Fred Craddock shares a story of manna…as story of feeding … a story of unexpected glory…you see he had gone to Winnipeg to give two lectures the first lecture went off without a hitch but the second lecture well…
Friday Night as he left the lecture hall it was beginning to spit a little snow. He was surprised, and his host was surprised as well because he had written, “It’s too early for the cold weather, but you might want to bring a little wind breaker, a little light jacket.” The next morning when he got up there was two or three feet of snow piled against the door. The phone rang, and his host informed him that everyone is surprised by this, the lecture had been cancelled and no one could get to him to breakfast and the airport is closed. He gave him directions to the bus depot around the corner that has a café.
“I said; ‘I’ll get around’ I put on that little light jacket; it was nothing. I got my little cap and put it on; It didn’t even help me in the room. I went into the bathroom and unrolled long sheets of toilet paper and made a nest in my cap so that it would protect my head against that icy wind.
I went outside, shivering. The wind was cold, the snow was deep. I slid and bumped and finally made it around the corner into the bus station. Every stranded traveler in western Canada was in there, strangers to each other and to me, pressing and pushing and loud. I finally found a place to sit, and after a lengthy time a man in a greasy apron came over and said, ‘What’ll you have?’ I said, ‘May I see a menu?’ He said, ‘What do you want a menu for? We have soup.’ I said, ‘What kinds of soup do oyu have?’ and he said soup. You want some soup?’ I said, ‘That was what I was going to order – soup.’ He brought the soup, and I put the spoon to it –Yuck! It was the awfullest. It was kind of gray looking; it was so bad I couldn’t eat it, but I sat there and put my hands about it. It was warm, and so I sat there with my head down, my head wrapped in toilet paper, bemoaning and beweeping my outcast state with he horrible soup. But it was warm, so I clutched it and stayed bent over my soup stove.
The door opened again. The wind was icy, and somebody yelled, ‘Close the door!’ in came this woman clutching her little coat. She found a place, not far from me. The greasy apron came, ‘What do you want?’ She said, ‘A glass of water.’ He brought a glass of water, took out his tablet, and said, ‘Now what’ll you have’ She said, ‘Just the water.” He said, ‘You have to order lady.’ ‘Well, I just want a glass of water.’ ‘Look, I have customers that pay- what do you think this is, a church or something? Now what do you want?’ She said, ‘Just a glass of water and some time to get warm.’ ‘Look there are people paying here. I f you’re not going to order you have to leave!’ And he got real loud about it. So, she got up to leave and, almost as if rehearsed, everybody in that little café stood up and started to walk towards the door. I got up and said, ‘I’m voting for something here; I don’t know what it is.’ And the man in the greasy apron said, ‘All right, all right, she can stay.’ Everybody sat down, and he brought her a bowl of soup.
I said to the person siting there by me, I said, ‘who is she?’ He said, ‘I never saw her before.’ The place grew quiet, nut I heard the sipping of the awful soup. I said,’ I’m going to try that again.’ I put my spoon to the soup – you know, it was not bad soup. Everybody was eating this soup. I started eating the soup, and it was pretty good soup. I have no idea what kind of soup it was. I don’t know what was in it, but I do recall when I was eating it, it tasted a little bit like bread and wine. Just a little like bread and wine.”
Fred Cradock in this story shows how a greasy apron moves form scarcity to abundance and in so doing a noisy café on a very cold morning moves form a place earnest refuge to a church. A Awful cup of soup is transformed into bread and wine.
Walter Bruggeman reflects on Psalm 145 which I used as our opening reflection.
· In Psalm 145:15 it says, “The eyes all look to you.” But the voice of fear says there is not enough oil and we better send the fleet somewhere.
· Verse 16 says, “You satisfy the desire of all things,” but the voice of fear says there is not enough food for everyone, so don’t worry about the “food desert’ without Kroger in some parts of the city.
· Verse 17 says, “The Lord is kind in all his doings.,” but the voice of fear says, there is not enough healthcare and we should practice triage on the poor.
· Verse 19 says, “He fulfills the desire of all who fear him,” but the voice of fear says, there is not enough education to go around, so we have a new kind of “separate but equal.”
· Verse 19 says, “He hears their cries and saves them,” but he voice of fear says there is not enough support for all, so no immigrants.
· Verse 13 says , “He is gracious in all his deed,” bu the voice of fear says there is not enough of truth, and surely Islam does not have any.
· Verse 20 says, “The Lord watches over all who fear him,” but the voice of fear says there is not enough grace to share it with the gays.
Though this reflection was written in 2012 it still rings true today. This is a concept of scarcity verses abundance. This is the concept and the heart of today’s Gospel . His reflection on the voice of fear is heard loud and clear in our society today by conservative and Liberal alike. The fear of not enough is kind of the basic mantra here in the USA but the mantra of humanity in most places is not yet enough, we have never seen enough! It is a mantra of anxiety and fear it is a mantra of scarcity.
And right in the middle of this fear and anxiety comes todays gospel. He comes upon a hungry crowd. Walter Brueggemann argues that when he asks Phillip how we shall feed them Phillip represents the Church. “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”
“But John tells us this is a trick question that Jesus puts to Phillip.” He wanted to see whether Philip understood. He hopes that Phillip by now would understand that Jesus is to enact God’s gift of abundance in the world. Where Jesus comes, life overflows with wellbeing. But Phillip – the church- does not get it. Philip is thinking in old-world categories of there is not enough. He tells Jesus I would have to work for 6 months to pay for the food. We just can’t afford it. We can’t feed all these hungry people but “Jesus already knows his own capacity for abundance; he knows the source of bread for the world. He knows there will be more than enough! But his church still is trapped in scarcity”
Of course, we humans love to rationalize this miracle by saying what really happened was an act of generosity that the crowd pulls out food they had tucked away and they share it. I think this minimizes the Gospel and its message John is pointing out “God's amazing power to completely "transform human expectations"; instead, we modern, self-sufficient types think it's up to us humans to handle things, to help ourselves.”
One commentator “observes the power not of God but of shame in this interpretation, that is, getting people to share out of a sense of guilt: "God is no longer a miracle-worker unbounded by human laws, but a social manipulator who reminds people to share. Behavioral modification replaces amazing grace as the core of the story.” This is a response that grows out of an attitude of scarcity in which our response becomes that we must be in control all the time.
Jesus is not held down by this interpretation, the Gospel of Christ cannot exist in the disciple’s response. Jesus moves us beyond a simple understanding of the way the world works. He tells the crowd to be seated. Jesus says come to the table he blesses bread. “Jesus gives thanks (the word is eucharisto; Eucharist! Imagine a meal called ‘Thanks!’)”
Then all were satisfied, and he tells the disciples to get the leftovers …he didn’t ask if there were any, he knew. Jesus knew in his abundance there would be plenty left over. 12 baskets full, a basket for each of the tribes of Judah! “John tells us this is a new reality right before our eyes. Jesus enacts a new world.” A world of abundance! In that old world of scarcity there is not enough, and we must cringe and save and protect and not share and not let anyone get a free lunch ( or a free cup of soup) be cause we might run out.”
But we can see the abundance! We are witnesses to what cast out s our old fears and shows us a new way to live in this world! The old ways can no longer hold us captive by fears for we know of an abundant grace that overflows. At the end of the Gospel reading we see Jesus showing up in an unexpected place and he says to them “be not afraid” because the world is now working in a new way!
I know our society has taught us to get more and keep more and do not share for it could be gone tomorrow. The old refrain of fear and scarcity will return to our heads and hearts daily but remember Jesus has changed the narrative “We are the people who have witnessed and know about the abundance of bread among us, for the world. The church is a pump station for abundance that overflows.” We do not need to check the economics of it. We do not need to explain it. We need to stand in witness to the truth of Christ that all our fears which lead to scarcity have been conquered by the God of abundance. Be not afraid step out boldly in faith and live abundantly in the grace of God!
 Craddock, Fred B., and Mike Graves. Craddock Stories. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2001.
 Brueggemann, Walter, Samuel Wells, and Thomas G. Long. The Collected Sermons of Walter Brueggemann. Vol. 2. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015. Pg 188
 Ditto, 189
 Bruggeman, 190
 Ditto, 191