+ One of the things I have been missing greatly during coronavirus has been the suppers after our Wednesday night Mass.
Those meals meant so much to me and to so many people here at St. Stephen’s.
And I miss them.
I miss the camaraderie and the discussions we had over those meals.
I miss that feeling of laughing and eating and enjoying each other on Wednesday nights.
Those meals were truly extensions of our Wednesday night Eucharist.
They were much a part of our liturgy as anything else.
So much bonding and ministry and companionship occurred during those meals.
And, as I said, I miss them greatly.
Those Wednesday night meals remind me so much of the meal we find our Gospel reading for today.
In our Gospel reading for today, we also find an incredible meal—a meaningful meal.
We have a miracle involving food.
But we realize that like any truly magical culinary experience that there is more involved here than just the sharing of food.
There is something deeper, something more meaningful.
find happening today is something very familiar to us who follow Jesus.
This so-called feeding of the multitudes appears frequently in the Gospel readings.
Six times, actually.
You know, then, that it is an important event in the lives of those early followers of Jesus if they are going to write about it six times.
For us, this feeding of the multitude also has much meaning.
Yes, it is a great miracle in the life of Jesus.
But it also has meaning in our lives as well.
If you listen closely to what is happening in the reading you’ll notice that, in many ways, we reenact what happens in today’s Gospel in our own lives as Christians.
If you look closely, Jesus doesn’t just perform some outstanding miracle just to “wow” the crowds.
He also performs a very practical act.
And, as often happens in the life of Jesus, the practical and the spiritual get bound up with each other.
In our reading we find Jesus saying of the bits of bread and fish, “Bring them here to me.”
Then he proceeds to do four things.
He takes the bread and fish, he blesses it, he breaks the bread and he gives it to them. He takes, blesses, breaks and gives.
That’s important to remember.
When else do we hear and do these things?
Well, at every Eucharist we celebrate together.
Every time we gather at this altar, we take, we bless, we break and we give.
Of course, we commemorate the Last Supper when we do these things, but certainly, in the early Church, those early followers of Jesus remembered all those moments when Jesus shared food with them as kinds of Eucharistic events, since essentially the same actions took place at each.
They also saw these meals—these moments when Jesus fed people—as glimpses to what awaited us.
And we do too.
You have heard me say many, many times that when I talk of the Kingdom of God, I imagine a meal.
The Kingdom of God is truly a meal—a wonderful meal with friends.
It is a meal in which the finest foods are served, the best wines are uncorked and everyone—everyone, no matter who they are—is treated as an honored guest.
And everyone IS invited.
Of course, some don’t have to come, but everyone is invited to this meal.
In a sense, that is the very reason I hold the Eucharist to be so important to my own personal and spiritual life.
What we celebrate at this altar is a glimpse of what awaits us all.
What we do here is a moment in which we get to see what the Kingdom of God is really like.
But what all of this—the feeding of the multitude, the Eucharist, the Kingdom as a meal—shows us as well is the way forward to doing ministry.
How do we bring the Kingdom of God into our midst, as we are told to do as followers of Jesus?
We do it by taking, blessing, breaking and giving.
In our case, we do this with the ministry we have been given to do.
We take what is given us to share.
We bless it, by asking God’s blessing on it.
We break it, because only by breaking it can we share it.
And we give it.
This is what each of us is called to do in our ministries, in our service to those around us.
The Eucharist is the basis—the ground work or the blueprints—on what we should be doing as followers of Jesus.
Our ministries call us to feed those who are hungry.
Yes, to feed the physically hungry, but also to feed the spiritually hungry, the emotionally hungry, the socially hungry, as well.
We are called to take of our very selves, to bless ourselves, to break ourselves to share and to give of ourselves.
Just as Jesus did.
It’s not easy.
It’s not fun.
There is nothing fun in being broken.
I can tell you that in all honesty from my own experience.
In fact, oftentimes, it’s painful and tiring and exhausting to take, break and share.
We, as a country, we as a church, know what it is to be broken right now.
This pandemic has broken us.
We are not the same as we were before.
But the pandemic has not defeated us.
I remind us all that, even during the pandemic, two masses a week continued to be celebrated in this church.
We did baptisms and funerals and even a wedding during this time.
We still met, even if it was through a camera and virtual social media.
In fact the number of people who join us through social media is amazing.
See, even in the midst of brokenness, we find wholeness.
That is the weird paradox of our faith sometimes.
That is the amazing aspect of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
God ALWAYS provides for us.
This is how the Kingdom is proclaimed sometimes.
And even in a pandemic, we are still able to let people know this one simple fact—there is a meal awaiting us and everyone.
EVERYONE, is invited.
We are to be the invitation to the meal.
And we do this best by showing people what the meal will be like.
We take, we bless, we break and we give of ourselves, freely and without limit, without qualm, without complaint.
We give freely without prejudice or distinction.
Yes, I know—it is a radical thought to think of such things.
But, so is feeding a multitude of people in abundance from just a bit of bread and two fish.
So, let us do as Jesus does.
Let us embody that meal to which we are all invited.
Let us take with us what we gain from the meal we share here at this altar.
And let us, in turn, bless, break and give to all those around us in need.
There is an incredible meal awaiting us.
We are catching a glimpse of it here this morning.
We who feed here this morning on what may appear to some to be little, will be filled. And those whom we feed in turn will also be filled.
"Give them something to eat,” Jesus is saying to us.
How can we not do just that?
Let us pray.
Holy and life-giving God, even in lean times you provide much for your children who trust in you. As we follow your son Jesus, help us to do what he does. Bless us as we take, break, bless and give of all you give us. And let us all be filled we ask this in the holy Name of Jesus. Amen.