Sermon for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 55:1-5
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:13-21

Without a word of a lie, I can safely say that my wife is one of the best home cooks that I know of and has been taking care of my meals on a regular basis.  So basically it was between her and my mom… so you do the math.

But really, she is a good cook.  She often makes food that completely blows me away because it is so well done and thought out.  And often times I remind my kids of how lucky they are to be growing up with a mom that cooks this well, as opposed to growing up with my mom… well you get the picture.

All of this has upsides and downsides though.  An obvious upside of course is delicious food like almost every day.  A downside that might not be all that obvious is that my kids, who also have been enjoying all this great food, are now among the pickiest kids I know, which are basically my kids and me as a kid, so you do the math…

The thing is, my kids got so used to the level of deliciousness of my wife’s cooking that they’ve come to expect it.  So much so that they almost can’t even appreciate those days when maybe she makes something that isn’t as good as usual, and they certainly can’t appreciate anyone else’s cooking.  Just last night we were reading a Berenstain Bears book about how Momma and Poppa Bear went away for a week and left the cubs with their grandparents.  When I suggested that to my kids, their first comment was that they don’t like their grandmother’s cooking….

And really, I guess that is understandable.  Like I said she is a good cook and really enjoys making these great meals for us, so of course they would get used to it.  But their pickiness around food has made it not only difficult for us to feed them, but also difficult for them to appreciate any of the other kinds of food that they get.

And yes, I know, food has a special place in our hearts.  Not only do we need to food to stay alive, but food is at the centre of relationship, healing, and wholeness.  It’s true when they say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  It makes sense when they call certain foods “comfort foods”.  I can understand why my parents, aunts, and uncles, and whatever other Asian person who used to call the house when I was a kid would always ask “did you eat yet?” regardless of what time of day it was.

Because there is something about eating.  There is something about food.  There is something about providing for and accepting this life giving stuff that offers welcome, hospitality, and love.  Think about it, doesn’t it seem like whenever we want to celebrate, mourn, or just get to know someone better, we do it over food?  Don’t we usually want to pay for the meals of others, because it is more than just giving them money it is actually providing for them?  Isn’t it customary to offer some kind of food or drink to guests pretty much as soon as they enter your home?  And don’t we, whenever we want to start a lasting relationship with another person, usually kick it off with some sort of meal or drink or at least a snack?

So I get it, there is something about food that connects us, that strengthens our relationships, and reminds us of the good things in life.  And I get that good food, or I should say, good to us food, does all this better than mediocre food and of course way better than bad tasting food.  But I’ll be darned if having picky eaters for kids isn’t the worst.

I guess I shouldn’t complain though, I mean we all are kind of picky when it comes to our tastes in food.  I admit for the longest time I didn’t like spicy food, not because I didn’t like the taste but man alive it hurts my tongue.  I am also not a fan of tofu, and I don’t care what that says about my Asian-ness.  But I’d gladly eat Church’s Fried Chicken for every meal of every day for like a week before my arteries will scream for help.

This pickiness that we have for food translates to other areas of life too, doesn’t it?  We have this expectation of how things should be in our lives, and it gets to a point with some that when those expectations aren’t met, then we are disappointed.  Like with my kids, they almost expect a 5 star meal every day, at least for kid standards, and when they don’t get it they complain, they whine, and they refuse to eat.  Maybe we in our lives expect a certain kind of recognition in our places of work, and if we don’t get it, or worse yet someone else gets the recognition that we were craving, then maybe we quit and move on to another job where we would be treated as we deserve.  Or even in our relationships, sometimes we expect our significant other or partner or loved one to treat us a certain way, to give us a certain kind of attention, or maybe say a certain something just as we want to hear it.  And when those expectations aren’t met, then we might whine and complain and maybe move on to someone who we think could meet our expectations.

And don’t we do that we God too?  We faithfully come to church, maybe pray here and there, and maybe even read our bibles, in hopes that we might find that joy and peace and contentment that some Christians talk about.  And maybe, year after year, when we don’t get that joy and peace and contentment, at least not in the way that we expect, but instead we continue to have hardship and frustrations and loneliness, and we think that maybe this God thing isn’t for us.  Going to church isn’t really meeting our expectation so maybe we should quit, better spend our time elsewhere, find fulfilment in other things like sports, or recreation, or just sleeping in on Sundays.  And really, I can’t blame you.  We come with this expectation and when it isn’t met, of course we would be disappointed.

But should we be?  Are we disappointed because God didn’t deliver?  Or because our narrow expectations of God weren’t met?  You might think that this is the same thing, but I actually don’t really.  Why?  Because we read in the bible today that God does provide for us, that God does feed us, and God does give us what we need.  And I believe this to be true.  But I don’t think God does this the same way every time we are in need.

Today we see that the people needed healing, they needed comfort, and they needed food.  Jesus provided.  Jesus taught.  And Jesus fed.  Jesus met the needs of all with the generosity of 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Maybe some of them wanted different kind of food.  Maybe some of them were gluten free.  Maybe some were vegan. But the abundant blessing of God filled all their stomachs, so much so that there were 12 baskets left over.

Our expectations change.  Our wants can be different.  Our ideas of what will make us happy might just follow the trends of society.  But God meets our needs.  Our needs for relationship, for community, for forgiveness are all found in God’s house.  God provides for these needs and offers them by grace, that we may be fully fed and nourished out of God’s abundant blessing.

While my kids can be super picky and sometimes even unappreciative of the things my wife makes for them, they are still fed out of love.  While the food in front of them sometimes turns their noses up, my wife will still continue to feed them because that is what they need to develop and grow.  While my kids might whine and complain that their expectations of the food they want isn’t met, they will still be our children, and we will still provide for their every need in hopes that they can have the best childhood and life that we can give them.

As it is with all of us, as God’s beloved children.  While our expectation of the world may differ, while our ideas of what is perfect and good may change, and while we may feel disappointed in how our wants are not met, God will continue to provide for our needs, God will continue to fill our lives with abundant blessing, God will continue to hold us, cherish us, and love us with grace and forgiveness.

That isn’t to say that we will always feel happy, or content, or at peace.  That isn’t to say that we will constantly see and recognise God working in the world, in and around our lives.  That isn’t to say that we won’t and should never feel disappointed in the way life turns out at times.  But that is to say that God will always be with us, surrounding us with people who care and support us, as we are joined together in the waters of baptism.  It is to say that God will always feed us with God’s word and promises of truth and peace and will be very present in the bread and cup of the Eucharist.  It is to say that God will always love us, whether we know it or not or even choose to acknowledge it, and will save us with God’s unending forgiveness and mercy.

The miracle we read today in the feeding of the 5000 isn’t about how Jesus was able to stretch 5 loaves and 2 fish into a veritable feast.  The miracle we learn about today isn’t about the softening of the people’s hearts in learning to share and be generous.  The miracle we see today isn’t about the disciples learning a lesson in humility when they are asked to pick up the 12 baskets of leftovers left on the field.  No, the miracle is in how all the people’s needs were met and satisfied without grumbling or complaining, how although they may have been looking for something else, Jesus gives them a blessing, how Jesus showed that he is enough to empower us to grow and live in our faith, to serve and help the less fortunate, and to love and be loved by the whole people of God.

Through this season after Pentecost, may we be nourished by the bread and cup of salvation, may we be cleansed by the waters of life, and be loved by the God who feeds us.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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