Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Last Sunday was the last day of the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit. After a long, but exciting week of meeting new people, eating Coney Island hotdogs, doing photo scavenger hunts, cleaning and clearing alleyways, listening to inspirational speakers, and hearing incredible music, we gathered for worship. We gathered to sing songs of praise, to hear a proclaimed Word from our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, and to share the Lord’s Supper together. That last part was perhaps the most impressive to me. We had 30,000 people to commune that day. I and some of the other adults wondered how they were going to do it and how long it would take to commune everyone in Ford Field. Serving bread and wine to 30,000 adults and teens one person at a time seems like a monumental task and a logistical nightmare. I wondered how they could possibly have enough bread, wine, or grape juice for everyone. I wondered what would happen if one of the Communion assistants dropped their loaf of bread or spilled their wine (which the Communion assistant seated behind us did do). I wondered who was distributing gluten-free bread for those who needed it. I wondered how they were going to serve people who couldn’t get up from their seats easily. Even with all of these many things that could go wrong, surprisingly, it went very smoothly. The Gathering organizers had a great number of people distributing the elements and they had smoothly run stations where folks could refill on bread and wine. Somehow they made it work.
I remember coming to St. Bart for the 100th anniversary and working hard with some of you trying to figure out how to commune 85 people in our sanctuary. 30,000 is a whole other beast. Pulling off that task from a logistical standpoint is nearly miraculous. I am sure that others also had their doubts about how everyone would be fed at this massive event. That question about whether or not everyone will be fed is at the heart of our Gospel reading today.
At the Gathering we heard from many powerful speakers addressing the great needs of the world and witnessing to what God is doing in the midst of it. Mikka McCracken, the program director of ELCA World Hunger, shared how over 1 billion people in the world are still hungry. Alexia Salvatierra, executive director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, told us of the terrifying rule of gang and mob violence in much of Latin America and the broken immigration system of the United States that throws children back into that horrifying world. Steve Jerbi, a Milwaukee pastor, recounted how a young, black boy in his congregation was shot dead by a white man whose hatred was fueled by racism. Rozella White, the ELCA’s program director for Young Adult Ministry shared her own struggle with mental illness and the struggles with suicidal thoughts that plague many of our young people. Marian Edelman Wright, the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, reminded us that in the United States, the wealthiest nation in the world, we have 14.9 million children living in poverty.
With such great need in the world we might feel like there can’t possibly be enough to go around. There are huge crowds of people who are desperately hungry for something. They are hungry for education. They are hungry for acceptance and respect. They are hungry for justice. They are hungry for food. They are hungry for proper health care. They are hungry for peace. They are hungry for God.
You may be in a place in your life when you have so very little. You may have little food or money. You may have little friends and family to support you. You may have little health. You may have little strength. You may have little hope. The great crowd that followed Jesus kept following him because they “saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.” They had little and they were desperate for help. They were hungry for it. They saw the way Jesus healed those who were sick and dying; they looked at their own ills of body, mind, and spirit, and were hungry for that same healing. Jesus saw the great crowds coming to him- so many people coming to Jesus because they are hungry for something. Continue reading