Sunday, October 20, 2013

Today's sermon at Highlands

“Give us this day our daily bread”
Highlands Presbyterian Church
October 20, 2013

We say it each and every Sunday, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is World Bread Sunday…an opportunity for us to ask, “Just who is the “us” in “Give us this day our daily bread.”

That day along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, it all depended on whose eyes you were looking through. Through the eyes of the apostles, they were just too many hungry people who should be sent away to fend for themselves. As it grew late, the disciples came to Jesus 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 through the eyes of Jesus, they were like sheep without a shepherd, they were those for whom Jesus had compassion, those for whom he had a responsibility not only to teach but also to feed.

When the disciples saw “us” as simply too many mouths to feed and urged Jesus to send them away, Jesus instructed them “You give them something to eat.” But the disciples were worried about the cost. They said to him, “What…are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?”

So it was that for the first time that…giving US this day our daily bread became a problem for those who followed Jesus. It is the conflict that persists to this very day…a conflict between Jesus who says simply, “You feed the hungry” and those who say, “Send them away.”

So it is. Two solutions to choose from…then as now. There’s the Jesus solution. “You feed them.” And the disciples’ solution, “Send them away.”

As you may know there is a great debate in Congress these days over this same question. Who will feed the hungry. The “disciples’ solution has many advocates. One is a Tennessee congressman named Steven Fincher. Congressman Fincher is a farmer from a place called Frog Jump, Tennessee. He knows his Bible and when he supported cutting billions of dollars from the food stamp program, he quoted one of Paul’s letters. “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.”

Some enterprising young reporter then learned that Congressman Fincher receives millions of dollars himself from the federal government, in fact he received three and a half million dollars in farm subsides while complaining about food stamps for the poor. So while he believes that “He who does not work, neither shall he eat” he does not believe that he who does not grow crops should not be paid for doing so.

He’s a disciple of the “send them away” solution…as are a majority of the members of the US House of Representatives. They voted to cut the program by 40 billion dollars which would send away nearly 4 million of the US as in “give us this day our daily bread.

Not that “foods stamps” provide much daily bread to begin with. On average one of the US receives $133 per month. I don’t know where you buy groceries but I can’t get by for more than a few days on that amount. That’s not even as much as was on the table when Jesus asked the disciples, “How many loaves do you have?” and they said, “Five loaves, and oh yeah, two fish.”

At that rate, someone is going to go away hungry. And in the richest country in the world, that is exactly what happens. There’s a term bureaucrats use to describe the situation you have when there are but five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 people. They call it “food insecurity.” It means that you don’t know that you’ll have enough food to feed yourself and your children.

49.0 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children. Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, especially households with children headed by single women, 35percent of which are food insecure. Five million seniors (over age 60) live food insecure lives. People with disabilities are even more likely to experience food insecurity.

And my friends…that is in America, the richest nation on earth, the one many like to call a “Christian nation.” And in those other countries? Well let’s just say that last night while you and I were asleep, 30,000 people around the world died of hunger. More than half of them were children.

Send them away.

It’s the disciples’ solution adhered to by many Americans and those elected to represent them in the Congress. Send them away. It costs too much to feed them, there are too many of them. We have wars to fight and farmers to subsidize, we have corporations that need tax breaks and budget to cut. We can’t feed all of those folks and besides they ought to get a job and feed themselves…even if they are kids, elderly or disabled.

By the way, those who the politicians call “able-bodied, who receive food stamps…the ones Congressman Fincher mistakenly believes the Apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote, “He who does not work, neither shall he eat”…they do work. Many of them work more than one job at such low wages that they can’t afford to feed their family. They are paid so poorly for a day’s work that they can barely buy five loaves and two fishes.

Perhaps the congressman and his colleagues could spend more time working on the wage problem and less time sending away those who work yet are still hungry.
Send them away! I might ask, “Send WHO away?”

But that darned Jesus. There you go again Jesus. Just when we had the votes to send them away, He tells the disciples, “No, don’t send them away. YOU feed them.” But the disciples say, “We just don’t have enough money. All we have are these measly five loaves and two fish.”

Jesus says, “I can work miracles with that…if you want to help.”
And he said to them, have 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.

Listen to the verbs.

Jesus takes, looks, blesses, breaks, divides and gives

He takes the five loaves and the two fish, he looks up to heaven, he blesses and breaks the loaves and divides the fishes, and gives them to his disciples to set before the people

It’s the Jesus solution that teaches us that there is always enough to meet the need but never enough to fulfill the greed

We can send them away as the disciples would have us do…or we can take what we have, look to heaven to guide us in our responsibility to the hungry, bless and give thanks for all we have been given, break it all into shares, and divide it between ourselves and those who are hungry, and give US our daily bread.


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