My kids have taken to debating politics and issues with each other lately. The upcoming election has been a big topic for them. Just the other day, we were driving and talking about elections and Sarah, the youngest, remembered an old episode of 30 Rock she had recently seen. In that episode, Kenneth, a page for NBC and a stereotypical Christian country bumpkin in the show, says in response to a question about how he will vote in the upcoming election, “I don’t vote Republican or Democrat. Choosingis a sin so I always just write in the Lord’s name.” Sarah thought that was both hilarious and a pretty good idea. She suggested that we all just write in the name of Jesus when we vote for President in November.
I laughed but then thought about it for a moment. And I said to Sarah, “Ya know, you might want to be careful what you wish for…”
As Christians, a new kingdom ushered in by Jesus, is exactly what we are waiting for. So why not Jesus for President? We long for a world where the values of Jesus reign. A world where the sick are healed, the lost are found, the outcast are brought in, and justice, love and mercy win the day.
A world of abundance like we’ve been hearing about the past few weeks inthe parables of Jesus, and a world of plenty like we see in the images of Isaiah and the Feeding of the 5000 this morning.
This passage in Isaiah is among other things, an invitation to God’s feast. He wrote,
“Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen so that you may live.” During the time of Isaiah’s prophesy, wealth was displayed most prominently by providing a feast, not just for one’s family but for the community. In this passage, we have an image of God inviting Israel to a feast of abundance. A feast where they would not just have their hunger satisfied, but where they would delight in rich food.
So too, does our Gospel story give us a vision of a kingdom of abundance and generosity. This morning’s passage begins with Jesus withdrawing to a deserted place by himself. We skipped over a chapter from last week’sparables, so we miss that Jesus is withdrawing out of grief. He had just learned that John the Baptist, his cousin and mentor, was beheaded byKing Herod. But despite Jesus’ desire to escape from it all, to find a place to sit with his grief, the people follow him, even to this deserted place. And rather than turn them away, Jesus had compassion on them. He spent the day curing the sick and caring for the crowd that had followed him out of the town.
When evening comes, the disciples come to Jesus and suggest that he send the crowds away so that they can go and find food for their evening meals. But Jesus responds to the disciples with these words, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
And it is this attitude of Jesus that made me warn Sarah that Jesus as President might be more challenging than we think. Jesus would expect certain things of us, things we may not be ready for.
Jesus saw the hungry crowd and said to the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” And they replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” I can imagine that the disciples were thinking about their own bellies. I can imagine the series of questions and objections running through their heads as they looked at the loaves and fishes: Are we to give up our food? What then would we eat? And how could this little bit that wehave possibly feed this crowd? If we share it, we’ll just all be hungry.
But we see time and again in the Gospel story how Jesus is not constrained by our human lack of vision for what may be. Jesus took the bread and fish from the disciples. He looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them back to the disciples to hand out to the crowds. And thousands of people were fed with out of that meager offering. And not just fed, but filled. And there were twelve full baskets left over. It was a miracle, of course. But it took courage for the disciples to hand over that bread and fish, their evening meal, and to trust that Jesus would feed them all.
Their courage reminds me of a podcast I was listening to this week with Michelle and Barack Obama. They were talking about our cultural values in this day and age, and at one point Barack said, “Too often the question in our modern world is: How do I protect me…instead of how do I take care of us?”
What if the question that guided our lives was “How do I take care of us?” What if we truly believed that there’s enough to go around and we don’t have to hoard that which we have been given?
Choosing to protect what is ours at the expense of others isn’t always about greed or a lack of compassion. It’s mostly about fear. Like those disciples handing over their evening meal, we must be willing to let go of our fears and trust that there’s enough to go around. If we really believed that, how might it change the world we live in? What would it mean for the hungry, for those without access to healthcare, for immigrants, for Native peoples, African Americans, and others affected by oppression in our country? What would it mean for the environment if we consumed less? I know that these are massive problems facing our country and world todayand problems that require complex solutions, but let’s not refuse to address them because we’re too scared of what we might lose or what we might have to give up so that others can be taken care of, too. We might not quite be ready for Jesus as President, but we should ask ourselves what sacrifices Jesus would ask of us and what abundance he would promise us.
The commitment of Jesus to a world of abundance for all, not just a few…a commitment that brought him to the cross and to death…that commitment demands something of those of us who claim to be his followers. It demands that we move beyond protecting what is ours and start asking how we can take care of us—and us has to include everyone: the poor, theoutcast, the marginalized…even those we find hardest to love. In the hymn that we heard before the Gospel reading, “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” we find the words, “Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust him more!” We long for that grace. Grace to trust that we, too, can participate in the generosity of Jesus and that in doing so, we won’t run out.
When we say the Eucharistic prayers this morning and share the communion meal, we are sharing in the abundance that Jesus makes known to us again and again in the Gospels. When we participate in that eucharistic liturgy where the bread is blessed, broken, and shared, we aresharing in God’s dream for a world where there is no scarcity. A world where all are fed and loved abundantly. May it be so. Amen.