Sunday, July 19, 2009

RENEWsletter for July 26, 2009 - 17th Ordinary

Dear Renewed Folks--
Summer is the time for barbeques, and picnics, and outings and get-togethers of every sort. Often when friends gather, it's a pot luck where everybody brings something to share. Everyone shares and everyone eats their fill. And always there's a lot left over.

Speaking of sharing... speaking of leftovers... guess what the readings are about this time. You'll find the readings for next Sunday, the Seventeenth of the Numbered Sundays, on the web at:, and in your Bible at:

2 Kings 4.42-44
Psalm 145.10-11, 15-16, 17-18
Ephesians 4.1-6
John 6.1-15

The First Reading talks about a miraculous feeding of a large group of people. Elisha was the prophet who took over for Elijah, and his stories are some of the most interesting of the Old Testament. One of his specialties appears to be getting rid of poison (2 Kings 2.19-22 and 4.38-41). He provided a widow with an abundance of oil (ch. 4, vs. 1-7). In the present selection, over a hundred men are fed with a mere 20 loaves of bread (vs. 42, 43). Not only is that enough, there is some left over (v. 44)! Just as though it were a pot luck.

The Responsorial Psalm is especially appropriate to the theme of these readings. "The hand of the LORD feeds us; he answers all our needs" (Ps. 145.16). We learn to rely on God for our sustenance (v. 15). We feel his nearness when we call upon his name in supplication and in thanksgiving (v. 18).

The Second Reading uses words like unity, bond, one (Eph. 6.3,4). A feature I notice about the miraculous feedings is the fact that the people receiving the food were all together in one place. Blessings come when we gather together. While it is important to meditate on the Scriptures in the privacy of our own heart, it is also important to share in the common blessings of our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we comply with Paul's urging... if we live "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love" (v. 2), then it'll be nice living together with God, the Father of all (v. 6). I think God likes it when his children play nice together.

The Gospel Reading is the familiar story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. What brought these 5000+ people together was their desire to see more sick people healed (John 6.2). They had rushed on foot around the lake that Jesus and his disciples had traversed in a boat. They must have been exhausted. They most certainly were hungry. Being a teacher, Jesus began to educate by asking a question. "Where can we buy enough food for these people?" (v. 5). Philip did the math. "We'd need 200 days' wages just to buy enough for each to have a little snack" (v. 7). But there was one boy who offered his sack with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (v. 9).

That was enough for Jesus to get to work. He had everybody sit down and started distributing the bread and fish (vs. 10, 11). And, lo and behold, there was enough for everyone with 12 baskets of scraps left over! (vs. 12, 13). Now maybe everyone had a loaf and a fish or two in their sack. Maybe they all decided to share what they had after the example of the little boy. But, you know what? I doubt that. These people left in a rush to get around the lake by the time Jesus put to shore. They didn't have time to pack a lunch.

But the point is, they came together to be near Jesus. He's been trying to get us all together for a long time. What stops us?

Some of the things that get in the way of coming together are fear, mistrust, pride, anger... even the need to pack a lunch, that is, make all kinds of preparations till the moment passes. Sometimes even when we do unite, we do so because of the threat of a perceived common enemy. But remember, Paul admonishes, "I ... urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love..." (Eph. 4.1, 2).

Humility, gentleness, patience, love... the opposites of the things that keep us apart. Where do we get these things? Well, where do we get the loaves and the fishes we need to survive? They come from the Father above, because he loves his children and earnestly desires to see us all play nice together.

It's easy to play nice with folks who are like us and with whom we have a lot in common. It's harder when the other players are different. That's when suspicion enters in and breeds mistrust, misunderstanding, fear. But if we try to look at it from God's perspective we can see the commonality. We are ALL his creation. We ALL have needs and hopes and fond desires. Somebody has to start playing nice. Let it be us.

Randy Jones
"Those who cannot trust say the other guy is bad!"

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