|August 1 , 1999|
|Rev. Virnette Hamilton|
|First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT 06776|
|Write to Rev. Hamilton|
Scripture Readings Scripture: Matthew 14: 13-21 and Isaiah 55:1-3
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)
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)
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
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
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
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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