All You Have To Be Is Hungry

All You Have To Be Is Hungry

Feeding the Five Thousand
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled, and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

MattheW 14:13-21 (NRSVUE)

Each Sunday throughout the fall, we are taking time to wonder about worship and why we do what we do here in Oldtown. So far, we have learned about what it means for something to be holy or sacred, the importance of hospitality and welcome, what celebration and praise mean to worship, and our need for confession and forgiveness. And today, we are looking at sacraments and what they mean to our worship and our faith.

In the protestant church, we celebrate two sacraments–the sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of communion–because we believe that those are the two things that Jesus instructed us to go out and do. In scripture, Jesus tells his disciples to go out and baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And then, after sharing the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The celebration of these sacraments helps us to unite not only as Christians but as the Body of Christ here on earth. While celebrating the sacraments, we call on the Holy Spirit to be present, which makes the sacraments holy and sacred. But I think the best news about the sacraments is they are a gift. Like grace, sacraments are not something we can ever earn or be good enough to deserve; all we can do is simply experience and receive them.

Now, there is always a sacred mystery when it comes to the sacraments because we can’t fully explain what happens. All that we know is that when we celebrate a sacrament, somehow God’s love becomes visible. I also personally believe that when we are fed and nourished by the sacraments, we are then given the ability to go out into the world, making God’s love visible to others. That’s why, here in Oldtown, ALL are welcome to share in the sacraments because we believe that we learn by experience. We learn by doing, and because God’s love is unconditional, it is for anyone and everyone that comes looking for it.

Folks, today we heard the story of the feeding of the five thousand. And, if you think about it, Jesus often told stories about feeding people, didn’t he? He told stories of banquets and feasts where the doors were thrown open, and the least and the lost were fed and made whole.  Today, we heard about how Jesus fed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and everyone ate their fill! But I wonder, in today’s story, did you hear Jesus ask where the people were from? Did you hear Jesus ask if the people were worthy? Or if they had a job, or if they really needed the food? Or why they didn’t bring their own food with them? No! Because over and over again, all that matters to Jesus is that someone is hungry. And if someone is hungry, Jesus always feeds them. No questions asked. No proof of need. No paperwork to sign. But did you know that there are different kinds of hunger? There is physical hunger when we are in need of actual food to eat. But there is also a spiritual hunger that calls us into a relationship with God and a sacred, loving community.

Now we have had families come to the church, looking for sacraments, especially baptism to check baptism off the proverbial list–“getting their kids done,” as they say–and then we never see them again. I always hope that someday that child will ask about their baptism and that it will mean something to them. But there are others who come to church hungry for a relationship with God.

I remember when Jimmy Dumont first came to Oldtown, he was so excited about being a part of our church family, and the day of his baptism was such a sacred moment because he truly became a part of the Body of Christ that day. And what a blessing he has been to our entire church family.

Folks, there is something about hunger, whether it is physical hunger or spiritual hunger, that fills us with longing. And as the Body of Christ or the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth, when we all work together, we can feed and nourish both. And when we do, just like when we experience a sacrament, I believe that God becomes visible through us!

Every Thanksgiving, a friend of mine prepares home-cooked meals and collects warm clothing. Then, he heads out to the streets of Providence to feed the hungry and the differently-housed. He meets the people where they are, he acknowledges them, and he offers them a home-cooked meal and a smile. Not only does the home-cooked meal feed the bodies of those he meets, but his kindness and compassion feed a deeper hunger. One that longs to be seen and recognized, not only as a hungry or homeless person, but as a human being and a child of God. My friend’s compassion feeds not only the physical and spiritual hunger in those he meets on the street, but I believe it also feeds his own spiritual need to share the love and kindness of a sacred community and to, in his own way, make God visible for others.

Friends, today we are celebrating World Communion Sunday. So as we gather at the Table that Jesus has set for us, we gather with brothers and sisters all around the world. This is a place where Jesus welcomes all, just like at the feeding of the five thousand. No one is turned away, and there is always more than enough to go around. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter if you were raised Roman Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal, or Methodist, or if you were raised with no religion at all. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, gay or straight, conservative or liberal, or somewhere in between. Because whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, YOU ARE WELCOME AT THIS TABLE!

On this World Communion Sunday, we are gathering at this table with brothers and sisters from all around the world, brothers and sisters who may look different, who may speak a different language, who may act differently, who may believe differently, but here’s the good news, God loves all of us the same. And that unconditional love and grace is what this table is all about. As Jesus always says, all you need to be to come to this table is hungry!

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead. Remember that World Communion Sunday teaches us that we are a part of something so much bigger–a sacred community of grace that calls us not to judge others but to feed those who are hungry in mind, body, or spirit, truly sharing God’s unconditional love with the world.

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen!


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