Food seems to have really hit its stride.
I mean, sure, people have always eaten, and people have always loved food, but there is a movement in America that keeps picking up steam.
According to Science Daily, 74% of U.S. adults enjoy talking about new or interesting foods, 76% of us purchase specialty foods – not for special occasions – but for everyday home meals, and 53% of adults regularly watch cooking shows on television!
But if you want proof : it’s not only the foodies. The average person now knows what quinoa is, for heaven’s sake!
All of a sudden, food is everywhere…even in our trashcans.
Because, unfortunately, even though we’re crazed for it, everyday a lot of our food gets thrown away.
A recent study from the University of Arizona in Tucson found that somewhere between forty and fifty percent of all food produced in our country never gets eaten.
Restaurants and groceries have surpluses that never sell but also on average, American households waste 14 percent of their food purchases.
Fifteen percent of products which are produced, sold, and taken home, are thrown away… having never been opened!
Friends, we live in privilege…
I am so privileged, in fact, that sometimes I see the need to eat as an interruption to my day. I don’t want to be bothered with food because I have more ‘important’ things to do.
AND I can only feel this way because, unlike so many less-fortunate people in our country, I DON’T FEAR hunger.
My guess is that MOST of us don’t know what its like to wonder WHEN we’re going to eat next, to wonder HOW we are going to get food, or to worry about our family’s health because of hunger.
But in the United States, in 2013, there were 49 million Americans who lived in food insecure households.
Of these 49 million Americans who live with food insecurity, 16 million are children.
They’re not TOO BUSY to eat.
They don’t have a choice in the matter.
And I imagine, for them, eating, every time, is a blessed event.
Maybe this story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people is so loved because it hits so close to our human experience. Food, hunger, eating – this is very human stuff – as human as it gets, really.
The story of Jesus taking five loaves and two fish and multiplying it to feed the hungry was one of the most loved and widest-told stories in the early Jesus movement.
We know this because it is THE ONLY miracle story, which Matthew, Mark, Luke and John ALL include in their account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
It’s the time of the Passover, and people are coming out to see Jesus because of the signs he is performing and the people he is healing.
They’ve traveled far away from the city of Jerusalem, wa-a-a-ay out in something like the Goochland County wilderness and there are no restaurants, no grocery stores, and no food trucks in sight.
Jesus and his friends realize they have a problem unfolding before them: How will they feed all these people?
Phillip takes the rational course. He runs the data and finds it would take six months wages – perhaps more than 20 thousand dollars – to feed all these people and even then, they would have just enough to give them a bite of food.
Andrew is taking inventory of what they DO have. Only, they have so little – just five barley loaves and two fish – and that doesn’t seem like it will go very far.
So when they’re out of their own ideas and their own plans don’t seem to be adding up to much, they give what they do have to Jesus.
And Jesus takes what little they have, blesses it, and multiplies it, so that there is an abundance! All the many people are fed!
And, not only are they fed, but they are satisfied, and there are baskets overflowing with leftovers!!!
Brothers and sisters: Jesus will take what we have, whatever we have, even if it is a little, and when we entrust it to him, for his purposes, he will make it an abundance.
He won’t grant our every wish and whim just like he wouldn’t allow himself to be made king under their expectations.
But he will take the gifts God has given to us, and use them to build his Kingdom of justice and mercy.
We see signs of God’s power to do this all the time….
In 1942 a farmer and biblical scholar by the name of Clarence Jordan founded a small, interracial, Christian community outside of Americus, Georgia which he called Koinonia Farm.
In 1965 Millard and Linda Fuller visited THAT farm. They had recently left a successful business and an affluent lifestyle in Montgomery, Alabama to begin a new life of Christian service.
At Koinonia, together, they developed the concept of “partnership housing,” which was centered on the idea that those in need of adequate shelter would work side by side with volunteers to build simple, decent houses.
The organization grew, and of course, today we know them as Habitat for Humanity International, which has worked with churches, community groups and volunteers around the world to build safe housing for the poor.
Habitat has now built or repaired over 1 million homes, and served more than 5 million people worldwide…and my guess is, some of you have been a part of a Habitat build.
Habitat for Humanity began as something small, just farmer in a field really, but in the hands of Jesus, is has been multiplied so that the Kingdom of God is emerging in the world.
In Hopedale, IL in1894, there was a teacher named D. T. Miles who also taught Sunday school at her church. She felt she was limited by time constraints in teaching her children during the school year.
So, she started a daily Bible school in the SUMMER. The first Bible school enrolled forty students.
Hearing about this, in 1898, Eliza Hawes, director of the children’s department at Epiphany Baptist Church in New York City, started a “Bible School” for slum children at a rented beer parlor in New York’s East Side.
She continued her efforts for seven years until Dr. Robert Boville became aware of the Hawes’ summer program and not only established his own schools but recommended it to other churches.
By 1922, he had founded the World Association of Vacation Bible School and one year later, the very first VBS curriculum was published.
VBS began very small, but in the hands of Jesus, is has been multiplied so that the gospel is heard and experienced by hundreds of thousands of children each summer.
This past week Christy Huffman and over 80 parents, adults, young adults, college students home for the summer, and members of our youth group gave 117 children an experience , in which they learned that Jesus works, Jesus works, Jesus works through you and me. And they will not be able to forget these words!
Jesus calls US to give what we have to him, trusting that he can work miracles with it; trusting that God can use our short lives, our small amount of resources, our sometimes-seemingly-insignificant gifts for mighty, transformational acts.
We learn God’s power to multiply what is small each Sunday, when we come to worship we receive a small bit of bread and a tiny sip of wine.
Yet in this bit of bread and in this splash of wine is the very presence of Jesus Christ – the one crucified for us and for the whole world so that we might receive abundant life from God our Father, and a place in his Kingdom forever.
This small gift is of great consequence and this gift is what empowers our congregation in its service to our neighbor:
our work in HHOPE pantry and LAMB’s Basket feeding families,
our work at Southhampton school feeding children,
our quilting ministry,
our work on behalf of those with malaria,
and the Walk for Water initiative to help those people around the world without clean drinking water.
By God’s grace, God takes our lives uses them so that the kingdom comes, and his will is done on earth, as it is in heaven.
And so we pray God would continue to use US and the abundant GIFTS, which God has so graciously entrusted to us.
Growing up with my mother and dad and sister, we tried to eat dinner together most nights. We had a breakfast bar in the kitchen which we’d sit around at night and most often we would pray a common table prayer which may be familiar to many families:
Come Lord Jesus be our guest
Let these gifts to us be blessed
It is a simple but profound prayer to thank God for our food.
In this prayer we ask Jesus to sit with us at the table.
We acknowledge that he is the authority in our life and we are abundantly blessed by his kindness.
We ask our Lord – in these simple words – to make our kitchen nook, our family table, or our TV tray a Eucharistic table, where we receive the gift of food from the hand of the one who creates us, redeems us, and nourishes us…and the whole world.
Only when Sarah and I were married, did I learn a second verse to this prayer around our new family table. She taught me more:
Blessed be God who is our bread
May all the world be clothed and fed.
These simple words have been profoundly moving for me. They are a prayer for the poor and an acknowledgement of the part God has called us to pay relieving the suffering of our sisters and brothers who are hungry.
In these words we also acknowledge that we look to Jesus, the bread of life for hope, health, and the healing of the world.
Yes, we are called to serve those in need and we do, but we look to Jesus as the One who can truly feed the world.
So, may we remain hungry for him…and may we remain hungry to see justice, kindness, and mercy done in his name.