Proper 13 (July 31 - August 6)
Texts: Matthew 14:13-21;
Isa. 55:1-5; Rom. 9:1-5
THE MIRACLE OF CHANGING HEARTS FEARING SCARCITY
INTO HEARTS BELIEVING IN ETERNAL LIFE
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and
your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Isa. 55:2)
This may be the question of our age. Ours is an age of consumerism. Our
capitalist economics has helped create a situation of unparalleled production
and availability of goods, such that we are most aptly called "consumers."
Notice that this is a term that can be used for eating; in fact, eating
should still be considered the most basic form of human consumption. We
consume food to survive. But our consumption has gone way beyond food.
We have all manners of goods. There's basics like shelter and clothes and
transportation. But increasingly, there's all our toys, all the many things
we use to entertain ourselves endlessly. We are consumers. And so Isaiah's
question is very poignant for us: Why do you spend your money for that
which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Why, indeed? I'm going to suggest that it has to do with what we've
been talking about with our kids [at Neighborhood Kid's Camp] this week:
Gifts! Gifts! Gifts! has been the theme. What we haven't talked about as
much -- it's harder for kids to understand -- is how our sinfulness can
block our experience of life as a gift.
[Re-tell the gospel story with Bailie's interpretation in mind, stressing
not that the usual, most literal way is wrong, but that this reveals a
more important miracle, the miracle of changing the human heart. That's
what Jesus' mission was, in the first place, to change our hearts.]
I'm going to tell you why we are so trapped in a mentality of
scarcity, but first I want to show you how ingrained it is:
O.K. Now, I'm going to show you why we operate according to a scarcity
mentality. Mimetic desire:
Economics textbook -- read first definitions and assumptions: capitalism
is a system for the fair distribution of scarce resources.
Story of seminar on capitalism -- how I went to Lakeview College near Sheboygan
for a seminar for pastors on capitalism. The first lecturer trotted out
the above premise regarding scarce resources. I raised my hand and asked
about the feeding of the five thousand and the Sermon on the Mount where
Jesus talks about feeding the birds and clothing the flowers. He didn't
seem to assume scarcity, but abundance. The professor said that one can't
continue in laying out the capitalist system if scarcity of resources is
Is there a way out of the trap of thinking scarcity? The way of faith in
Jesus Christ, with Eucharist at the heart of it! [As conclusion and lead
in to the sacrament, share Gil Bailie's reflections on the eucharistic
action: Jesus takes the bread and says, "This is my life -- now here's
what you do with it: you give thanks to God, because it isn't yours, in
the first place; you break it; and you give it away for others." My addition
to this, especially in the context of the miraculous feedings, is to highlight
faith in a God of abundant life. We can let our lives be broken and given
away because the Living God is not just an abundant source of life but
an eternal source of life. We give our lives away and receive them back,
just as our Lord received his life back on Easter. Just as there was enough
bread there that day for everyone. "Eternal life" is not just something
that happens to us after we die. It is something that immediately is made
available to us as we begin to live as disciples of the one who lived for
others. In discipleship, eternal life is the experience of giving your
life away and continually receiving life back.]
Basic definition of catching our desires from one another.
Example of children in nursery fighting over the teddy bear. In a room
full of teddy bears, that one they are fighting over will appear scarce
Our sons are big Star Trek fans. (I wonder where they caught that
desire from!?) When our oldest two, who are only twenty months apart, were
younger, we bought them models of the starships like this one. In our great
wisdom, we would sometimes buy both Joel and Matt the exact some one. But
they would find some minuscule difference between the two and end up fighting
over one of them.
Our consumerism of keeping up with the Joneses. Same thing, more sophisticated.
The irony of capitalism is that, even as it has out-produced by far every
system of economics before it, its climate of competition, of constantly
trying to keep up with the Joneses, also produces this false sense of scarcity.
Paul J. Nuechterlein
Delivered at Our Savior's Lutheran,
Racine, WI, July 31 & August 4, 2002