October 30, 2016: A ? about Generosity: What do you have to give?

Posted on : Oct 27th, 2016 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

The feeding of the five thousand is one of the few “miracle stories” that is found in all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Just like the story of the Resurrection, the details in the story vary from Gospel to Gospel, but the point of the story is always the same. All of which is to say, this story had important significance and meaning for those who heard it. I rather guess the reason this story held such importance was that most of the people in the world at the time this story was told were poor and hungry. This story, as UCC biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann, so beautifully teaches is about two radically different world views. It is about the difference between the Gospel of Scarcity vs. the Gospel of Abundance.

The Gospel of Scarcity is the world view that says there is not enough for everyone; and those who have (and often have a lot) are blessed by God. Those who don’t, too bad. That’s either your fate or your curse.

The Gospel of Abundance is the world view that says there is more than enough for everyone; the only issue here is the just and fair distribution of resources (wealth, opportunity, food).

Sound familiar? Those are the two dominant themes of this year’s Presidential election. The Gospel of Scarcity basically says there is only so much and those who “have” need to hold on to it for dear life because those who don’t will try to get your stuff. This of course is the rationale behind white privilege, male privilege, anti-immigration issues, racism, and “the 1% vs the 99%.” The Gospel of Scarcity is fueled by fear. Fear that those who have are going to lose what they have and then they’ll be… nothing!

In this Sunday’s gospel, the disciples live within the gospel of scarcity. They tell Jesus, “Look, it’s getting very late and there is a mob of people here. Send them away, otherwise they are going to want dinner. But Jesus answered the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” They said to Jesus, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” [A denarii was about a day’s wage.]

Notice the disciples’ response. It’s not, as we often assume, that they don’t have 200 denarii, it’s are they supposed to spend that much money on “them.” Then Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” Collectively they found five loaves and two fish. There is actually more to this story that makes the point even more profound.   I’ll explain that on Sunday.

With the gifts of the community – the gifts of those who gave up the five loaves and two fish – the entire community is fed; and not only fed, but they took up twelve baskets of uneaten bread and food to be shared with others. That, my friends is the Gospel of Abundance.

So which Gospel do we believe in and practice? Do we believe in the Gospel of Scarcity or the Gospel of Abundance? Those who believe in and practice the Gospel of Scarcity hoard. They squirrel things away and give away only when it is safe to do so. Those who believe in and practice the Gospel of Abundance give generously to others and care about the well-being of others and the community.

Is there room for everyone to have an equal place in America? Will those of us who were born into white privilege or male privilege really “lose everything” if we practice equal rights, and offer respect and dignity to everyone? Are we afraid of others who are different from us? Are we afraid they may take what is ours – what we have or do we believe that the more diverse we are the more blessed we are?

It’s no wonder this wonderful story is included in all four gospels and is still as exciting today as when Jesus first told it. In preparation for Sunday, think about this question that Jesus asks: “What do you have to give?”

More on Sunday.



~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

What do you have to share?

Mark 6: 30-44

The Feeding of the Five Thousand

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.  Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.  As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 

When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”  But Jesus answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to Jesus, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” [A denarii was about a day’s wage.]   And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”  Then Jesus ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass.  So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.  And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men (plus women and children).

Leave a Reply