This Sunday the EBPC community gathers around three scripture passages that bear witness to a God of abundance in contrast with a cultural message of scarcity that has a remarkably strong grip on us and our world. The texts: Psalm 23 (“thou prepares a table”); Ephesians 2:11-22 (“tearing down the dividing wall of hostility”); Mark 6:30-56 (“the feeding of the five thousand”). The focus for the sermon is upon the disciples and their scarcity mentality in Mark’s telling of this beloved feeding story. Their head space is fed by their physical state --- they are exhausted trying to deal with all of the human need and the “coming and the going” of the people. The constant coming and going of activity spiraling around our lives from time to time can help us relate to what they are feeling. The disciples are looking forward to getting away and having a little R&R boat trip but by the time they get to the far shore everyone else has gotten there first. Que up resentment and dissatisfaction on the part of the disciples. Jesus has “compassion” for the people and then says to the disciples something bemusing and astonishing: “you give them something to eat” to the disciples who are not only exhausted, but feel exhausted and powerless. You can read how Mark describes how the feeding takes place.
This is the moment where the mighty act of God takes place: somehow, when the disciples are at their wits’ end and exhausted, Jesus finds a way to provide for them what they cannot provide for themselves. Jesus finds them when they are worn out and tired and hungry and finds a way to feed them and give them rest.
In this ancient story, Jesus came to address our deep sense of scarcity and not-enoughness by becoming the Bread of Life that was enough to satisfy ancient, deep hungers. Mark’s message to us today is that Jesus is not just present to us when we are at our most faithful, our most optimistic, or our most motivated place, but that when we feel empty and do not know how to fill ourselves up again, Jesus has been there as well, and God feeds us in those places, too. In essence, we can be enough. The Jewish people have a beautiful prayer form that is typically used during Passover; a kind of litany to which the response is always “Dayenu!” which in Hebrew means “It would have been enough!” It is as if to say “How much is it going to take for us to know that God is with us?!” Such an affirmation builds satisfaction instead of feeding dissatisfaction. If we begin our day with any notion of scarcity, not-enoughness, or “I deserve,” most likely the day will not be good–for you or for those around you. Nor will God be glorified.
I don’t know how to explain many of God’s mighty acts in Mark: the healings, the feeding of thousands, the walking on the water. What I do know is that just as in the stories we read today, we walk through our lives often getting glimpses of God, and often we miss or are not in a place to receive what is before us because we are too tired or stubborn or inattentive. God may find us anyway and challenges us, invites us to rest, feeds us for the journey before us. When we are empty and do not know how to find the food we need, God finds us.