Sermon Notes from Sunday, 30 July 2017
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? ….
St. Paul frequently in his Epistles calls the Christians to prevent divisions within the community and to be of one heart and mind, something we pray for at the Liturgy [“Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess.” AND “And grant that with one mouth and one heart we may glorify and praise Your all-honorable and majestic Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”]
When we install a new Parish Council, they take an oath of office that among other things says they promise to work to preserve the unity of the community. Unity is not given to us automatically by God at our baptisms. We have to work for , and the leadership of the parish is especially entrusted with this task.
We know it is hard to have a community of people agree on everything, and Christian history shows us how often Christians have failed to maintain the unity of the faith – not only on the local level but sometimes at the level of the entire Church. Divisions have plagued us Christians, and it is incumbent on each of us to work hard to preserve unity within the Church. I say this, not because we have any pressing division we are facing, but we all know there are countless issues that we disagree on, some very minor, but still it is a task, and no easy one to maintain unity.
Jesus prayed: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will* believe in Me through their word;“that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23)
Paul’s wish that we be of one mind, without disunity, is telling us to fulfill Christ’s prayer for us.
In an unusual way, the oneness of heart and mind has a segue with today’s Gospel lesson.
Gospel: Matthew 14:14-22
And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were satisfied, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.
In the rock opera JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Judas sings about Jesus:
Every time I look at you I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand.
You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned.
Why’d you choose such a backward time in such a strange land?
If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation.
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.
One can wonder why Jesus came when He did, 2000 years ago. We think we would like to walk with Him and hear him today, thinking then we would know for sure if He was true or not, unlike those Palestinian backwater rubes who were easily taken in by “miracles.”
But if Jesus came today and wanted to assemble 5000 men besides women and children, it would be no easy task to arrange. There would be permits which would be needed, and sanitation and security. There would have to be plans for emergencies, first aid stations, water bottles, bathrooms, and the authorities wouldn’t allow that many people to assemble with no food in sight. What kind of parking area would be needed for the cars for all those people?
And then when Jesus promised to feed everyone, and all He gave was bread, there would be mass complaining. Some would say they are on special diets – high protein, low carb, glutton free, there would be complaints about allergies. Some would want something with the bread, not bread alone. Butter and jelly, or perhaps meat and cheese for sandwiches. And condiments. Humans can’t live on bread alone! That is not a balanced diet. There would be a lot of unhappy people who would not be happy that all they were given is some bread.
Maybe the biggest miracle that Jesus did comes in the line, “So they all ate and were satisfied“. Amazing, He satisfied 5000 men plus women and children. Everyone was satisfied, and all they got was bread. [though the Gospel passage mentions the disciples also had fish, it only mentions Christ blessing and distributing the loaves, the fish aren’t mentioned as being distributed].
We can imagine what would happen if at our Fellowship Hour, all we had to offer was bread! People would demand at least donuts! And coffee!
But in the Gospel lesson, they are satisfied with bread. Maybe that is why Christ came 2000 years ago. He looked into the future, into the 21st Century and realized no one today would consider being offered only bread – after being with Christ all day out in the open, exposed to the weather – as that wonderful. Perhaps He looked into our century and realized all He would get is complaints.
Back then, they stayed with Christ all day and witnessed healing miracles, and then Jesus fed them bread. What happened next? He told them goodbye – go home! If they thought that something powerful was going to happen to the world right then and there – the Kingdom of Heaven or the New Jerusalem – Jesus disabused them of those ideas. He dismissed them. He didn’t encourage them to stay, didn’t offer an encore. He didn’t encourage that some kind of shrine be built there. He moved on.
He wanted them to look beyond the bread they received, to think about the Kingdom, not about making Him king. The miracle was to be a sign of that greater reality, God’s Kingdom. Jesus left that spot because the Kingdom wasn’t there and He wanted everyone to look not for some benefit in this world but to look beyond this world.
In our church we have many icons of saints, but if we read there lives we will see precious few of them looked to Jesus for the bread of this world. They all were looking for something else, something more. The Myrrhbearing Women go to the tomb, not looking for bread in this world, but looking for Christ. It is Christ whom the saints were seeking, and it Christ whom they realized they needed.
If we listen to the Gospel of the miraculous multiplication of the loaves, and all we get out of it is that we wish we could see a miracle, or we wish we could get some free bread, then we miss the entire lesson of the Gospel, for we miss seeing Christ. None of those who ate that bread that day were so satisfied that they never hungered again. That bread fed them for a day, not for a lifetime, not for eternity.
Christ, however, does offer us bread that feeds us for eternity – His own Body and Blood which we receive in the consecrated Eucharistic Bread and Wine. We need to seek Christ like the saints, not mere bread like the crowd. In this, we need to be of one heart and mind.