Sunday, August 03, 2014

Of Loaves and Fish and Laundry | Homily for Sunday, August 3, 2014

The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with only five loaves and two fish is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. In fact, it is the only miracle story – other than the resurrection -- that shows up in all four Gospels. And what that tells me is that there was something important the gospel writers – and the Holy Spirit who we believe inspired them – wanted us to learn from it.

I suspect it was something more important than “plan ahead – pack a lunch.” I also suspect that the point of the story is much more important than endless speculation on “how did he do that?”

Was it a metaphysical miracle that literally transformed those two fish and five loaves into enough food to feed over 5000 people? Or was it a sociological miracle that inspired those gathered to share what they had with each other and to find – miracle of miracles – that when we step out of our fear that there won’t be enough for “me and mine” we find out there is actually plenty for everybody?

Whatever kind of miracle it was, it got everybody’s attention. And I think part of the reason it shows up in all four Gospels – and is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible – is that addresses one of the most debilitating fears human beings face … and that’s the fear that there won’t be enough.

I look at the nightly news and it seems to me that every single conflict we watch unfolding can be reduced down to that fear. There won’t be enough. Someone else is getting more than I am. We can’t let those people take or share or participate in what is “ours.” It’s all about the fear that there won’t be enough to share.

Not enough Holy Land to share between Palestinians and Israelis.

Not enough territory to coexist between Russia and the Ukraine.

Not enough resources to care for the refugee children at our borders.

Not enough jobs to solve the ongoing immigration crisis

Not enough God to go around – fueling sectarian violence and interfaith warfare over religion.

Not enough equal protection to share – as if giving some marriages legal standing somehow takes something away from other marriage.

Even not enough BASEBALL to share … as the Dodgers and their cable television partners argue about how to afford to give access to the games to more Los Angeles baseball fans. (OK … that example isn’t in the same category as the others – but I think you get my point.)

The point is we as a human race have bought the fiction – the fantasy – the lie – that there is NOT enough to go around and we need to grab ours while we can and if others get left out … well, that’s their problem.

And the reason this story – this miracle – holds such a central place in our Christian faith is that it shows us in tangible, concrete terms that Jesus rejects that fiction – that fantasy – that lie … and calls us … IF we are going to follow him … to reject it, too. To believe that there is indeed enough. And the best way we can live into that is by starting with what we have – even if it’s the 21st century version of five loaves and two fish – and sharing it.

And that brings me to the laundry part of the “loaves and fish and laundry.” There’s a brilliant – relatively new – initiative popping up all over the country called “Laundry Love.”

It is a project that helps to wash laundry of individuals and/or families living in poverty. It is as simple as volunteers working in partnership with Laundromats to provide space and resources to make it possible for those living on the margins to have the basic dignity of clean clothes. A growing number of Episcopal churches around the Diocese of Los Angeles are participating in the initiative.

It was also featured in an NPR story last week – with moving stories of how much the gift of something as relatively small as a handful of quarters and some laundry soap – can mean to the lives of those having to make choices like whether to feed their children or wash their clothes this week.

And in those stories I head the connection to this morning’s gospel story. None of us has enough to fix the whole world. None of us has enough to feed 5000 people at a moment’s notice. But we all have something. A loaf. A fish. Some quarters. Some Tide. And sometimes the miracle is that we use what we have to meet the need in front of us.

Just as Jesus used what he had to feed the people who surrounded him on that hillside in Galilee we can use what we have to feed the needs of those who surround us. And every time we do that, we participate with God in bringing the Good News of the Gospel to life in the world.

The Good News that there is enough.Enough blessing. Enough justice. Enough love. And the God we belong to – the God of abundant love and compassion – loved us enough to become one of us in the person of Jesus – in order to show us how to love each other. One loaf. One fish. One laundry load at a time. Amen.

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