Preparing the Community for Resistance THE GIFT OF ABUNDANCE Sixth Week in the Time of Resurrection
In chapter 10 verse 10 of the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I came to give you life and life abundantly.” We are in the season of Resurrection. During this season the resurrected Jesus appeared many times to his disciples and finally to hundreds of people. Each time he appeared he reminded his people of one of the gifts he had given them which would allow them to continue as the people of God when they were driven from their homeland, dispersed and separated and forced to survive in hostile nations - in nations where they were treated as outsiders and often persecuted as if they were criminals.
We received baptism: the promise of new life; we received reconciliation; the chance to be reconnected with God and with each other through confession; we received communion; the unity of our hearts standing in righteousness, in truth and in the willingness to sacrifice in the presence of God. These were all gifts that we could practice together, wherever two or three were gathered in His name and they sustained our faith, they sustained us as a people of God. Yet the path that leads through these three gifts leads to the miracle of multiplication, the miracle of abundance.
So today, we are called to look to the scriptures to try and understand the miracle of abundance and the gift of “seeing abundance”. Let’s begin with the scriptures.
Elijah was alone, discouraged and defeated. He had no allies, no army to stand up to the army of his opposition. He called out to God to help him. He wanted God to send thunder and lightning – but instead there came a still, small voice. The voice told him that God had reserved an army of 7,000 people who had remained faithful. The voice gave him instructions to find and mobilize this 7,000. The miracle was that God had reserved 7,000. The gift to Elijah was “seeing” that the 7,000 were there.
Jesus was in Galilee, teaching his disciples and preaching his message of the Kingdom of God, offering forgiveness and the promise that the Kingdom of God could live on the earth between them. He was preaching the good news to a crowd of 5,000. It became dark and the disciples urged him to “send them away” because, they said, we don’t have enough to feed them. Jesus told them to take the few fishes and loaves of bread which the disciples did have – and feed the 5,000 people with them!
“The miracle” was that the 5,000 were fed and there were 12 baskets of fish and loaves left over. You see when the disciples shared what they had with the people the people began to share what they had with each other. If anyone could understand this miracle it should be the people of this congregation. Wherever you go, you take food with you. Some take tamales. Some take tortillas. Some take fruits and some take carnitas. There was enough food in the crowd to go around when they began to share. The gift Jesus gave the disciples was “seeing the miracle” – seeing that if they shared what they had then the people would share what they had – and all would be fed.
After the crucifixion, the disciples were afraid. They were so few – how could they bring ministry to thousands. They were hunted men and they feared the terrible crucifixion that Jesus had endured. We know now that “the miracle” took place, that from a few disciples a massive movement grew around the world, a movement that continues today. Jesus taught them they were enough to accomplish this, that in fact he had come to bring them life and life abundantly! Yet now their fear and their lack of faith required a gift from Jesus, the gift of “seeing” the abundance that God provided.
They were together fishing back in Galilee where Jesus had first found them. They had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. A figure of a man appeared on the shore and called out to them to “throw their nets on the other side of the boat.’ When they did, their nets were immediately filled with a great abundance of fish! Awakened by this miracle they looked to the shore and saw that it was the Resurrected Jesus who had called out to them. Jesus reminded them to “see” the abundance God had given them. Today, on this Sunday, in this sixth week in the time of Resurrection, we are being reminded of the abundance we need in our current situation.
What keeps us from “seeing” the abundance that God provides. For Elijah it was his arrogance. He was filled up with how righteous he was, with how much he had done in God’s cause. He was arrogant and self-centered. He thought God owed him the gift of power, the thunder and the lightning. The still, small voice made him see that God instead had provided an abundance of people ready to take up the battle. He thought he was alone – because he was too self-centered and too arrogant to see he was not alone, that in fact God had provided what was needed for the battle.
What about the disciples? When darkness was coming over the crowd of 5,000 they told Jesus it would take all of their money to buy food for the crowd. They didn’t want to spend their own money to feed the people! Concerned with selfishly protecting their own funds they could not see the abundance that existed among the people. Jesus made them see!
Most of us, perhaps all of us, are confronted with situations we feel powerless and inadequate to overcome. We have been working, guided by scripture and the Holy Spirit, to renew our faith. If that renewal has taken place in you then you believe that God is with you and that He has provided what you need. We need God to shock us out of attitudes that prevent us from seeing the abundance which God provides – the way he shocked Elijah on the mountain; the way Jesus shocked the disciples with the 5,000 and again with the great catch of fishes.
Are some of us not like Elijah? We think everything we have achieved has been a result of our own work.
Are some of us not like the disciples with the 5,000? Are we not too selfishly concerned with keeping what we have to be able to share it with others?
And are not some of us like the disciples, again in Galilee after the crucifixion? Are we not too afraid to struggle? Are we not overwhelmed by the forces against us?
Today, God asks us to put aside our arrogance, our being too self-centered, our selfishness and our fear so that we can see the abundance that God provides!
In the story of the people of God, the story of an oppressed people struggling to be free, struggling to be faithful, God blesses that people, making them to be fruitful and multiply. The Latino diaspora in the United States grows each day – not only through migration but through our families, through the birth and development of our children. No government can avoid the reality of the great and growing numbers of Latinos in this country.
That multiplication of people of color, however, brought about a reaction from those grown accustomed to privilege, those who came to believe that this land given by God was given to them and they rose up to elect a demagogue; they rose up to make America White again.
Every demagogic, authoritarian government that comes to power through the manipulation of the vote seeks to suppress and eliminate the popular opposition. That is why we are facing a wave of new arrests and deportations. That is why the government has suspended civil rights investigations of police departments. That is why the attorney general has told his prosecutors to ask for the longest sentences possible. That is why the Republicans are trying to cut millions out of health care. That is why there is more discrimination and more hatred aimed at Latinos and Muslims and the LGBTQ community. Once having seized power they want to discourage and suppress and wherever possible to eliminate the opposition, the growing population of people of color that threatens them.
When we have successes, we claim the credit for ourselves. We say we have realized ourdream. We think no one else is worthy to work with us. And then we fail because not much can be accomplished of any worth alone. And when we fail, we blame others, we constantly find fault with others and become more divided, separated from the abundance that God gives us. Yet, when we see clearly the abundance around us then we see that many can contribute, each in their own way, each according to their abilities.
Now we must find the path to resistance, to defend our community. When we see abundance, we must find a way to do together what we cannot do alone.
As that still, small voice told Elijah on the mountain about the 7,000, it also told him to appoint servant leaders to mobilize and organize the 7,000 – so must we. Next week, we will walk with the disciples as they were commissioned by Jesus – and we will be asked to accept our own commissions. We ask you this week to pray deeply to ask God in what way God is asking you to serve and to lead.
We will ask you to step forward as defenders against the deportations. If we rely on a few people, a few lawyers, than we will be destroyed by Trump; but if we recruit and train many defenders who take the knowledge to defend against the deportations to the people than we will protect many. We will ask you to step forward as Fighters of the wave of five million young people rising up to defend their parents. If we rely on a few organizers we will not mobilize the five million to be the force that can turn back the separation of families, but if we recruit and train a core of fighters to lead this wave of young people, we will succeed. We will ask you to step forward as protectors to close the twenty year death gap that comes from the denial of health care. God gave us the vision to see that thousands of young people from the high schools to be the force, the youth health service corps, that could connect our people to the prevention of disease. We will ask you to step forward as peacemakers to turn the war on our streets into resistance, not to act alone but to bring together a collective force. We are going to ask you next week to step up to become multipliers, multiplying the members of Familia Latina Unida, joining together those who are committed to stand by each other. Finally, we will ask that some of you step up to be guides to lead groups of people through the Way Of Scripture that has been revealed to us.
Next week we will ask God to commission you. We will ask God to anoint you to serve him in one of these ways. We ask that you be in prayer this week to find the way you are called to serve.
Jesus told the disciples in front of the 5,000 to gather the people in groups of 50 and 100. He told the disciples to share what they had to inspire the people to share what they had. We need to build that kind of sharing community today. Certainly we were blessed with the vision to establish the first sanctuary against the deportations. Sanctuary is a protest of a special kind. In sanctuary we live the life they are trying to deny us. Sanctuary is a witness to what we are fighting for – a witness to living as God intended. With blessing comes responsibility. We are called to bring our people together in sanctuaries that spread across the city and the country, sanctuaries that protect our people from deportation, from criminalization and mass incarceration, from the denial of health care – and from the campaigns of hate.
We need to do more than protest and march. We need to use the resources of our community to defend each person that faces deportation, or false incarceration or a denial of health care. We need to stand by each other in the face of hate and racism. In a sanctuary, you live the way they are trying to prevent you from living – and you do that with the support of your community.
We have been walking with Jesus to renew and gather up our faith since November. Now it is Resurrection time! If we see the abundance in our people that God provides, we can bring these sanctuaries to life. If we can conceive it, we can achieve it. God offers us the gift of sight but demands that we leave the fear and the selfishness and arrogance that blinds us behind. Each of us, each of our families must take up the challenge to leave behind the things that blind us to the abundance of God.
It is resurrection time! We gather our faith to become believers – believers in God’s presence among us and God’s purpose for us, believers in the goodness and courage and love in our people, believers in what we can do to organize our sanctuaries of resistance.
As always, God sends us signs of the time. Friday, we celebrated the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera. His commitment to justice inspired tens of thousands of people to fight for his freedom. It often seemed impossible. How could tens of thousands of signatures be gathered. How could all the factions of Puerto Rican politics be brought together? How could the support of the Pope be won? What would it take to move the President of the United States to act? Oscar and those who shared his cause were given the vision to see that everything which needed to be done, could be done, the vision to see that there was an abundance of support because the cause was just.
When the seasons turn, each of us has to move forward with them or fall behind. Behind us is despair. Behind us is isolation. Behind us is fear. But ahead of us is the life and life abundantly which God has provided.
The Holy Scriptures for the Sixth Week in the Time of Resurrection
1 Kings 19:13-18 The Lord Appears to Elijah
When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
Mark 6: 35-44 Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[a]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
John 21:1-7 Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.