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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Soul Food

My sermon for this week was based on John 6:24-35.

To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.

Here's the punchline: we are supposed to be feeding one another spiritually.  We are meant to nourish one another, help one another grow and become better than we are.

A few years ago, the "Occupy" movement was at its peak, and while it seems to have lapsed into obscurity somewhat, it did leave an indelible mark on our culture.  Tellingly, that mark was in the form of a bumper-sticker slogan: "We are the 90%".

This refers to the alarming statistic that 90% of the world's wealth is in the hands of the 10% richest people in the world.  The corollary is the bumper sticker: the 90% remaining of us subsist on 10% of the world's wealth.

Furthermore, the bottom half of that 90% have to subsist on a mere 1% of the world's wealth.

So to visualize, imagine you and nine of your friends get together and order a pizza.  Would if be fair for your nine friends to have to split one piece of pizza while you stuff your face with nine slices?

Hell, no.  But this is our world.

Superficially, the story of the Feeding of the 5000 (which immediately precedes the Gospel for today) can be seen as a lesson about food justice.  On its surface, it is a story of people who have food feeding those who do not.

Hey, food is great, we all need it, most of us have more of it than we need, and there are many people out there who live on the edge of starvation.

But I think Jesus actually wanted to push the meaning of this act further.  Jesus wanted us to learn a lesson and have a change of heart.  He wanted to feed us spiritually, and the act of feeding us literally was meant as a token of this spiritual food.

 I think this principally because of what he says to the crowd in today's Gospel passage when they follow his and find him on the other side of the Galilee: "You are looking for me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life".

There are people out there who are bottomless pits.  They take and take and eat and eat and never give back.  Nothing they have will ever be enough, and they do very little to contribute to the common good of their churches, families, communities or workplace.  They fail to be spiritually moved by the many gifts that are probably present in their lives.

Jesus is calling us to be better than that.

The crowd was fed and they followed Jesus to be fed again.  Perhaps they were looking for real food, which Jesus gave them one way or another, and perhaps they were looking to be fed spiritually, we Jesus certainly did through his teachings and ministry.

But the problem is that at some point, enough is enough.  Hey, we all have to be fed, literally and spiritually, but at a certain point, we also have to say, "Ok, I am full!  Now I need to go out and do something with this".

The whole point of eating is so that we have the energy to live and work.

The whole point of feeding spiritually is that we have the energy to go out and do ministry.

I see church as breakfast: I go there to get my soul food for the week.  It is not the extent or even the principal expression of my faith.  It is where I go to recharge, refresh and recreate my energy.

But I have to do something with that energy.  I have to pass it on.  I have to pay it forward.

Let's operate under the assumption that the true miracle of the Feeding of the 5000 actually consisted of the example Jesus set by sharing his food with those who had none.   This encouraged others with food to share with their neighbours.  Now imagine if each of those 5000 people had in turn gone out and fed 5000 people each.

Any good at math?  25 million people would have been fed.

These people would have been fed literal food, which in and of itself would have been a great feat, but their spirits would have also been fed with the virtues of hope, generosity, kindness and love.

These are the real things Jesus was serving up.

No, you can't eat hope or love, but there is no food in the world that can satisfy loneliness, depression or hopelessness.

Today, I pray that we would all feed one another that we we hunger for most.

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