How does God want us to eat?
Back when I was practicing law, I was representing a local hospital in a medical malpractice case.
The primary defendant was a neurosurgeon, who, the plaintiff claimed, had harmed her in some way during surgery.
During her deposition she told us about what happened when she woke up after the surgery.
The neurosurgeon was by her side checking the incision.
She said to anyone who was listening, “Thank God I’m alive!”
To which the neurosurgeon replied, “Don’t thank God. Thank me.”
While we were all dumbfounded.
Later, when we asked the neurosurgeon, he readily admitted he said it.
It has been my experience that neurosurgeons have big egos, but this was a bit much.
But, in looking back on it I think maybe they they were both right.
It’s kind of like this:
God heals but provides others with what they need to do it.
God healed the woman, but it was done through the knowledge, experience, and skill that God had provided the neurosurgeon.
We can expand this thought to other human needs.
God provides but uses us to help.
One of the most important things God provides is food.
And God uses us to help produce and provide that food to others.
Which brings us to our scripture reading.
Luke 9: 10-17
10 On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. 11When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.
12 The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.’ 13But he said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.’ 14For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, ‘Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ 15They did so and made them all sit down. 16And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
There are a couple ways to read this story.
First, Jesus performed a miracle.
He took five loaves of bread and two dried fish and fed a multitude of people.
The second is that Jesus set an example to all present by sharing the little bit of food his disciples had with as many as possible which encouraged people so share the food the people had brought with those who brought none.
But I wonder.
Couldn’t it be both?
Let’s look at what is going on in the story.
The people are in a deserted place.
They don’t have enough food.
The disciples are worried that the people will get “hangry”, maybe, and ask Jesus to send them away.
Jesus tells the disciples to feed the folks.
Jesus then intervenes.
16And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17And all ate and were filled.
This sounds almost sacramental.
But ultimately, Jesus is thanking God for what he has and then gives some of it to those who don’t have enough.
I would like to think those folks were thankful to Jesus for taking what God had given him and sharing it with them.
Jesus is not just feeding the people.
Jesus is teaching them.
Lesson number 1.
Jesus is the divine food provider.
Like God, Jesus has created food from nothing.
God did it in Genesis when God created the garden.
God did it in Exodus when God created manna.
God did it here when the loaves and fish were multiplied.
All of these events use food as the illustration of God’s provision for God’s people.
God feeds God’s people.
So … thank God!
But there is a second lesson.
We are to help.
While Jesus might be able to create food from nothing, we can’t.
But we don’t need to.
God has already created the food.
All we need to do is distribute it.
Share what we have with those in need and there will be enough for everyone.
Make no mistake.
Some will have more than others because they have different opportunities, skills, or abilities, there is enough for everyone.
God will make sure of that.
All we need to do is gather all the food there is and share it with everyone so that everyone has enough.
That is what the early followers of the Jesus way learned from this story.
We read about it in Acts.
In the early communities of Jesus disciples, there was an understanding that everyone who had more than enough of what God had made would share with those who did not have enough.
Thee was sort of a community chest.
The people could not create something out of nothing, but they could share what they had.
They thanked God and thanked each other.
Like the patient and the neurosurgeon, both are right.
We thank God for creating the food.
And we thank ourselves for making sure everyone gets enough of it.
That’s the Jesus way.
It’s kind of like what we say when we pray before we eat.
Thank you God for this food and thank those who prepared it and gave it to us.
While as Jesus said, there will always be people in need, this COVID-19 pandemic presents us with an opportunity to live this lesson.
More folks are in need now than any time in our lifetime.
Like the crowd following Jesus, they feel like they are in a deserted place without the means to meet their needs.
They are out of work.
The have food insecurity.
They feel like they are being sent away into seclusion to manage their needs alone.
They are frustrated.
They are angry.
We pray to Jesus to intervene.
“I already have.
There is enough for everyone.
Your job is to get it to the people who need it.”
Our response is, “We can’t.”
But again, Jesus has shown us the way.
Make a plan.
That’s what Jesus did.
He sat folks down in groups and then handed out the food to the groups.
And here is what I find encouraging.
If you look around, you see people getting organized and making plans to distribute food to those who need it.
And we at JMPC are helping.
Let’s take a look at some of these organizations.
Here is what they say about themselves.
We work to address the disconnect between the fact that we waste 40% of our food while 1 in 8 people are hungry.
- We partner with food retailers, volunteer drivers, and nonprofit organizations to connect surplus food with individuals and families who are experiencing food insecurity. With the help of 2 trucks, 1 van, and thousands of volunteers who we call Food Rescue Heroes, we are able to rescue perfectly good but unsellable food that would otherwise be wasted and redirect it to people who need it.
- Our food donor partners range from grocery stores, wholesalers, caterers, and everything in between. Our nonprofit partners include housing authorities, daycare centers, churches, community centers, and more.
- Our model of food recovery and redistribution not only enables access to healthy food, but it allows us to bring food to where people already are – overcoming barriers to food access like transportation and time. 87% of the food we rescue is fresh food; primarily produce, meat, dairy, bread, and more.
Doesn’t that sound a little like our scripture reading?
Food God created, that was heading to a landfill, redirected to people who don’t have enough?
Here is Family Promise.
What have they been doing?
This is what they say.
Coronavirus hit Greater Pittsburgh, and everything changed. Our traditional model of shelter provided by host church partners was no longer an option… the safety of our families and our volunteers is paramount.
After weighing our courses of action, our Board of Directors determined that the best way to serve the four families (4 moms and 10 kids) currently sheltered with us was to move them to an extended stay situation. …
We are delivering groceries and supplies to the families, taking care to limit exposure between our adults and the volunteers. Staff checks in with the moms daily to make sure everyone is okay and nothing is needed.
We’re also checking in with our families who successfully moved from Family Promise to homes of their own. In the short run we’re helping with groceries, in the long run we may be helping some families to make rent payments.
People who don’t have enough, getting what they need form those of us who have more than we need.
We also support Hello Neighbor.
Here is what they say.
We are a nonprofit organization based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania committed to supporting our newest neighbors, recently resettled refugee families. The families we support all have kids under 18 …
Through our partnership with 412 Food Rescue, we were able to rescue 50 halal meals from Salem’s Market and Grill … and Hello Neighbor staff members completed contactless trunk deliveries … before sending them off to distribute meals to families.
[We] partnered with The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to pick up 50 shelf-safe boxes of food for our families in need. Hello Neighbor staff met at the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank pick-up site to collect boxes, and then distributed them … in various neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh.
People in an unfamiliar place getting what they need from those with more than they need.
Then there is SHIM.
This from Jim Guffey, the executive director.
|Dear friends, To say this has been a challenge is an understatement. But everything hard we’ve undertaken, we’ve been able to do because of you. Thank you to our generous donors. Thank you to our selfless volunteers. And thank you to the neighbors who are working hard to make a better life for their families.|
|Our March to Sack Hunger, Pack Hope is having the greatest impact of any campaign in our history. Because of you. Record-breaking $110,000 in generous donations97% increase in online donations when the coronavirus pandemic shut down food drives21% increase in neighbors seeking help with basic needs in March 2020 alone.In SHIM’s history, we’ve never seen numbers like this. But rather than face the continued increase in need with fear, we are unwavering with hope. Because in tough times, the South Hills comes together. Thank you for being part of something bigger than all of us, Jim|
Being part of something bigger than all of us …
Thank God for the resources.
Thank us for sharing.
This gives me optimism and hope.
People responding the way Jesus taught us to.
We take what God has given us and shared it with others.
And we might have another opportunity here at JMPC.
This pandemic is having a financial impact on our community as well.
It is possible that there are members of this congregation who currently have financial needs.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a fund of dedicated money that could be used to meet the financial needs of those folks?
We could help them pay certain bills.
The kind of things that set a family back for years.
What if someone in those circumstances could come to JMPC and get a small grant to get them through this or some other difficult time?
The Mission Ministry Team is discussing how we might do this.
As a congregation, we have more than we need.
Jesus teaches us to share it with those who don’t.
The Mr. Rodgers meme – “Look for the helpers” – applies here.
When people look for the helpers, let them see us.
Let them thank us.
And let us all thank God.