07-29-12 is Pentecost 9B

2 Samuel 11:1-15 – David and Bathsheba
or

2 Kings 4:42-44 – Elisha feeds the people with 20 loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain

Psalm 14- There is no one who does good, no not one
or

Psalm 145:10-18 – You open wide your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature. (Ps. 145:17)

Ephesians 3:14-21 – I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

John 6:1-21 – Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus walks on water.

Share

Sorry I got this out so late everyone. The ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans had us all hopping busy all week. The photo above is one I snapped with my phone from the very top row at the Lutherdome one night with my brother and his youth group from Baltimore. It was a tremendous mountaintop experience, on which I’ll be reflecting, in pieces, after I’ve had time to process it. Thank you for your patience.

Bread Texts

Welcome to John 6, where we will be spending the next month. Five Sundays. Ah, the infamous bread texts.

Pentecost 9B – July 29, 2012. John 6:1-21 – Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus walks on water.

Pentecost 10B – August 5, 2012. John 6:24-35 – I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry.

Pentecost 11B – August 12, 2012. John 6:35, 41-51 – I am the bread of life, the living bread which comes down from heaven. No one comes unless the Father draws, and I will raise you up on the last day.

Pentecost 12B – August 19, 2012. John 6:51-58 – Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. The one who eats this bread will live forever.

Pentecost 13B – August 26, 2012. John 6:56-69  – Eat my flesh for eternal life. This is a difficult teaching; who can accept it? Does this bother you? Do you also wish to go away? Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…

So, remember the Synod Assembly? Waaaaaay back in May? The synod Worship Team intentionally used these texts for our four worship services to demonstrate some ideas you could use.

For example, we used “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” for the Psalm at every service. There are so many excellent settings for that Psalm. Why not do a different one each week? Or, if your congregation takes a while to catch on to things, pick one you think they’ll like, and use it every Sunday in August. Or two, and use them two weeks each.

Some of you have spoken to me of using bread machines to bake bread one Sunday, so the sanctuary smells of bread. Bread of course represents more than bread. It is, as Luther says in his explanation of the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”

So sermons could focus on these things: food, clothing, relationships, government, housing issues, health issues (like malaria), and spiritual issues. One week you can show the 2-minute malaria campaign video and take an offering. As Jesus does in John’s gospel, we can move from the physical to the spiritual. From bread, to the bread of life (John 6). From water to living water (John 4). From birth to being born again (John 3).

Here’s an idea that I proposed earlier:

Here’s another idea. Why not collect food for a rainy day? Here in the Gulf Coast we face hurricanes annually. Most families need to save enough food and water to last 72 hours in case of a hurricane. Power will be out. Credit cards won’t work. Grocery stores and gas stations will be closed. What if our congregations saved food too? So when the storms come, we can share with those who have evacuated, or didn’t save enough food (or shell-shocked Northerners who have just moved down and haven’t figured out this is an annual event). We could bring canned goods and bottled water each week as part of our offering, and save it up for an emergency. Then, in the Fall, when hurricane season is over, we could share that food with the local food bank. Just a thought. This might be a great way to live into all the bread stories we’re going to be reading in August.

In the early church, worship took place in the context of a meal. Afterwards food was taken to the poor, to orphans and widows. Once communion was separated from the meal, the offering became the way the community shared. Worship was about sharing, about participating in God’s work of providing daily bread for the world. You could have a meal each week in August, and take food to the food pantry.

You could invite families to bake different kinds of bread for communion each week. At synod assembly we provided different kinds of communion bread on tables, for people to try. Some of the recipes can be found on the synod web page here.

You could invite people to come and speak about world hunger. Someone from the local shelter or food pantry could speak about local needs. People from other synod congregations could speak about hunger in our companion synods. Folks from the malaria campaign could talk about those efforts.

Feeding the Masses

I think it’s interesting that I’m writing on the Feeding of the Five Thousand while here in New Orleans for the ELCA Youth Gathering, where we have 35,000 or so meeting. The ELCA Gathering is a phenomenon. It’s the largest recurring youth gathering in the country. What’s going on here?

I recall going to the All-Lutheran Youth Gathering at the Superdome in New Orleans as a high school student in 1976. IT had a profound effect on me. I realized that the church was much bigger than my congregation’s little world. I was overwhelmed and inspired. It led to a hunger to live the vision of Jesus for the world.

Today, the event is run by a handful of staff, a few meagerly stipended leaders and a huge number of dedicated volunteers. People love this event. So many can trace their faith life back to this formational event. Being exposed to speakers who go right to the heart is a powerful thing. The speakers over the years have been incredible. I believe Martin Luther King spoke at a Lutheran Youth Gathering in the 60′s. The event is: Being surrounded by other people of faith, serving on such a large scale that you can see the cumulative impact of a succession of small acts of kindness to strangers in real time. It sparks the imagination about what a life of faith could look like.

Why did Jesus attract such large crowds? What’s going on here? Even in a world so addicted to power and wealth, words of compassion and hope ultimately have more sway. “Don’t worry about your life… Consider the lilies… Love your neighbor… Turn the other cheek…” Soulful words ring in our souls. Charles Dickens boiled the Christian message down to one word: Kindness. “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me… When I was in prison you visited me…” We make it so much more complicated.

Of course boiling anything down to one word is going to be inherently simplistic. And boiling down Jesus’ mass appeal to his eloquent preaching is also simplistic. His preaching was accompanied by eating with outcasts and sinners. This angered the religious elite, but endeared him to the masses. His preaching was accompanied by marching into leper colonies and chatting with women at the well. It was accompanied by constant attention to those who were sick. People gathered not around a sermon, or a philosophy, but a person.

When this many people gather in one place, there are always resource challenges. Food, water, shelter. There’s not enough to eat. “Where shall we get lunch for everyone?” Jesus asks. Philip notes that it would take six months’ wages just to give everyone a tiny amount. Then a miracle occurs in which everyone has enough and there are extras left over.

Well, probably a lot more happens between points A and Z. Let’s consider.

A miracle is something extraordinary that happens outside the normal course of events. Sometimes in life astounding improbable and amazing things happen. A boy shows uncanny, even freakish interest and proficiency in the piano at age of three. He writes an entire symphony at the age of eight. Wolfgang Mozart amazes the world. A group of unarmed women go no nazi headquarters in Berlin and shout down te authorities, who release their husbands. Someone prays an a disease disappears. It happens. Sometimes we can’t know why.

What conditions lead to this event?

Emptiness. In Mark’s gospel we are told that Jesus took the disciples to an “eremon,” an empty, deserted place. In John its up on the mountain. Jesus is known for this: Taking time for silence, prayer, rest, Sabbath is essential. Life rushes in to full a vacuum. “God cannot fill what is already full,” said Mother Teresa. I think for extraordinary things to happen, there has to be space for them to happen. Sometimes its silence. Sometimes it’s tragedy. Jesus had just lost his cousin John to a horrific death at the hands of Herod. As Paul said, rather counter-intuitively, “God’s power is made perfect in weakness.” When we are empty God fills.

Honesty. “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” “Six months’ wages would not buy enough…” There is an honest assessment of the situation. Jesus asks where bread might be purchased. They’re working the problem. Philip answers with the precision of a treasurer: six month’s wages won’t get us there. If the average U.S. income is $48K, Philip is saying $24,000 won’t get us there. A boy has five loaves and two fish. Not nearly enough. Too often we are afraid to face the facts. Perhaps they’re too overwhelming. But unless you face the facts, you can’t address them. As someone once said, “The facts are your friends.” I have learned to own this truth. Even when I don’t want to know, I know I need to know. You know?

Action. In spite of the overwhelmingly dour appraisal of the situation, Jesus forges ahead with hope and faith. “Have everyone sit down.” And they began food distribution. At some point we have to act – to be our lives on the gospel. Jesus put his faith into action, like the wise man who built his house on the rock. He was a doer of the word, not just a hearer. This week the bishops had a reception at Club XLIV (44), named for Superbowl XLIV, which the Saints won. On the wall was a huge quote by Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you do not take.” I’ve always loved this quote. Sometimes we are so afraid to fail, we don’t try. There are lots of Bible stories about stepping out in faith, like the story of Peter walking on the water. I’d rather shoot for the stars and miss, than shoot for the gutter and hit. Everyone knows this story is about more than bread for a crowd. If we believe that the world can be fed one day, and we take action, does that make us foolish? Or visionary?

Thanksgiving. Jesus then looked at the meager five loaves and two fish, and gave thanks. We so often look at our lives and our situations with a scarcity mentality. We see the glass half empty. “I can’t do anything. I don’t have enough.”We wring our hands because we don’t have enough resources, or so we think. We give up. Instead, Jesus takes the bread and fish and prays. Thank you for what I have. What if, instead of complaining about what we have not been given, we spent that time giving thanks for what we have been given. It’s exhausting being around people who blame everything else for their woes. Inversely, the best people I have worked with made something out of nothing. They went after the problem until they came up with something. Joy and thanksgiving have power. They attract people, thus multiplying resources. Then miracles happen, highly unlikely events, extraordinary events. Not always. But sometimes.

Sharing. A boy is willing to share his lunch. Augustine, master of allegory, says the five loaves are the law (the five books of Moses), and the two loaves are the sacraments. Or maybe that’s simply how many bread and fish the kid happened to have. Either way, sharing is important. It is at the heart of the gospel. God loved the world, so he gave… It is more blessed to give than receive. When people open up their hearts and give without expecting anything in return, amazing things happen, as we saw this week in New Orleans.

This story is about Jesus providing food for his flock, but it’s about so much more. How we are feeding the masses today? Does your congregation take up an offering for world hunger? Do you have a food pantry or collect for a cooperative food pantry? How might we live into the instinct of Jesus: “You give the something to eat.”?

To what great works has God called you personally, or as a congregation? What about those works seems impossible or overwhelming? What extraordinary assistance are you going to need? Have you emptied yourself? Are you being honest about the situation? Are you willing to take bold action? Are you giving thanks for what resources God has already given you? Have you taken on an attitude of sharing those resources?

Be at peace with God and one another,

Bishop Mike Rinehart

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Dear Gulf Coast Leaders

Mike Rinehart    

Lessons-at-a-Glance  

Listen to the podcast on iTunes 

Listen to the podcast on LibSyn  

 

Pentecost 9B – July 29, 2012

2 Samuel 11:1-15 – David and Bathsheba
or  

2 Kings 4:42-44 – Elisha feeds the people with 20 loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain  

Psalm 14- There is no one who does good, no not one
or  

Psalm 145:10-18 – You open wide your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature. (Ps. 145:17)  

Ephesians 3:14-21 – I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  

John 6:1-21 – Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus walks on water.


The Lutherdome

Share

 

Sorry I got this out so late everyone. The ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans had us all hopping busy all week. The photo above is one I snapped with my phone from the very top row at the Lutherdome one night with my brother and his youth group from Baltimore. It was a tremendous mountaintop experience, on which I’ll be reflecting, in pieces, after I’ve had time to process it. Thank you for your patience.

 

Bread Texts

 

Welcome to John 6, where we will be spending the next month. Five Sundays. Ah, the infamous bread texts.

 

Pentecost 9B – July 29, 2012. John 6:1-21 – Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus walks on water.

 

Pentecost 10B – August 5, 2012. John 6:24-35 – I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry.

 

Pentecost 11B – August 12, 2012. John 6:35, 41-51 – I am the bread of life, the living bread which comes down from heaven. No one comes unless the Father draws, and I will raise you up on the last day.

 

Pentecost 12B – August 19, 2012. John 6:51-58 – Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. The one who eats this bread will live forever.

 

Pentecost 13B – August 26, 2012. John 6:56-69  – Eat my flesh for eternal life. This is a difficult teaching; who can accept it? Does this bother you? Do you also wish to go away? Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…

 

So, remember the Synod Assembly? Waaaaaay back in May? The synod Worship Team intentionally used these texts for our four worship services to demonstrate some ideas you could use.

 

For example, we used “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” for the Psalm at every service. There are so many excellent settings for that Psalm. Why not do a different one each week? Or, if your congregation takes a while to catch on to things, pick one you think they’ll like, and use it every Sunday in August. Or two, and use them two weeks each.

 

Some of you have spoken to me of using bread machines to bake bread one Sunday, so the sanctuary smells of bread. Bread of course represents more than bread. It is, as Luther says in his explanation of the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”

 

So sermons could focus on these things: food, clothing, relationships, government, housing issues, health issues (like malaria), and spiritual issues. One week you can show the 2-minute malaria campaign video and take an offering. As Jesus does in John’s gospel, we can move from the physical to the spiritual. From bread, to the bread of life (John 6). From water to living water (John 4). From birth to being born again (John 3).

 

Here’s an idea that I proposed earlier:

 

Here’s another idea. Why not collect food for a rainy day? Here in the Gulf Coast we face hurricanes annually. Most families need to save enough food and water to last 72 hours in case of a hurricane. Power will be out. Credit cards won’t work. Grocery stores and gas stations will be closed. What if our congregations saved food too? So when the storms come, we can share with those who have evacuated, or didn’t save enough food (or shell-shocked Northerners who have just moved down and haven’t figured out this is an annual event). We could bring canned goods and bottled water each week as part of our offering, and save it up for an emergency. Then, in the Fall, when hurricane season is over, we could share that food with the local food bank. Just a thought. This might be a great way to live into all the bread stories we’re going to be reading in August.

 

In the early church, worship took place in the context of a meal. Afterwards food was taken to the poor, to orphans and widows. Once communion was separated from the meal, the offering became the way the community shared. Worship was about sharing, about participating in God’s work of providing daily bread for the world. You could have a meal each week in August, and take food to the food pantry.

 

You could invite families to bake different kinds of bread for communion each week. At synod assembly we provided different kinds of communion bread on tables, for people to try. Some of the recipes can be found on the synod web page here: http://www.gulfcoastsynod.org/Events/2012%20Assembly%20reports%20and%20workshops/CommunionBreadReceipes.pdf

 

You could invite people to come and speak about world hunger. Someone from the local shelter or food pantry could speak about local needs. People from other synod congregations could speak about hunger in our companion synods. Folks from the malaria campaign could talk about those efforts.

 

Feeding the Masses

 

I think it’s interesting that I’m writing on the Feeding of the Five Thousand while here in New Orleans for the ELCA Youth Gathering, where we have 35,000 or so meeting. The ELCA Gathering is a phenomenon. It’s the largest recurring youth gathering in the country. What’s going on here? 

 

I recall going to the All-Lutheran Youth Gathering at the Superdome in New Orleans as a high school student in 1976. IT had a profound effect on me. I realized that the church was much bigger than my congregation’s little world. I was overwhelmed and inspired. It led to a hunger to live the vision of Jesus for the world.

Today, the event is run by a handful of staff, a few meagerly stipended leaders and a huge number of dedicated volunteers. People love this event. So many can trace their faith life back to this formational event. Being exposed to speakers who go right to the heart is a powerful thing. The speakers over the years have been incredible. I believe Martin Luther King spoke at a Lutheran Youth Gathering in the 60′s. The event is: Being surrounded by other people of faith, serving on such a large scale that you can see the cumulative impact of a succession of small acts of kindness to strangers in real time. It sparks the imagination about what a life of faith could look like.

Why did Jesus attract such large crowds? What’s going on here? Even in a world so addicted to power and wealth, words of compassion and hope ultimately have more sway. “Don’t worry about your life… Consider the lilies… Love your neighbor… Turn the other cheek…” Soulful words ring in our souls. Charles Dickens boiled the Christian message down to one word: Kindness. “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me… When I was in prison you visited me…” We make it so much more complicated.

Of course boiling anything down to one word is going to be inherently simplistic. And boiling down Jesus’ mass appeal to his eloquent preaching is also simplistic. His preaching was accompanied by eating with outcasts and sinners. This angered the religious elite, but endeared him to the masses. His preaching was accompanied by marching into leper colonies and chatting with women at the well. It was accompanied by constant attention to those who were sick. People gathered not around a sermon, or a philosophy, but a person. 


When this many people gather in one place, there are always resource challenges. Food, water, shelter. There’s not enough to eat. “Where shall we get lunch for everyone?” Jesus asks. Philip notes that it would take six months’ wages just to give everyone a tiny amount. Then a miracle occurs in which everyone has enough and there are extras left over. 


Well, probably a lot more happens between points A and Z. Let’s consider. 

 

A miracle is something extraordinary that happens outside the normal course of events. Sometimes in life astounding improbable and amazing things happen. A boy shows uncanny, even freakish interest and proficiency in the piano at age of three. He writes an entire symphony at the age of eight. Wolfgang Mozart amazes the world. A group of unarmed women go no nazi headquarters in Berlin and shout down te authorities, who release their husbands. Someone prays an a disease disappears. It happens. Sometimes we can’t know why. 

 

What conditions lead to this event? 

 

Emptiness. In Mark’s gospel we are told that Jesus took the disciples to an “eremon,” an empty, deserted place. In John its up on the mountain. Jesus is known for this: Taking time for silence, prayer, rest, Sabbath is essential. Life rushes in to full a vacuum. “God cannot fill what is already full,” said Mother Teresa. I think for extraordinary things to happen, there has to be space for them to happen. Sometimes its silence. Sometimes it’s tragedy. Jesus had just lost his cousin John to a horrific death at the hands of Herod. As Paul said, rather counter-intuitively, “God’s power is made perfect in weakness.” When we are empty God fills.

 

Honesty. “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” “Six months’ wages would not buy enough…” There is an honest assessment of the situation. Jesus asks where bread might be purchased. They’re working the problem. Philip answers with the precision of a treasurer: six month’s wages won’t get us there. If the average U.S. income is $48K, Philip is saying $24,000 won’t get us there. A boy has five loaves and two fish. Not nearly enough. Too often we are afraid to face the facts. Perhaps they’re too overwhelming. But unless you face the facts, you can’t address them. As someone once said, “The facts are your friends.” I have learned to own this truth. Even when I don’t want to know, I know I need to know. You know?

 

Action. In spite of the overwhelmingly dour appraisal of the situation, Jesus forges ahead with hope and faith. “Have everyone sit down.” And they began food distribution. At some point we have to act – to be our lives on the gospel. Jesus put his faith into action, like the wise man who built his house on the rock. He was a doer of the word, not just a hearer. This week the bishops had a reception at Club XLIV (44), named for Superbowl XLIV, which the Saints won. On the wall was a huge quote by Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you do not take.” I’ve always loved this quote. Sometimes we are so afraid to fail, we don’t try. There are lots of Bible stories about stepping out in faith, like the story of Peter walking on the water. I’d rather shoot for the stars and miss, than shoot for the gutter and hit. Everyone knows this story is about more than bread for a crowd. If we believe that the world can be fed one day, and we take action, does that make us foolish? Or visionary?

 

Thanksgiving. Jesus then looked at the meager five loaves and two fish, and gave thanks. We so often look at our lives and our situations with a scarcity mentality. We see the glass half empty. “I can’t do anything. I don’t have enough.”We wring our hands because we don’t have enough resources, or so we think. We give up. Instead, Jesus takes the bread and fish and prays. Thank you for what I have. What if, instead of complaining about what we have not been given, we spent that time giving thanks for what we have been given. It’s exhausting being around people who blame everything else for their woes. Inversely, the best people I have worked with made something out of nothing. They went after the problem until they came up with something. Joy and thanksgiving have power. They attract people, thus multiplying resources. Then miracles happen, highly unlikely events, extraordinary events. Not always. But sometimes.

 

Sharing. A boy is willing to share his lunch. Augustine, master of allegory, says the five loaves are the law (the five books of Moses), and the two loaves are the sacraments. Or maybe that’s simply how many bread and fish the kid happened to have. Either way, sharing is important. It is at the heart of the gospel. God loved the world, so he gave… It is more blessed to give than receive. When people open up their hearts and give without expecting anything in return, amazing things happen, as we saw this week in New Orleans.

 

This story is about Jesus providing food for his flock, but it’s about so much more. How we are feeding the masses today? Does your congregation take up an offering for world hunger? Do you have a food pantry or collect for a cooperative food pantry? How might we live into the instinct of Jesus: “You give the something to eat.”?

 

To what great works has God called you personally, or as a congregation? What about those works seems impossible or overwhelming? What extraordinary assistance are you going to need? Have you emptied yourself? Are you being honest about the situation? Are you willing to take bold action? Are you giving thanks for what resources God has already given you? Have you taken on an attitude of sharing those resources?

 

Be at peace with God and one another,

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About michaelrinehart

Bishop of the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
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