Sermon Notes for July 31, 2011

ancient mosaic of the loaves and fishes

Scriptures for 7th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A, Proper 13):

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 17: 1-7, 16
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:13-21

  • Jacob wrestles with God in the Old Testament lesson.  It is not a long reading, but it is packed.  Two things to unpack for the congregation- 1) the importance of names (Jacob/Israel/and the holy Name/Place names); 2) the issues of the wrestling injury that stick with Judaism even to this day (hip joint).  Plenty to study here.
  • The Feeding of the Multitude is the only miracle story that shows up in all four Gospels. How does it compare to the other accounts?  What is unique about Matthew’s telling of it?  Why are we still telling this story in the 21st Century?
  • Miracle stories can be handled in a number of ways, but consider the “miracles” you experience on a regular basis–When I sit around the table and eat, I am awed by the fact that someone discovered that you could take wheat, grind it, add a little water, maybe some yeast, and bake it, producing bread.  (It may not seem like much to you, but a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a pretty amazing thing).  What about the whole miracle of fish reproduction, the female lays some eggs, the male fertilizes them, they hatch and produce hundreds of fry, and a few of them make it to adulthood, only to start the cycle again.
  • The Gospel may be my favorite of the selections.  It is a great eucharistic passage and would be a great day for communion (if it isn’t something you do every week).  This commentary on the Blessing, Breaking and Giving formula in the passage is worth a read.
  • Here is an interesting piece dealing with scarcity from Dan Matthews who was the rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in New York on 9/11:   Our Mentality of Scarcity Among God’s Abundance (side note- Dan and his wife run The Swag in Haywood County, NC and they attend at St. Andrew’s in Canton when they get a break.  He is one of the most engaging preachers around and has a real gift at telling a story, and offering the Gospel in a fresh way–read whatever you can find of his)
  • This may be a great time to lift up stories of how God multiplies our little offerings of bread, tuna fish in a can, canned soup, etc. to the myriads of soup kitchen and food pantries that dot our communities.  It may seem like a little offering, but God has a way of providing for the hungry and those in need in major ways.  What miracle story can you tell in your community related to hunger and food?
  • Here’s a quote from Working Preacher on the Gospel Lesson that I liked:

Returning to the Matthew text at hand, it is now clearer why this isn’t a typical miracle story. It’s really not about the earthly bread and how many people were fed. That isn’t the Gospel anyway. We still want to highlight the compassion of Jesus. We still want to insist that as Jesus’ disciples we be faithful in seeking to provide daily bread to all in need.

Be sure to eat something that day with the congregation–Eucharist in worship, a fish fry after church, or maybe coffee hour will include more than coffee–it is one of the best ways to connect our senses to this text–the congregation gets to break bread together–the Word is heard, it can be seen, touched, tasted, and smelled too when you add a little food to the equation.

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