Before I get to the scripture, I want to tell an abbreviated version of the children’s story, Stone Soup..
Three hungry travelers came into a village and ask for some food.
But the villagers have hidden their food from such people, and claim they do not have enough.
The travelers then say that they will make stone soup for everyone.
They ask for a pot, water and stones.
They boil the stones.
They taste the soup and say, “It would be better if there were carrots”.
Someone says, “I have carrots!”
And they put them in the soup.
They taste it again and say, “It would be better if there were cabbages!”
Someone says, “I have cabbages!”
And they put them in the soup.
They taste it again and say, “It would be better if there was meat and potatoes, too!”
Someone says, “I have a chicken!”
While another says,” I have potatoes!”
And they put it all in the soup.
They taste it again and say, “It’s done but the meal would be better if there was bread!”
Someone says, “I have bread!”
And when all is said and done, there is enough soup and bread for the entire village to feast!
The food was there all the time.
All the towns people had to do was share.
When the travelers leave, the people thank them for the lesson about stone soup.
Mark 6: 34-44
34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’ 37But he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?’ 38And he said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ 39Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41Taking 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. 42And all ate and were filled; 43and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
I have been leading a Bible study on the Gospel of Mark for the last couple of months.
In his Gospel, Mark describes Jesus’ ministry principally as teaching this message:
The Kingdom of God is Near, repent and believe the good news.
So, what exactly does that mean?
If we change our ways and do as Jesus does and says, we become Kingdom dwellers, and that is the good news we can believe in.
Just about everything Jesus says or does can be interpreted as a description of that lesson.
Today, Jesus feeds more than 5,000 people with a couple loaves and fishes.
Many people look at this as a miracle story.
But it is actually way for Jesus to teach his message to all these people.
Here is the lesson.
To become Kingdom dwellers, we need to share.
We need to share what we have with those who are in need.
When we do, we find there is enough to meet everyone’s needs.
As long as we share.
It is a simple lesson.
It is a lesson we want to teach our children, right?
But here is the problem.
Just telling kids to share doesn’t always work.
Shel Silverstein understood that.
He wrote a poem about it.
I’ll share your toys, I’ll share your money,
I’ll share your toast, I’ll share your honey,
I’ll share your milk and your cookies too-
The hard part’s sharing mine with you.
There are dozens of children’s books about sharing.
But just reading them to our kids does not work all that well.
To really get kids to understand the benefits of sharing, a teacher must get the kids to participate in the lesson.
That is what this book I read is all about.
Learn to share, and everyone benefits.
That is what Jesus does in our passage today, right?
Jesus is teaching the people, how to act like they are Kingdom dwellers.
Everyone gets enough.
It’s all good.
Telling them is not enough, though.
The people have to do it to learn by doing it.
That is what the soldiers in Stone Soup did.
And the people thanked them for the lesson.
That’s what Jesus does in today’s scripture.
Jesus has been teaching all day.
But it is getting late.
And the disciples are afraid.
It’s dinner time.
Are the people expecting to be fed?
The disciples don’t want the people to get “hangry”.
So, the disciples ask Jesus to send the people away.
Jesus says, “No!”
“Don’t send them away.”
“You feed them.”
That is not what the disciples wanted to hear.
They said to him, ‘Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?’
“There are too many people.”
“It would cost too much.”
“It can’t be done!”
“Just send them away so we don’t have to deal with it or think about it.”
And we are … sympathetic with the disciples, right?
We read the paper and see all the people in need.
Just in the last six months we have seen floods.
Our initial reaction is to say what the disciples said.
What can we do?
We don’t have enough resources to help all these people.
They are going to get mad!
We just want all these needy people to just go away.
It’s not because we are bad people.
We are just normal people.
We are just normal disciples.
We are afraid.
Afraid that there won’t be enough for everyone and so if we try to help, there won’t be enough for us.
Theologian Henri Nouwen explains:
“As fearful people, we are inclined to develop a mind-set that makes us say: “There’s not enough food for everyone, so I better be sure I save enough for myself in case of emergency,” … This is a scarcity mentality. It involves hoarding whatever we have, fearful that we won’t have enough to survive. The tragedy, however, is that what you cling to ends up rotting in your hands.
Jesus rejects this.
He wants us to learn to live like Kingdom dwellers.
Jesus wants us to help.
“Don’t tell me what you can’t do,” Jesus says to his disciples, “tell me what you can do”.
He asks his disciples, “Well, what have we got?”
“How many folks are there to feed – right here?”
The disciples look at what they have.
Five loaves of bread and two salted and smoked fish.
They look at all the people.
“Not enough, Jesus.”
“Please just send them away.”
Now Jesus teaches.
He takes what the disciples have, thanks God for it, and tells the mass of people:
“This is all we have, folks.”
“But we will share it with you.”
That is what Kingdom dwellers do.”
Suddenly there is enough.
More than enough.
So, what just happened?
I don’t think Jesus transformed the loaves and fishes into a Market District hot food buffet.
I think the people followed Jesus’ lead, and shared what they brought with them.
Everyone had enough.
And so they all learned to share.
It also allowed the people to experience what it felt like to be Kingdom dwellers.
In the Kingdom, everyone shares.
Because we know there is enough.
Nouwen describes Jesus’ lesson this way:
The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundance mentality. With an abundance mentality, we say: “There is enough for everyone, more than enough: food, knowledge, love … everything.” With this mind-set we give away whatever we have, to whomever we meet. When we see hungry people, we give them food. When we meet ignorant people, we share our knowledge; when we encounter people in need of love, we offer them friendship and affection and hospitality and introduce them to our family and friends. When we live with this mind-set, we will see the miracle that what we give away multiplies: food, knowledge, love…everything. There will even be many leftovers.”
But notice this.
Jesus was not asking the disciples and the people to feed every hungry person in the world.
Nor even every hungry person in the crowd.
Jesus was telling the disciples and the people to feed the ones right there next to them.
The one’s you can.
Pick someone and share from what you have.
That is life in the Kingdom.
That is the Jesus way.
We share to do to the work God has called us to.
Some of us share much, because we have much.
Some of us share a little, because we don’t have much.
But we all share something.
And when we share, there is enough.
Just like the villagers in Stone Soup.
Just like the disciples and the 5,000.
They learned that:
The Kingdom of God is near, repent, believe in the good news.