Mark 6:34-44 October 2, 2016
Let me tell you an old, old story - a haunting story about a woman who carried a basket on a long and dusty road. That road might have been anywhere in the world – I’m not sure where – for it was an everyday road in a plain and uninteresting place. Now this woman was a rather ordinary woman and her basket seemed a rather unremarkable basket - except that it was obviously quite old, which made sense to the woman, since it had come to her from her father, who said that his mother had passed it on to him, and that she had received it from her parents, and they from their parents, and so on back thru the family. In the basket were pieces of bread - no complete loaves, just broken pieces of various shapes and sizes. Now the road on which this woman walked was not deserted - far from it. Lots and lots of people shared the dusty road with the ordinary woman and her unremarkable basket. Perhaps there had been some disaster in the area to make these people refugees - an earthquake or a war, a drought or flood; perhaps it was a holiday; perhaps some important person was appearing near by; I can’t tell you why the people were there, but they were, and the woman walked among them. And as she walked, the woman with the basket handed out bread to the people with whom she shared the road. She gave as much bread as anyone wanted, and she was never stingy, and her basket of bread never ran out. She gave away the bread, because that’s what her father had done all of his life. He had given bread from that very same basket - and his mother before him, and her parents and their parents, as long as the family could remember. And the bread in the basket never ran out.
Well, as she walked along and gave out bread one day, a man called out to her, “Do you have enough to spare?” “Why, of course,” she said, and reached into the basket to give the man some bread. “No, I don’t want any,” he said. “It’s just that I’ve been watching you, and I noticed you’re not very careful how you use your bread. I just wanted to warn you that you’ll probably run out before long at the rate you’re going.” Run out?! Why she had never thought of that. She peered into the basket, and said to the man in relief, “Oh, it’s still half full. I have plenty.” “But you never know,” he said. “Maybe you should be more careful how much bread you give out in one day.” And the man dropped back to walk behind her. So the woman walked on, and she was careful after that, to give just enough - just one piece per person, even if they seemed to want or need more. And sometimes she chose to give a smaller piece. And at other times, she gave no bread at all. At the end of the day, the man caught up to her, and together they peered into the basket again. “Oh no,” the woman cried, “It’s half empty already.”
The story goes on, and I’ll let you decide what you think happens to the woman and the basket. The basket which had been passed down from generation to generation, the basket which had been full for so many years, the basket which had never run out. As you think about the rest of the story, let me remind you of another story - this time a true one, from the Gospel of Mark - the lesson which we read this morning. The miracle story of Jesus feeding the 5000 - and there were twelve baskets full of food left over. What do you think happened to those 12 baskets? The miracle story of the feeding of the multitudes is repeated 6 times in our scripture with some variations. And it’s one of the few stories recorded in all four gospels. What was so important about this story that the early Christians felt they must remember it and share it? What are the lessons which have been passed down from generation to generation among Christians through this story? So many lessons. Not the least of which is “with God all things are possible.” But today, I want to concentrate on just one lesson - the abundance of God.
In this story - as always, Jesus knew God will always provide. There will always be more than enough. God’s gifts are everywhere available for everyone. There is always more than enough. So why is there scarcity in the world? Because not everyone believes in that abundance of God. Not everyone trusts. In fact, very few of us truly trust God to provide all that we need. To make bread for thousands from 5 little loaves. To feed us so that we never grow hungry again. To nourish and nurture everyone - giving us whatever we need physically, spiritually, relationally. So fear takes over, or even worse greed, and people don’t share as we could. We don’t care as generously as Jesus did. We’re afraid our basket will run out, so we stop giving away the gifts that God has given us. In this story of the feeding of the multitudes, Jesus shows us that we have to take the risk. Trust God. Share what you have. Share your gifts of time, talent, property, interest, experience, and inspiration. Share what you have. And God will provide an abundance of blessings. In the story, Jesus didn’t just create something out of nothing, Jesus took what he had - five loaves and two fish, and he took it in his hands. He gave thanks to God and he broke the bread. He broke it and shared it. What we have must be broken, so that we too might give. The bread could not remain whole, it could not stay as it was. To give and to share, the bread had to be broken. For it is in the breaking, in the risking, in the pouring, in the emptying, that the miracle occurs. To give with compassion means to risk. What ultimately will it mean to risk as Jesus did, to give as Jesus did? “This is my body broken - broken for you.”
Perhaps you’re thinking - I can’t give like Jesus gives. I can’t. Fear leaps up again given the slightest chance. The disciples say, “How can we give them what they need? We have only five loaves and two fish. That can not possibly feed thousands of people.” And they are right. Alone, with the resources they had, they could not do it. Alone, with the resources we have, we can not possibly solve the hunger problem in the world, or build shelter for all the homeless, or find room for the outcasts, or teach all the children. But Jesus says, “Bring them here to me.” Bring the five loaves and two fish. Bring the limited resources you have and I have. Bring your time and your talent, your particular gift to share. Bring them to Jesus. For God makes all things possible. And in God’s hands what we have is multiplied. In God’s hands five loaves and two fish can feed thousands. In God’s hands our resources grow, what we can offer is stretched beyond imagination, what we give becomes more than enough. And basketfuls left over. Bring your gifts. Bring them to Jesus. Bring your gifts, your talents, your offerings - whatever it is - Bring it to God. Watch it multiply. In God’s hands - you have more than enough. We have more than enough.
Today – on worldwide communion Sunday - we think about Christians all over the world, and the unity of we who follow Jesus everywhere in the world. We remember that we are united in Christ and that together we can serve Christ everywhere in every time and place. We remember that in Christ, all things are possible, through Christ every world problem can be addressed, with Christ peace is possible. The scripture for today says, “And looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.” And all the people shared the feast, giving thanks, they were satisfied. The bread is broken and shared. And so we come to this table of grace. All the people of the world come to this table of grace. It is a time to be filled anew. In the presence of God, we are given new strength, new power, new resources to reach out. In the presence of God, we are filled up to overflowing. And in the presence of God, we are able to go out again, to give, to risk, even to break, knowing that God will take what we give, and it will be more than enough. God’s love and grace will never run out.
Each of you holds a basket in front of you - of broken pieces given away, risks taken, resources multiplied, gifts shared, faith passed down from generation to generation to generation. And now it is yours. Look into your basket. What will you give away? Reach into your basket. Reach in and give away. Give freely. Give generously. Give knowing - there will be more than enough. God’s basket of miracles - God’s love in you - will never ever run out. By the grace of God. Amen.