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Lectionary 17B (Pr 12) 2021    
Grace Lutheran Church      
Lakeland, FL    
July 25, 2021    

2 Kings 4:42-44 11:1-15
Psalm 145:10-18
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Please pray with me – May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Imagine, if you can, what it may have been like to be one of the 11,000 athletes participating in the Parade of Nations at the opening of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Did you watch it on Friday? All of those athletes entering and walking around the stadium. First, came Greece because Greece is always the first one given the origins of the games. Then one country after another. Not ranked by size of the team, nor by the likelihood of greatest number of medalists, nor by political or military strength. But alphabetically according to the language of the host country. The strong among the not-so-strong, the poorest among the richest. And they just kept on coming. Our team with its 657 members and South Sudan with its two. Brunei with its two and Japan with its 615. 206 countries each entering to a fanfare. Such enthusiasm. More and more and more. Filling the stadium. So very many. Overflowing. Imagine.

And I’d like for you to imagine something else. Imagine being in that crowd that gathered around Jesus that day over two thousand years ago. But before we do that, I want to give you this bit of background. First, even though this year in the lectionary cycle focuses largely on the Gospel of Mark, for the next several Sundays our gospel reading is in the Gospel of John, the sixth chapter to be specific. John’s Gospel is often called the Gospel of Signs because the gospel writer doesn’t use the word “miracle” but rather “signs.” A sign points something out or gives information. The signs in John each point to further revelation of who Jesus is.

And within the gospel each sign is followed by some conversation between Jesus and either the disciples or the crowds or others who are present. Then what follows is a longer discourse or teaching by Jesus. So today, we are looking at the sign and in the next Sundays we will be looking at various parts of Jesus’ discourse.

So, again, imagine being in that crowd pressing in on Jesus because word had gotten out about him and the signs that he was performing on the sick. People just couldn’t imagine how this could be and they came to see for themselves. And just like the Parade of Nations, they came. More and more came. They came by the thousands. John says that there were 5000 men – likely there was at least an equal number of women and children. And then the question came  -- how are these to be fed? No Door Dash. No Uber Eats. No pizza delivery.

So along comes Peter’s brother, Andrew, and says, perhaps sarcastically, “There’s this little boy here who has two fish and five loaves of barley bread but that will never be enough.” Then Jesus says to the disciples, “Have the people sit down.” Yeah, right, 12 disciples telling thousands of  people to sit down. Isn’t that interesting? No loudspeaker, no PA system. Just 12 disciples telling thousands what to do. I’d imagine that would be a bit unlikely, don’t you?

Then Jesus takes the loaves and gives thanks and then Jesus distributes them to the crowds. And then he did the same with the fish. Imagine. 

Of course, this story is familiar to us because it is present in each of the four gospels. What is unique to John’s account, however, is that it is Jesus himself, not the disciples, who feeds the crowd. And then what is common to all four is the abundance of leftovers – 12 baskets. Now these were not Easter basket size baskets, not cookies on the tea table basket. These were big – the size of the basket that was used to let Paul down the city wall as he escaped Jewish authorities in Damascus. See the abundance here – the people ate their fill directly from the hand of Jesus and then 12 full baskets remained. Can you imagine.

Evening came and the disciples got into a boat to go out on the Sea of Galilee to go to Capernaum. And the sea got rough because of the winds. And after they had rowed a few miles, Jesus came to them, walking on the water. And seeing their fear, he says simply, “I AM. Do not be afraid.” I AM, a bold claim and assertion of his identity. I AM, the name of God. This is not a story of safe return from the storms of life. This is a revelation of just who this Jesus is – it is a divine revelation that he is one with the Father. Imagine. 

Yes, imagine. Here we are in the midst of a time few of us could have imagined. I wish that I could say, “We’re coming out of a time few of us could have imagined.” But the jury is out on that one isn’t it. Nonetheless, this is a time unlike any. And the days and weeks and months that follow similarly will be unlike any other. And we here at Grace might wonder what lies ahead. Yes, indeed, wonder. To wonder is to be curious about something, to be creative. To suspend disbelief. To consider possibilities. And over the coming months we will do this as a community of faith. 

We will look at where our twelve baskets may be. We will look for the divine presence of Jesus as we navigate the sea. One of the first things that we will do is meet in small groups – One in the Spirit & One in the Lord. We’ll talk about where we have been, what our hopes and worries are, how we can support each other through these days ahead. If you have not yet registered for these, please do so soon – we’ll enjoy each other’s company as we gather and fellowship together. There will be some other events over the coming months designed to help us craft and shape what sharing God’s love with each other, our community and our world looks like. Imagine.

And this imagining does not apply only to our life as a community of faith. One cannot go through these many months of confusion, isolation, anxiety, aloneness and divisiveness without being affected at some level. It is only natural that we will have some combination of physical responses, emotional reactions and spiritual responses. So it is fitting that as individuals we engage in this kind of reflection and wondering.

Perhaps you feel like one of those disciples in the boat on the unsettled waters of the sea rowing mile after mile. Jesus who fed the thousands with an incomprehensible abundance comes along side, walking on the water, and proclaims, “I AM. Don’t be afraid.” And my friends please come. 

There’s a song I learned  that goes like this:

Come, come, whoever you are. 
Wanderer. Worshiper. Lover of leaving.
Ours is no caravan of despair. 
Come, yet again, come.

Come to the Table where Jesus is the host who graciously and abundantly feeds us, his most welcome guests.

Hear these paraphrased words from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus: God, through the riches of his glory, wants you to be strengthened in your inner being with power through the Holy Spirit, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith. And, being rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ. And to God who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or can even imagine, to God be glory forever and ever. 


May it be so. Amen.