July 29, 2018

Music:

“Michael Row the Boat Ashore”

“Water” written by Aron Racho

Both songs performed by Sarah Koeman and Aron Racho.

Cover: Jesus Multiplies the Loaves and Fish
JESUS MAFA is a response to the New Testament readings from the Lectionary by a Christian community in Cameroon, Africa. Each of the readings were selected and adapted to dramatic interpretation by the community members. Photographs of their interpretations were made, and these were then transcribed to paintings.

Perhaps I am stronger than I think.
-Thomas Merton

It Felt Love by Hafiz
How
Did the rose
Ever open its heart

And give to this world
All its
Beauty?

It felt the encouragement of light
Against its
Being,

Otherwise,
We all remain

Too

Frightened.

Refuse the First Plate by Rumi
There is a deliverance that comes
When you move from eating greasy scraps
To more beautiful, noble food.

One kind of food gives you flatulence
And diarrhea, a heaviness in the stomach.

The other keeps you light
As you ride the ocean.

Fast, and watch what arrives.
A materially full person is not alert
For dishes that descend.

Don’t always eat what’s offered.
Be lordly. Refuse the first plate.
Wait, and the host will send out better food.

Lift your head like the tallest mountain in the dark
That the dawn turns red, then gold.

Qur’an 5:112-115
When the disciples said, “Jesus, son of Mary, can your Lord send down a feast to us from heaven?” he said, “Beware of God if you are true believers.” They said, “We wish to eat from it; to have our hearts reassured; to know that you have told us the truth; and to be witnesses of it.” Jesus, son of Mary, said, “Lord, send down to us a feast from heaven so that we can have a festival—the first and last of us—and a sign from You. Provide for us: You are the best Provider.”

God said, “I will send it down to you, but anyone who disbelieves after this will be punished with a punishment that I will not inflict on anyone else in the world.

2 Kings 4:42-44
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, ‘Give it to the people and let them eat.’ But his servant said, ‘How can I set this before a hundred people?’ So he repeated, ‘Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, “They shall eat and have some left.” ’ He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

John 6:1-21, 25-27
After these events, Jesus crossed to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A huge crowd was following him, because they wanted to see the signs he was performing for the sick. Jesus climbed up the mountain, and he sat down there with his disciples. It was about time for the Jewish festival of Passover. Jesus looks up and sees a big crowd approaching him, and he says to Philip, “Where are we going to buy enough bread to feed these people?” (He was saying this to test him you see, Jesus already knew what he was going to do.)

“Two hundred denarii wouldn’t buy enough bread for everyone to have a bite,” Philip said.

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, says to him, “There’s a kid here with five loaves of barley bread and two fish; but what does that amount for so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” (They were in a grassy place.) So they sat down. (the men alone numbered about five thousand.) Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and passed them around to the people sitting there, along with the fish, and all of them had as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he says to his disciples, “Gather up the leftovers so that nothing goes to waste. “

So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with scraps from the five barley loaves—from what was left over. When these folks saw the sign he had performed they were saying, “This has to be the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Jesus perceived that they were about to come and force him to be king, so he retreated once again to the mountain by himself.

As evening approached, his disciples went down to the sea. They boarded a boat and were trying to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already gotten dark, and Jesus still had not joined them. A strong wind began to blow and the sea was getting rough. When they had rowed about three for four miles, they catch sight of Jesus walking on the sea and coming toward the boat. They were frightened, but he says to them, “Don’t be afraid! It’s me.” Then they would have taken him on board, but the boat instantly arrived at the shore they had been making for….

…The next day, the crowd…found him on the other side of the sea and asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus replied, “Let me tell you this: You’re looking for me only because you ate the bread and had all you wanted, not because you witnessed signs. Don’t work for food that spoils, but for food that lasts—food for unending life—which the Human One will give you; on him God the Father has put his stamp of approval.

 

“You’re looking for me only because you ate the bread and had all you wanted, not because you witnessed signs.”

Ouch. That smarts.

That is the occupational hazard of those who deal in miraculous demonstrations.
People like magic but they don’t stay for the message.
They eat the bread, but don’t understand the sign.

This miracle of Jesus is found in all four gospels.
It occurs twice in a couple of the gospels.
At one time Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children and had twelve baskets left over.

Another time he fed 4,000 men plus women and children and had seven baskets left over.
The same story, just a few verses apart.
The disciples don’t get it.

You get the feeling that he could have done that every day and still people,
including his closest disciples would miss the sign.

The Qur’an spells it out in its version of the miraculous feast.
In this version, the disciples want proof.
Jesus makes the request on their behalf for a feast from heaven
and then God offers this dire warning:

“I will send it down to you, but anyone who disbelieves after this will be punished with a punishment that I will not inflict on anyone else in the world.”

Give us a sign!

But God knows and Jesus knows that for many, the sign will be not be seen.
Or what is seen will not be seen as a sign.
Or the sign that was seen will be forgotten
when the need and desire for bread
overtakes our capacity to witness what is true.

“You’re looking for me only because you ate the bread and had all you wanted, not because you witnessed signs.”

However, it isn’t the case that everyone misses the sign.
It isn’t the case that everyone is all about the bread and disregards the point.
It is just that most people do, at least for now.

That isn’t me talking, that is the message of scripture,

“Narrow is the way and strait is the gate and few there be who find it.”

Gratefully, those who do find it are not stingy with it.

Those throughout history who have been awake to the signs
have in turn shared what they have seen.
Jesus, of course, and Mohammad, were generous with what they observed
and became in themselves reed flutes for the divine music.

Not only them, these two prophets,
but others, too, have been awakened to
the beauty of this world,
the violence against it,
the creative force deep within,
and the unleashing of that force toward transformation to goodness and beauty.

There are those who witnessed signs and who witness signs as signs and become warriors.

Those are the spiritual guides.
They are the spiritual leaders.
They invite us, they call us to join the spiritual quest.

Like the prophets of old, Isaiah, chapter 55:

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.”

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered Caitlin Johnstone.
She wrote a little book called,
Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. One of her poems is called “Gaps”:

While the tides rise,
while skullface late night talk show hosts try to make neoliberalism funny,
while the war drums of the Bastards vibrate the air,
remember:
You are supported by the emptiness between the atoms,
by the emptiness between the stars,
by the emptiness between your thoughts,
by the emptiness which surrounds your perception.
The end has always been as nigh as nigh gets.
Death was lounging between your electrons from the moment you were conceived.
We who look with both eyes see the gargoyles,
but we also see the emptiness.
We recline against that space between,
cradled in the heart of the timeless.
~
So when the TV is lying and your friends are all blind,
when they call your light madness and strike your diamond from your hands,
when Grandmother Tree confesses that she is worried about the water,
take heart.
Birds of all colors roar out of the darkness in each moment,
join together to form all this, then fly off.
The needle-toothed Bastards cannot touch your magic,
cannot know the emptiness,
cannot see the birds.
A few howling primates gibbering about finance
on a spinning rock that is hurtling through blackness
in a universe that they do not understand.
They do not run this show.
They do not lead this dance.
~
There is a castle at the center of two forest lungs
with a dead angel on a swing made of ivy.
Eel ogres hurl cars in the gaps of your neurons
and between your electrons,
owls soar.
~
What I’m trying to say,
in my bumbling way,
is that there are so many hiding spaces.
There are miracles lurking in the gaps of all things,
and so little of life is yet known….
~

You know Jesus didn’t make miracles in the desert just for the show.
He was interested in saving the world.
He wanted to wake people up.
He knew that not everyone would go with him.

Most would reject him.
They might stay for the bread,
but like all bread that comes from the soil of Earth,
it too molds and goes back to Earth.
Those who came for the bread, once it is gone, have nothing left for which to stay.
They look for other makers of bread,
to the screens,
the agribusiness farms,
the warmakers,
the destroyers, who offer bread,
such as it is.

Bread but no sign.

“You’re looking for me only because you ate the bread and had all you wanted, not because you witnessed signs.”

But Jesus also knew that eventually,
some would come for more than the bread.
Some would come for the sign.

The sign that this existence is amazing.
That as theologian Matthew Fox said,
“In the midst of trillions of galaxies how could we ever be bored!?”

The sign that you are royalty.
The sign that this life is short,
and like a sunset in Eastern Montana, gorgeous.

Jesus knew that eventually some would come for more than their fill of bread.

They would notice the sign that this world is in terrible peril
and that they have been summoned to be warriors for its life.

They would notice a sign from the heavens
to counter the lies of the screens
and the talking heads
and the profiteers riding the backs of the suffering.

They would notice the sign that loosens their tongues
so they would speak on behalf of the burning Earth.

They would notice the sign of possibility.
There is enough with bread left over.

They would notice the sign of awakening.

We are awakening.
One at a time.

Awaken.
Learn truth.
Speak it.
Awaken others.

You are the sign.
Not the person next to you.
You.

Amen.