Receiving His Riches – Proper 12, Year B

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
or
2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145: 10-19

Ephesians 3:14-21

John 6:1-21

When Sara and I lived in Manhattan we worshiped for about two and a half years at the Church of the Holy Apostles.  Sara also did a year’s “Field Education” there, so we became pretty involved for that short while.

Holy Apostles’ great claim to fame is their enormous “soup kitchen.” They serve a lot more than soup. Their menu is designed to provide their guests with a full day’s worth of nutrition, and they serve between 900 and 1200 people five days a week. (Or, those were the numbers when we were there.) It is an enormous undertaking, and it is a model for many other similar ministries.  Sara and I worked in this ministry, but my involvement was limited to the times when they had trouble finding volunteers. This feeding program is so well known and loved in the Chelsea area of Manhattan that they have more volunteers than spaces on most days.

I remembered this ministry and several other food programs I’ve been a part of as I prayed about this week’s reading from John, the “feeding of the five thousand.” I found myself asking, “What if?” a lot.

“What would it be like if our feeding programs didn’t just fill empty tummies, but so confronted us with the reality of God’s miraculous love for us that thousands turned to Jesus as King?”

“What if our feeding programs didn’t rely only on what we can raise from charitable individuals and institutions, but actually manifested the multiplication that Jesus demonstrated?  Didn’t He promise us that we would do greater things than even He did?”

“What if our focus could be on showing forth the Kingdom by signs and wonders, rather than trying to right social wrongs? What would that look like? Would it look much different on the surface?”

I want desperately to lift up this sign that Jesus did as just that, a sign of the Kingdom and not a model for social ministry. I want to say that if we who work in the soup kitchens were as desperate for the food that does not perish as our guests are for what we can serve them, then our guests would receive so much more, and hunger might soon be banished by the wealth that we would discover in ourselves and each other as the Holy Spirit wells up in us unto eternal life.

If we fed on Jesus’ flesh as He intended He would so fill our hearts with His love for our guests that they would be left breathless by their encounters with the Savior.

I don’t doubt for a second the sincerity of the love that so many volunteers have shown in so many feeding programs around the country for so very long. But I want to dream bigger. I want to have a vision that can’t be satisfied by full tummies.  I want a vision that leaves us all scrambling to make Jesus our King.  That vision would so change our hearts that the structural injustices that cause such hunger and poverty would eventually melt away.

If we can just take our eyes off the problems and put them back on the Solution.

Jeff

Jeff Krantz is an Episcopal priest, and has been the rector of the Church of the Advent in Westbury, New York for 12 years.  A lifelong Episcopalian, Jeff experienced a crisis of faith after his ordination that led him into a life-giving way of being in relationship to his “Father” that he now wants to share.  His early email ministry, “Hearing His Voice,” grew into a soon-to-be released book by the same title.   He leads retreats for men’s groups, parishes, and parish leadership groups.  Jeff can be contacted by email at jhkrantz@gmail.com.

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