In a world that often operates with a scarcity mindset, where the fear of not having enough leads to greed and hoarding, the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 invites us to live into a mindset of abundance– When we share what we have, God blesses it and uses it to provide more than enough for everyone.
Speaker: Pastor Stephen “Tig” Intagliata
Main Bible Passage: Mark 6:30-44
In high school, I was on the football team. I can’t really say that I could put together a highlight reel. In fact, one of my biggest highlights didn’t happen on the field.
It happened when I was on the Sophomore FB team, and we had the whole team over to our house for dinner for a team party. Now my mom was accustomed to putting food on the table three times a day for our family of 10, but feeding 40 hungry teenage guys raises the bar to a whole new level.
True to her Italian roots, my mom decided to make pizza, but not just any kind of pizza. She made pizzas out of rolls that were shaped like footballs. She cut the bread in half, put on the sauce and cheese, sausage and pepperoni and popped it in the oven.
These football pizzas were a big hit with the guys on the football team. Between the 40 guys, they must have eaten close to 200 of them. But my mom just kept cranking them out of the oven, and everyone kept eating until they were stuffed.
Like my mom, Jesus was pretty good at feeding a crowd. In the gospel stories about Jesus’ life and ministry, there is this story of the feeding of the 5000.
Not long after the feeding of the 5000 we read about in Mark 6, there was a feeding of 4000 in chapter 8. These are some pretty big picnics, especially if you factor in the women and children who were there as well but who often weren’t included by storytellers in those days.
In our story today, Jesus and his disciples had been out in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, taking a much-needed break from all the activity that had been happening with the crowds in the villages and hillsides around that lake.
But after their little siesta, as soon as they land on the shore, they are surrounded by all kinds of people with all kinds of needs, people who had all kinds of hopes and dreams for the future that they were pinning on Jesus.
It says that Jesus has compassion for them, and he rolls up his sleeves and gets right back to teaching and healing those in the crowd. Then it started getting late and everyone’s getting hungry, including Jesus’ disciples.
So the disciples say to Jesus, “Send all these people away and let them fend for themselves!”
Can you relate to the disciples’ attitude? I mean if you’re like me, if you haven’t eaten for a while, you get a little cranky and irritable, right? We now call it “hangry”. And you just want to be left alone so you can eat in peace.
What Jesus says next is not what his disciples want to hear at that moment. He says “You give them something to eat”. “You guys feed the crowd, ” he says.
Yeah, right Jesus. How in the world? Are you out of your mind? You’ve got to be kidding! Look at all these people! And there’s not a McDonald’s or Chick Fil A in sight.
But Jesus insists—”Just walk around and see how much food there is in the crowd, and bring it all up here.”
So the disciples weave their way through the crowd, and they come up with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. In John’s gospel, the account of this story says that the bread and fish came from one little boy.
So Jesus takes the loaves and fishes, blessed them, and started passing food out to his disciples to distribute to the people in the crowd. It’s kind of like what happens when the Church celebrates communion, the Lord’s Supper.
And just like my mom’s football pizzas, there seemed to be an endless supply of food, enough to feed everyone and there was even some left over. There was more than enough.
It was a miracle, something you look at and scratch your head and wonder, “How in the world did this happen?”
There are times when Jesus’s miracles are performed just by him, without any assistance from other people. His healings, his casting out of demons, these were usually just Jesus at work, using God’s miraculous power as a sign that the Kingdom of God had come into the world.
But based on what I read in the gospels and in this story of the feeding of the 5000, and what I have experienced in my life as Christian, it seems like more often than not Jesus chooses to use people as partners in working miracles and bringing forth the Kingdom of God in the world, a kingdom characterized by mercy and love, by healing and hope and justice and peace.
We live in a broken world, a world in which there is incredible poverty and a widening gap between the rich and the poor. And so sometimes we see all the pain and suffering in the world, and we either run away from it because it is too overwhelming and we feel helpless like the disciples did at the picnic,
OR we cry out to God “Why don’t you do something about this?” Why don’t you do something about all this hunger, these needs, the injustices?
And then God says “I did do something. I made you. You can be the answer to your prayers.” You are the ones I’ve called to carry out my work of salvation to the world, to be my agents of love and peace and hope to those around you.”
To me, the most powerful and most convicting words in the feeding of the 5000 story are “you give them something to eat”. You see, Jesus didn’t just wave his hands and make the fish and the bread appear at everyone’s side.
No, he involved his disciples in carrying out the miracle. They were the ones whose feet maneuvered through the crowd, to gather up all the food people had,
His disciples were the ones whose hands passed it out, and also went around again to retrieve all the leftovers because there was more than enough to feed everyone.
You and I have an important role to play in partnering with God to meet the needs of others and bring healing and hope to the world around us.
And I believe that the key to living out this role and being used by God is having an attitude of abundance rather than an attitude of scarcity, towards God and towards ourselves.
With a scarcity mindset, there is never enough, but with an abundance mindset, there is always enough and often more than enough.
Back in November, Lana Miller from Everence preached a sermon about abundance here via Zoom. Lana used the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath to invite us to live out of an abundance mindset, being generous with the gifts and resources that God has given us.
Last month, in June, I participated in a virtual workshop that Lana facilitated called Nurturing Abundant Congregations that was along these same lines. In that workshop we read an article by Walter Brueggemann called “The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity.”
Brueggemann says that Pharoah, the ruler of Egypt, was the first to introduce the principle of scarcity into the world’s economy. He dreamed that there would be a famine in the land, and he fears that there won’t be enough to go around,
so he hoards as much grain as he can, and stores it all up. Then he sets up a system where he controls the distribution of it all. Joseph, who we talked about last week, is put in charge of this process.
People coming to get the grain have to put up collateral in exchange for it; the first year, it’s land, then it’s cattle, and by the third year the only collateral people have is themselves. And that, Brueggemann says, is how the people of Israel became slaves at the hands of Pharoah in Egypt.
Hoarding and coveting is the result of a mindset of scarcity. In contrast, after the Israelites escaped from Egypt and were wandering in the desert, God rained down manna from heaven, but only enough for each day.
He wanted them to learn that he was a generous God and that they could trust Him to be faithful in “giving them each day their daily bread”.
Of course Jesus used these words when he taught his disciples how to pray. And he also warned us that we can’t serve both God and mammon (money), and that we don’t need to be anxious because like the birds of the air and lilies of the field, everything we need will be given to us. This is a mindset of abundance.
Brueggemann then talks about the United States, and says:
We who are now the richest nation in the world are today’s main coveters. We never feel that we have enough; we have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us. Whether we are liberal or conservative Christians, we must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by our attraction to the good news of God’s abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity, a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly.
This past week those of us involved in the Church Council here at Daniels Run Peace Church got a taste of what abundance might look like in our context.
Rebecca Spain, a woman in the community who has visited our church a couple of times recently, let us know about a grant from the Small Business Administration of the US government that is part of the America Rescue Plan.
Rebecca has a nonprofit organization that she is using to apply for a grant which would provide the funding to help her organization provide support to existing small business owners who were hit hard by the pandemic and also help people to launch a new start up businesses, targeting especially women and underserved populations.
Rebecca invited Daniels Run Peace Church to partner with her in this project. We had already been approached by a woman named Esperanza who would like to start a childcare center in our building,
And Rebecca said that providing childcare for these small business owners while they get some training and help get their business off the ground would be a great boost and support to them.
So this past week those of us on the Council had a bunch of communication with Rebecca and Esperanza and worked up a proposal for Rebecca to include in her grant application.
This whole process feels like an abundance mindset. There is an awareness of needs, and instead of being overwhelmed or paralyzed by the magnitude of the needs, a vision develops of imagining a way that those needs can be met, and people mobilize to come up with a plan to work together to address the needs.
I know that I and others on the Church Council have been inspired by Rebecca and her passion and vision for empowering small business owners who need a helping hand.
And even if the grant doesn’t come through, I feel like we have gained some momentum and some collaboration to use our resources and gifts to make a greater difference in our community for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
How can we here at Daniels Run Peace Church not get trapped in a scarcity mindset, and instead live more into an abundance reality, where the resources that we have among us can be gathered up like the loaves and fishes, and used by God to bless our community and the world around us?
I want to leave us with some reflections that were shared by a pastor at the Nurturing Abundant Congregations workshop.
Courtney Allen Crump is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Richmond, and her church went through a culture shirt of learning to operate more out of abundance than scarcity.
Here are some things they learned from that experience:
First, abundance happens when we believe that God has given us every good gift that we need to flourish, and where we create a culture where the gifts of each one of us are discovered, and where we make space for those gifts to be used for God’s purposes.
Along with this, a culture of abundance focuses on what we do have, and not what we don’t have. It means we run to our strengths. A culture of abundance means creating space for people to share stories of how they have been touched by God’s abundance and generosity in their own lives.
Hearing those stories helps us to strengthen the belief that God is up to more, in, among, and through us that we’ve previously allowed ourselves to believe was possible.
Crump and her church also discovered that an abundance mindset incorporates things like creativity, imagination and experimentation. We aren’t afraid to imagine new possibilities, to seize new opportunities, to venture into unknown territory, and trust God to guide us in the process.
May we at Daniels Run Peace Church be a place where we live out of abundance instead of scarcity, where we see with new eyes the gifts that God has given to each one of us, and the resources that we have available to us as a congregation. Where we open ourselves up a little bit more to share our gifts.
A little bit more to believe in the miracles that can happen when we make ourselves available to be used by God, may we be generous with others as God has been generous with us, generous with our resources and gifts and also generous with compassion, mercy, grace, and joy. And may we trust God to lead us and provide us with more than enough to meet our needs and the needs of those that we feel called to serve around us. AMEN.