ an! once you cross the locks o# parking lots$ it is
easy to #eel like you have crosse! a line into an alien country" %he average annual househol! income is aroun!
seven thousan! !ollars$ the streets are line! with roken glass$ an!$ until they know you$ the #olks o#
Peoplestown eye you warily as you approach them" My &o was to teach Sun!ay School an! assist at services at
the chapel$ ut the !ay woul! start with reak#ast #or si' or eight a!ults an! what seeme! like hor!es o# ki!s$ all
o# whom sat an! ate with the &oy o# knowing there was always more i# they wante! it" I am sure$ as is almost
always the case$ that I learne! #ar more #rom these people than anything I ever taught them$ mostly aout what it
was to have plenty in the mi!st o# scarcity$ that the line etween having what we nee! an! the #ear o# not having
enough is mostly one we construct #or ourselves"
%his is certainly true with the #ee!ing o# the #ive thousan!$ which has a #ully #leshe!-out version
in each gospel an!$ in case we miss the point$ elsewhere there are two other ren!itions o# miraculous$ impossile
#ee!ings" %hey are not like the !rama in some o# the stories #rom the other gospels$ the Annunciation$ the (oo!
Samaritan or the Pro!igal Son$ stories that we hear only once so that it is like looking at a !iamon! lighte! #rom
one angle" %he #ee!ing o# the multitu!es is something more like a #ully-lit &ewel$ a story we nee! to hear over
an! over ecause$ especially in this morning)s version$ we nee! to know not only aout !ivine generosity ut
what our oun!aries say to us$ the ones we impose on ourselves$ what they mean in relation to the gi#ts o# (o!"
It seems strange to e thinking aout oun!aries in a story that any chil! can tell you is aout
(o!)s ounty$ ut several o# those lines have alrea!y een !rawn #or *esus" It has not een an easy time in his
ministry" A#ter the teachings #rom the past several weeks$ he travels to his hometown$ where his healing an!
teaching are re&ecte!$ where he is hemme! in y the crow!)s nee! to #i' him within the conte't o# his #amily" At
the same time$ *ohn the +apti,er$ who provi!e! the #oun!ation #or his ministry$ is e'ecute! y -ero! an! *esus
with!raws$ proaly as much into himsel# as #rom the crow!s that are always pressing on him"" .e think o# the
story that #ollows eing aout another e'traor!inary$ unimaginale meal ut it is much more aout the healing to
which *esus has committe! himsel# !espite re&ection an! loss$ healing he o##ers$ in the most sutle way$ to all
aroun! him"
%he !isciples sense the hunger o# the crow! an!$ i# we have een paying attention to the
!etails$ it is not entirely the physical hunger that concerns them/ the crow! is consume! y the healing work
*esus is !oing" So *esus tells the !isciples$ 01ou give them something to eat"2 .e !on)t hear the sarcasm #rom the
other gospels$ the complaint aout so little #ish an! rea!$ only the pushing on the oun!ary o# what seems
possile" 1ou give them something to eat" %here is a little rea! an! #ish here$ he is saying to them$ ut there is
also a little #aith an! you can show them what it looks like" In #act$ #aith may e all that those on your right an!
le#t have at the moment" Moreover$ the miracle you are aout to witness is stepping over that !ivision$ o#
overcoming the #ear that there will not e enough" It is$ as 3orothy 3ay sai! shortly a#ter the Secon! .orl! .ar$
0Much hospitality coul! e given to relieve the grave su##ering to!ay" +ut people are a#rai!"""" 4o use starting
what you cannot #inish$ they say""" So we #orget aout the necessity o# pruning$ in the natural or!er$ to attain
much #ruit" .e !on)t want to pay the cost o# love" .e !o not want to e'ercise our capacity to love"2
1ou give them something to eat" %o un!erstan! what *esus means i# it is an invitation to
love rather than a magic trick is to un!erstan! that (o! is the source o# everything we have an! that our
responsiility is to augment that love$ to show that we elieve in it enough to make it mani#est to all aroun! us"
An! that may e the har!est oun!ary to cross ecause o# #ear/ we aren)t sure there will actually e enough$
enough #or us$ our #amilies$ the people we really care aout" 4evertheless$ we cautiously pull the rea! we have
rought out #rom un!er our cloaks an! o##er each other what we can$ ecause we can see a small group o# men in
the !istance !oing what they can with what they have"
I# we peer through the crow! an! see *esus looking like he is celerating something like
the 5ucharist$ it)s proaly ecause that is what it is$ a thanksgiving #or the presence o# (o!$ even through
re&ection an! political calculation" -e takes the loaves$ lesses them$ reaks an! gives them to all the !isciples
there" %he #oo! that he is sharing$ the act o# thanksgiving he o##ers$ means much more than the rea! an! #ish he
has in #ront o# him" It is what we all !o with our lives/ we take what we have$ we less it as coming #rom the
generosity o# (o!$ we reak it an! give it to each other in thanksgiving #or what we have"
It is the gospel o# enough$ something that many o# us hear! at +roa! Street Ministry last
week or at Philaun!ance$ one that any sel#-respecting #aith tries to convey" .e !o not nee! to e a#rai!$ a#rai!
to pay the cost o# love$ as 3ay says$ ecause it is not the kin! o# commo!ity that runs out" %hat is not to say that
it is easy" All o# what we hear aout this morning may e trans#ormative$ even miraculous$ ut it isn)t cheap" All
o# it costs us something" +ut whether we are !oing it with #oo!$ with our hospitality$ with our inclusion o# the
stranger$ what we are seeing multiplie! is love$ an! that is why we nee! to hear this story over an! over"
.hatever it may cost us$ in our resources$ our energy$ our time$ it is the same in&unction that calls us to step over
the oun!aries we set in our lives: you give them something to eat" %hey are the wor!s that ask us to give what
we can/ they are the wor!s that tell us what kin! o# !isciples we are"
So i# we are sitting with these !isciples$ this act o# thanksgiving may e the scariest
gesture o# all$ particularly with #ive thousan! sets o# eyes traine! on you$ wary as the #olks I knew in
Peoplestown" +ut the line *esus has crosse!$ which is always the line o# !iscipleship$ is the !i##erence etween
pro#essing our #aith an! #in!ing a way to make it mani#est in the worl!" %o take what little you have an! give it
away goes somewhere eyon! the act o# the #oolhar!y an! creates its own worl!$ not one cut o## y !ivisions ut
one where everyone is welcome$ ecause we are a!!resse! not as commo!ities or open mouths ut as human
eings$ where even a #ew pieces o# #ish an! rea! can seem like the greatest an6uet we coul! imagine"