Jesus withdraws again to boat by himself in a deserted place.  John the Baptist is dead.  The daughter of Herodias danced before Herod at a party he gave.  Herod enjoyed her dancing so much that he promised to give her whatever she asked.  Herodias prompted her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  John’s disciples bury him, and then they come and tell Jesus the bad news.

When Jesus hears this, he goes away by himself on a boat to a deserted place.  Matthew doesn’t tell us why Jesus needs to do this, but we can in these moments perhaps a glimpse of the struggle that is ahead for Jesus, especially the regarding his own impending suffering and death that will fully materialize in Gethsemane.[1]

When Jesus returns to the shore, he again finds a crowd.  They have followed him again.  Yet, even in the midst of his grief, he has compassion for them. He begins to cure the sick.  Then we hear the familiar story.  The disciples become concerned about what this crowd will eat in this deserted place.  Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.”  Jesus instructs them to share food.  In this story, in a situation where scarcity appears to reign, more than five thousand people share food.

To be disciples of Jesus Christ is to be people who share food.   Sharing food does many things.  First, to share food is to declare that there is enough food.[2]  This is to turn the stories we normally hear on their heads.  We hear a lot of bad news during the week.  We are told there isn’t enough.  There isn’t enough food.  There are too many mouths to feed.  We’ve only got five loaves.  We’ve only got two fish.  There are more than five thousand people.  What are we supposed to do?  Jesus’ reply in the face of their fear is “bring them here to me.”

To be a disciple of Jesus who shares food is to declare that there is enough.  This is not out of naïve optimism.  Rather, it is because everything comes from God, who is a God of abundance.  We hear a lot of bad news about scarcity.  Yet, when we gather in this place for worship, for study, for fellowship, we hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ declares that there is enough, if we could only learn to be a people who would not hoard goods because we are terrified of scarcity.

To share food does not just mean to declare that there is enough food.  To share food is to declare that there are enough places at the table where food is shared.  I saw a story this week about the growth of the “no-kids allowed” movement.[3]  There are a growing number of businesses that explicitly state that kids are not allowed.  There is, in fact, a website called http://www.leavethembehind.com. This site contains a huge list of vacation opportunities where children are banned.  Perhaps you are thinking, “Well, there are probably some places where it probably isn’t a good idea to have kids.”  I agree.  However, it is one thing for parents to consider how long a child can sit still at a restaurant or movie, but it is a whole other matter for kids to begin being categorically banned.

Notice Matthew’s comment about how many people were fed by Jesus.  He says, “those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.”  Since men were in a privileged place in Matthew’s society perhaps suggests why there was a clearer count of the men.  Yet, Matthew’s mention of women and kids shows a new reality.  In the kingdom, all persons count.  Men count.  Women count.  And kids count.[4]  Jesus’ miraculous feeding was not a “no-kids-allowed zone.”

This week at Vacation Bible School, we declared that church is not a “no-kids-allowed” zone.  This morning, as our children provide leadership in our worship service, we have declared that worship does not have to be a no-kids-allowed zone.  We have declared that our table has plenty of seats, including ones for children.  To declare that there are seats for children at our table should not be surprising.  It is to fulfill promises we make when persons are baptized, to

surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust of God, and be found faithful in their service to others.  We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.[5]

Indeed, to declare that there are seats for children at our table should not be surprising.  Notice the way Matthew describes what Jesus does with the loaves and fish.  Jesus takes the food, he blesses and breaks the loaves, and he shares the food with the disciples and the crowds.  This is the same movement Jesus makes at the last supper.  This is the same movement we make when we share the holy food of Holy Communion.  The bread is taken, it is blessed, it is broken, and it is shared.  In this miraculous feeding, Jesus is gesturing towards the way he shares himself even more miraculously with us in Holy Communion, which is more important than any other meal we share during our lives.

Children are welcome where we share the most important food, Holy Communion, because they are as members of God’s covenant community, even if they are not yet able to speak for themselves.[6]  Even if the children who walk through the doors at Lane are not members, or even if they don’t go to church anywhere, Christ calls us to welcome them because we are called to be a place where there is a place for everyone.

Together at VBS we learned about not only sharing food, but also sharing everything we have.  We heard about “God’s recipe,” which is none other than the good news revealed in Jesus Christ, that we are to share food together, and then we are to go into the world and share food.  As we draw closer to Christ, we come the realization that what we own is not ours, but it is a gift to be shared with others.  To see the world in this way is to encounter every person we meet as someone with whom we may share our gifts and ourselves.

As we look around, and we see not only “no-kids-allowed” zones, but also other signs of inhospitability towards persons based on gender, race, class, or ability, we are called to be a different kind of community.  The leadership our children provide us this morning is a glimpse of what the kingdom looks like where there is enough for all, and there is a seat for everyone at the table.  It is, just as Jesus’ feeding of all those people, nothing short of a miracle because it is an act of the Holy Spirit moving among us to be a “yes-kids-allowed” zone.   Thanks be to God.


[1] Stanley Hauerwas, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Matthew, (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006), p. 138

[2] Samuel Wells, Liturgy Comes to Life, (Durham: Duke University Chapel, 2010), p. 84.

[3] Piper Weiss, “The No-kids-allowed Movement is Spreading,” http://goo.gl/01cvM, cited July 27, 2011.

[4] Hauerwas, Matthew, p. 140.

[5] “Baptismal Covenant I,” United Methodist Hymnal, (Nashville:  United Methodist Publishing House), p. 35.

[6] This Holy Mystery:  A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion, (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2005), p. 29.

Advertisements