Proper 12B Sermon Notes (2018)

SERMON NOTES — July 29, 2018


Last week, we began talking about a New Reformation because the first one failed to save us from the number one thing enslaving us: tribalism. Ephesians 2 is the perfect place to see this because it gives us the clear starting point for a reformation: salvation by grace through faith. But the Reformation seemed to get stuck there. Ephesians 2 goes on to tell us the payoff of salvation by grace, namely, that God through the cross of Jesus Christ is creating one new humanity out of two. In short, God sent Jesus to begin healing tribalism, and God calls you and I to be disciples by living into that new humanity. The first Reformation, then, not only missed that message but ended up creating another deadly tribalism: Catholic vs. Protestant.

We ended last week with the story of a Muslim farmer, during the Serbian Croatian War of the 1990’s, who crossed the religious and ethnic tribal lines to care for a Christian baby of his supposed enemy. You and I are called to cross tribal lines of various configurations and care for those who are deemed to be the Other — Them in the Us-Them tribal realities.

This week, our Gospel Reading gives us the opportunity to see the number one fear that tends to keep us locked in tribalism. That fear is the fear of scarcity, of not having enough for everyone. The fear is that when there’s not enough for all the tribes, then we need to take care of our own tribe first. That’s the thinking that keeps us locked into tribalism. Scarcity Thinking.

Our Gospel Reading sets up the scenario of apparent scarcity. It has been a long day of teaching for Jesus. People are tired and hungry. But the crowd is huge; it looks like more than five thousand. There can’t possibly enough food for everyone. ‘Send everyone home,’ the disciples are no doubt thinking. But, no, Jesus means to feed them all, right then and there. ‘Try to scrounge up some food,’ he tells them. But all they can find is one small boy — too young, obviously, to understand about the weighty reality of scarcity. For this young boy offers up his five loaves of bread and two fish. Even more amazing is that Jesus ignores the principle of scarcity and gives thanks to God as if there’s enough for everyone. And even more amazing, as it turns out, is that there is enough!

Now, by the time we finish this morning, I’m going to suggest a different way to think about this miracle than the usual way, but first we need to attend to this obstacle to healing tribalism known as scarcity thinking, the fear of not having enough.

Extemporize on basics Mimetic theory. We catch our desires from each other. Nursery scenario: children fighting over one toy in a room full of toys. That one toy is scarce!

Resources are the things or services used to produce goods, which then can be used to satisfy wants. Economic resources are scarce….

From Samuelson and Nordhaus textbook: “Compared with developing nations or previous centuries, modern industrial societies seem very wealthy indeed. But higher production levels seem to bring in their train ever-higher consumption standards. . . . People feel that they want and ‘need’ indoor plumbing, central heating, refrigerators, education, movies, radios, television, books, autos, travel, sports and concerts, privacy and living space, chic clothes, clean air and water, safe factories, and so forth.”

Our modern economies produce an abundance which is experienced as a scarcity! We are driven to “keep up with the Jones’s.”

A different way to think about the miracle of John 6:

  • Tell personal story of trip to Holy Land: descending into the depressed basin of the Jordan River and Sea of Galilee and the constant instructions to carry water and food with us.
  • Those who lived in that climate in the First Century would have known to carry food and water with them. But Scarcity Thinking would have made them disinclined to share. Only the little boy who didn’t know better offered his bread and fish.
  • So the miracle was Jesus giving thanks for these meager food resources in a way that opened their hearts to Abundance Thinking. They shared their stashed-away resources and found more than enough for everyone. It’s not that we are doubting Jesus being able to multiply resources. But, honestly, which is the more important miracle? Isn’t it to convert human beings from Scarcity Thinking to Abundance Thinking?
  • Jesus resisted the temptation in the wilderness to turn stones into bread — to miraculous provide enough bread so that it’s easier to let God do it for us. More important is the word from God that converts our hearts to Abundance Thinking so that we find our own way to having enough.

Paul Nuechterlein
Lutheran Church of the Savior,
Kalamazoo, MI

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