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the sermon for

the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

06 August 2017

Matthew 14:13-21
The world is changed not through the grand and glorious,
but through the humble and the ordinary!

08062017The gospel according to Matthew is one of – if not THE – longest book in the New Testament. Twenty-eight chapters. One thousand seventy-one verses. Eighteen thousand three hundred forty-five words... give or take! And every third year – like this one – we'll read from the book forty times! Think about that, for a moment... Out of every one hundred fifty-six Sunday – not counting Ash Wednesdays, Maundy Thursdays, and Good Fridays – we'll read a passage from Matthew only forty-or-so times!

Of course, we'll read from three other books, but still... It's like having a jigsaw puzzle of Jesus on the altar. And all we do, each week, is reach in and pull out a piece. And we spend the morning looking at that one piece. Holding it up. Looking at it. Examining it. Thinking about it. And then, when we're all through, we drop it back into the box until we do the same thing, the next Sunday, all over again! We spend our time becoming experts on forty pieces of the puzzle and never look at the picture on the lid, let alone try to put it all together!

For instance, this morning... this morning, it's the feeding of the five thousand. A pretty well-known story. Five thousand men – not counting women and children – follow Jesus to a deserted place. Actually, they go ahead and meet Jesus there! He has compassion on them. He cures their sick. And at the end of the day, he feeds them with just five loaves of bread and two fish. We'll talk about it for a few minutes. But after today, we'll just move on to something else. And we'll never give this handful of verses another thought until we read it, again, three years from now. You do it. I do it. By the time I'm through with lunch, today, I'll already have moved on. Thinking about what I'm going to say, next week. And I won't, even, remember what I'm saying, right now!

Seriously! Answer me this! What did I say, last week? What was last Sunday's sermon about? Even simpler, what was the gospel lesson? Can you remember? Now, don't worry! I had to look up both! The sermon was on the Second Commandment! Oh, yeah! And the gospel reading wasn't from Matthew. It was from the Small Catechism! But if we would have read it, the gospel reading would have been the parable of the mustard seed! The parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the yeast...

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.

The parable of the yeast is the same: The significance of the insignificant! The importance of the inconsequential!

I realized, this week, the feeding of the five thousand with the five loaves of bread and the two fish isn't, simply, a miracle meant to "wow" the multitudes! It's the mustard seed put into practice! It's what the yeast does in the kingdom of heaven! The smallest becoming a tree! The least leavening the whole! That's the sensation, the spectacle, of today's piece of the puzzle!

We live in a world where big is good! Where big is good and bigger is better! Especially when it comes to god-things! All powerful! All mighty! God can do everything, anything, god wants! It's all on a cosmic, an enormous level! Creating! Coming again! And then, this morning, we have five loaves and two fish. Seven things that are hardly worth mentioning. And that's not even mentioning the meager wait-staff of a dozen-or-so disciples! And yet, they achieve the unthinkable! They accomplish the impossible! "All ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full." It's the yeast, the mustard seed, all over, again! Small, smaller, smallest! Little, less, least! That is what – this is what – the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of god, is like!

For Jesus, the world, already, had one temple! And that one temple had no redeeming value! It was one of the wonders of the world! People came from all over! To marvel! To stand in awe! And here is Jesus, in a deserted place, about as far from Mt. Zion as a person could get! Five loaves of bread! Two fish! A few thousand lost souls! And Jesus says, "THIS! THIS is the kingdom of heaven! Here! Now! You can see god reign! And truth be told, no one, probably, noticed. No one gave it a first – let alone, a second – thought! Bigger, better! More, most! That's what's important to the church, today! After all, it's the big churches – the MEGA- churches – everyone's talking about, these days! The bright, flashy ones are what's catching everyone's attention! The churches with power and prestige! We know who they are! The churches where everyone who is anyone belong! Crowds! Programs! Money! They're the ones changing the world!

And yet, here, this morning, Jesus says, "The kingdom is like a mustard seed! The kingdom is like yeast! The kingdom is like five loaves of bread and two fish!" Church, just, isn't about everything it's become! Valet parking! Coffee shops, ATMs, in the lobby! Church is five loaves of bread and two fish! Mission trips to foreign lands! Praise bands! Rock concerts! Clean floors! Manicured grounds! Church is grace and mercy and forgiveness and love! It's nothing more than five loaves of bread and two fish!

Consider your own call, [Paul writes to the church in Corinth. "Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast [- so that no one might brag -] in the presence of God.

God chose the mustard seed! And god chose the yeast! And god chose five loaves and two fish! And, my friends, god chooses you! God chooses you! And you now, that's enough! In fact, that is more than enough! Twelve baskets full, to be exact!

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