No-prep Christianity

Homily 224 – Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 14, 2016

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

I imagine we are all familiar with the story of the feeding of the five thousand. The account in St. John’s Gospel indicates that the five loaves were barley, and the loaves, along with two fish, were provided by a boy.

St. Matthew’s Gospel account, which we read this morning, omits that small detail. But otherwise, the basic accounts are identical.

Five thousand men, and the women and children that accompanied them, were fed.

And twelve basketfuls of leftovers.

There have been many attempts through the years to explain away this miracle of Christ. Attempts to talk of the benefit of sharing. That when people contribute what they have, everyone has enough.

And that may be true. But I see a different miracle here. A slightly different message for us today.

First – think about those people. The ones who followed Christ out into the countryside. Apparently they were so enamored, so curious, that they followed Christ without preparing for any journey.

No food. Likely no preparation of any type.

They just went.

Today, we have to prepare just to go across town. To come to church even.

We carefully prepare our meals before leaving for our day. We prepare for upcoming events. We prepare for celebrations. We prepare for retirement.

Our life – to look at it – is a life of preparation.

But not these folks.

They followed Christ. And I’m sure, with 5,000 men, there were probably 5,000 different reasons or motivations for following Christ.

When Christ sends out his Apostles for the first time, he tells them specifically not to prepare. Don’t pack – don’t carry anything.

Later, just before the betrayal, Jesus asked them – when I sent you out before, with nothing – no purse, no bag, no extra sandals – did you lack anything?

The answer was “No.” “Nothing.”

These 5,000 men, with women and children, who followed Christ found the same thing to be true. They lacked for nothing – with twelve basketfuls left over.

When we think about our mission here – mission comes from the word meaning “to be sent out” by the way – when we consider our mission, we need to consider the way in which we follow Christ.

We have to be as the Apostles when they were sent. They were not unprepared – but they were completely dependent on Christ for everything.

We have to be as the 5,000 following Christ. Completely dependent on Christ for everything.

He will provide for what we need. We don’t need to hold on to our resources. We can be generous.

St. Luke’s Gospel puts it quite plainly:

Do not set your hears on what you will eat and drink; do not be apprehensive. It is the pagan world that runs after all these things, and your Father understands that you need them. Seek rather the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. Sell your possessions and give to those in need.

We can follow Christ without fear. We can follow Christ without anxiety.

We can be generous. Even when we have nothing.

We can give to those in need. We should give to those in need.

We can give for the upkeep of the Temple.

We can give by inviting the hungry, the homeless, into our homes to share the things which God has blessed to give to us.

The most important part, though, is that we can give – we can be generous – without fear.

Now, this is not, as some would have it, a Gospel of prosperity. It is the Gospel of a child. A gospel of expectation.

Expectation of what we need – food, clothing, shelter. As a child expects their parent to care for them, without even asking.

Children don’t plan ahead. Children don’t worry about their next meal, or where they will sleep, or what they will wear.

Just as the 5,000 were unprepared, without apparent worry. Just as the Apostles were sent out, without apparent worry.

Christ cares – Christ loves – Christ provides.

Children are, as the Apostles and the 5,000, simply accepting of what they receive.

And are thankful.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!