Sermon
August 1 , 1999
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

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Scripture Readings

Scripture: Matthew 14: 13-21 and   Isaiah 55:1-3

Matthew 14:13-21

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a

deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on

foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had

compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the

disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is

now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy

food for themselves." 16 Jesus said to them, "They need not go away; you give

them something to eat." 17 They replied, "We have nothing here but five

loaves and two fish." 18 And he said, "Bring them here to me." 19 Then he

ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the

two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave

them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all

ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken

pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand

men, besides women and children. (NRSV)

Isaiah 55:1-3

1 Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no

money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without

price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your

labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what

is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come

to me; listen, so that you may live.. (NRSV)

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Sermon: Hungry?

I love to eat and I really like good food. I like to eat things that have

interesting flavors with lots of herbs. I think that I ate my way through

vacation this summer. I found that when I was traveling I was thinking

about food a lot. When would we eat, where, what. I was really hungry.

Yet at the end of each day, I didn't feel satisfied, only stuffed and very

uncomfortable. After 4 days I began to get annoyed at myself, but I seemed

powerless to stop - some hunger was driving me. I just assumed that it was a

hunger for food - until the last day of the vacation. We had had a great

time, had done a lot of sight seeing and driving and shopping. But as I sat

in the back yard on that last night, with one of the books that had just I

bought, thinking that a simple salad would be more than enough for dinner I

realized what I had done. I had tried to satisfy my hunger with the wrong

thing. My hunger was for peace and quiet and simplicity, not for exotic

food. So, I sat in the middle of God's creation and drank in the peace - I

let it feed me. It was what I had been seeking. A time apart, to pray and

get in touch with God. I had mistakenly thought my craving was for the usual

sort of food - and accidentally discovered the food I needed.

That experience brought me closer to understanding how Jesus felt. For weeks

on end he had been teaching the crowds and healing folks before he had

returned to his home town of Nazareth. It was there that he found himself

discredited and his ministry devalued. Right after that, according to

Matthew, he heard that his cousin, John the Baptist had been beheaded in

prison. Imagine his exhaustion, his disappointment and grief. He recognized

his need to be in prayer, to be alone, so he withdrew from the crowds to a

deserted place.

But the crowds followed him. You can imagine them, clamoring for his

attention. They had heard of his power to heal and so many of them were

sick. They needed his compassion and his touch. Jesus stayed and cured

them, until it was growing dark. That was when it happened. Jesus blessed

and broke the bread - and gave it to the disciples to distribute it.

Imagine their amazement, as the crowds waited for their hunger to be

satisfied and watched as those few loaves and fishes miraculously fed each

person gathered there.

They had come hungry to see this Jesus for themselves, to watch him work,

to hear him speak, maybe even to be healed. They never expected to be

satisfied. As much as their bodies needed to be cured and their stomachs

needed to be fed, their souls were starving for a savior. In that moment

when Jesus blessed and broke the bread they would have recognized what was

happening, just like on the road to Emmaus. They had to know then that this

Jesus was the messiah! Their hunger for a savior was going to be alleviated.

Hunger comes in so many forms. We have driving hungers, like those for

material things, really too many to mention and we hunger for success, fame,

for fortune. But there is another kind of hunger - Essential Hungers, for

understanding, freedom, love, forgiveness, peace, healing, and salvation.

These essential hungers tend to come masked as driving hungers - food, new

cars, houses, clothes, toys, entertainment, even busyness…. You can make

your own list. We find ourselves feeling out of sorts, unhappy,

discouraged and we seek out food, or we treat ourselves to something we are

sure will solve the problem or we distract ourselves with work. And it

usually does help - at least temporarily. But eventually, the

dissatisfaction rears its head again, and we are out looking for another way

to sooth our longing.

Our longings are deeper than a topical solution.

Our lesson this morning reminds us that we don't need to worry about those

material things - we will have enough, in fact, if you follow the story, you

could say, we will have an abundance of what we need. If you look at most

of our lives, you would say that we have more than we could ever use. Those

basic driving hungers should not be our focus.

Our lesson reminds us of something else, something we don't want to forget.

When Jesus was discouraged and hurt and exhausted he withdrew, he turned to

God, he sought a time apart from his troubles so that he could begin to

discern the hunger. He could begin to ask god to replenish those resources

that he thought were exhausted.

Discernment - that is what we often forget to do. We don't allow God to

help us to understand that there is an essential hunger that is behind the

driving hunger that compells us to spend too much, or eat until we are too

full, or work too many hours . We forget to walk away from the fast pace

of life, we forget to turn to God in a quiet way, so that God can speak to

our hearts.

We forget that God is ready to satisfy those essential hungers too, so we

keep on going, struggling, yet at the same time, starving. Struggling and

starving.

What would you find out if you sat quietly and allowed God to help you to

identify that essential hunger which lies just beneath the surface of your

life? Would you hear God soothing your frustration. Would you find a sense

of peace. Would you recognize the ways in which God is ready to offer you

all of the essentials. You could discover that you only have to turn in

God's direction and all of the essentials are there for you, love,

understanding, peace, healing, freedom, forgiveness, salvation.

This morning we are the disciples that followed Jesus, the crowds that

longed to find a savior. It is time to stop struggling and starving. As you

come to this table you are invited to turn to God, to open yourself to

discern your essential hungers.

We will receive only a tiny bit of bread and one swallow of juice. Hardly

enough by the world's standard to satisfy any hunger, and yet, as the bread

is broken and the cup is offered, may you find yourself refreshed, your

hunger gone, your resources replenished.

It is a miracle. A tiny scrap of food multiplied that all might find

abundance of life. As the bread is broken and the cup is offered, may you

find the risen Christ. Amen.

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