13 Now when Jesus heard about the beheading of John the Baptist, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard this, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus 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 Jesus 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.
Please pray with me this morning, church:
God of abundance,
In an abundance of things in our lives to grieve,
In the midst of an abundance of broken plans,
Overturned realities, and uncertain futures,
Remind us that you are enough.
Give us living water. Give us food to sustain us.
Give us your very self.
And remind us that we, too, are enough.
What have you missed most from the time B.C. – Before COVID-19…?
Is it date nights? Movie theaters? Playgroups? Eating out? (I’ll tall ya, I really miss going out to eat…I think our dishwasher’s getting tired of us…) Is it Happy Hour with friends? Worship? Haircuts?
What do you miss most?
The thing I miss the absolute most in all of this…is travel.
We love going places and seeing new things and we’re anxious for a time when we get to do that again.
Throughout our summer series, as we’ve been exploring the theme of Unraveled, we’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on and even grieving what’s been lost during this time. And appropriately so, right? When we undergo significant losses like all those I just mentioned, we need to acknowledge that loss and we need to grieve that loss so that we can then move forward from that place.
But as we set out planning this series, I wanted the whole arc of the summer to have a sort-of movement to it. As I was reading through the Unraveled materials and looking through the Revised Common Lectionary gospel readings for the summer, I not only tried to pair stories that made sense together, but I tried to give the series a thematic movement—I wanted us to move from a place of the acknowledgment of the loss that’s occurred, the grieving of that loss, and then moving us forward from that place of loss, toward a place of hopefulness, toward a place of reimagining a new future and maybe even recapturing some what’s been lost, if even in a new and different way…if even as part of a new normal.
Because the thing is, church, it may still yet be some time before we’re able to do many of those things again. There’s so much we don’t know yet about what our new normal will look like.
But that doesn’t mean that we should live without hope. That doesn’t mean that we should live without recognizing the blessings and the positives and the good within this time of loss.
What I’m suggesting is that the 2 aren’t necessarily at odds with one another. It’s not a time of loss or a time of goodness…but while this is certainly a time of loss, goodness is present within that. We hold these 2 things in tension…keeping our eyes open for the good within the disappointment and loss.
The Samaritan woman that came to Jesus in the heat of the middle of the day had certainly experienced a great amount of loss. “I have no husband,” she tells Jesus. To which he replies, “Correct…you’ve had 5 husbands and this one you’re with now is not your husband.” A lot of aspersions have been cast on this Samaritan woman from the gospel of John from people throughout history. A lot of folks have taken Jesus’ words to mean that she’s some sort of immoral individual, they’ve made her out to be some sort of prostitute or adulterer…but modern scholarship says that reads too much into these words. That nothing in this story indicates that this woman of Samaria is any of those things. Reputable biblical scholars attribute her lack of a husband to being a widow, being divorced, being unable to bear children, or maybe a confluence of all three…all of which would have made her among the most vulnerable in ancient society.
Whatever the situation, certainly this Samaritan woman has experienced a great deal of loss in her life…a great deal of pain…she’s trudging through a great deal of grief.
And it’s into this that Jesus engages her in conversation. And not just pleasantries and small talk, but Jesus and this woman get into some high-brow, heady theological discourse—worship practices, the nature of God, salvation—Jesus gets down into it with this woman.
And by so doing, Jesus elevates her status.
See not only was Jesus, a man, engaging this woman in conversation…which would have been frowned upon…but Jesus, a Jewish teacher, converses with this Samaritan woman…the author notes for us, “Jewish people do not share things in common with Samaritans…Jesus and this woman are crossing all kinds of boundaries here: gender boundaries, religious, cultural, social, ethnic, and political boundaries.
And it’s in the midst of all this boundary-crossing and this time of loss, that Jesus offers the Samaritan woman something…a gift in the midst of loss, a blessing in the midst of grief.
“Those who drink the water that I give them will never be thirsty…it will be in them a great spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
Jesus…give me this water…
There are blessings to be found in the midst of this loss. We can discover new ways of enjoying the things we’re used to.
But what about being given something you didn’t know you needed?
What does it feel like for someone to see you so clearly, and for them to give you something that doesn’t just satisfy you thirst…but that quenches your soul?
What is it like to be given something that goes beyond material wants and gets at the very heart of what you need…even something you didn’t even know you needed…?
This is that water.
This is the meal that Jesus shared with those 5,000.
It goes beyond mere hunger and thirst…it gets at the heart of our needs as humans.
Jesus is offering refreshment for your soul.
It’s healing. It’s wellness. It’s compassion, and mercy, and forgiveness, and love.
It’s an unraveling of shame.
The shame of the Samaritan woman who was ostracized from her community. “Come and see! Someone who told me everything I have ever done!” Come and see! Someone who sees me! Who sees past my shame. Who can see who I truly am!
The shame of having nothing more to offer a multitude than 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. The shame associated with scarcity, of feeling that there’s not enough…the shame of feeling as if you’re not enough… “All ate…and were filled. And they took up what was left over…from the broken pieces…”
There’s plenty in our world to grieve.
There’s plenty in our lives to cause us despair.
But there’s also incredible beauty. And incredible opportunity.
And in-breaking of the reign and dominion of God.
Where have you seen blessing during this time, church?
I don’t know when I’ll get to travel extensively again…I hope sometime soon. But I do know that while I’ve been spending more time at home, I’ve been able to watch first steps being taken. I’ve been able to sing new songs, and try new foods, and learn new sounds.
Hope does not disappoint.