Nurturing Soul: Feeding Each Other 7-26-15

Summer is a glorious season. I love it more and more as I grow older. This was a beautiful week. My sermon for today took a turn during the week. As I studied the passage and paid attention to what’s going on this week, the sermon began to be less about food and more about dealing with adversity. I will show you why. Listen for the word of God for you this day.

John 6:1-21 Some time later, Jesus crossed over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee—that is, Lake Tiberius— and a huge crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by healing sick people. Jesus climbed the hillside and sat down there with the disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover. Looking up, Jesus saw the crowd approaching and said to Philip.  “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ Jesus knew very well what he was going to do, but asked this to test Philip’s response. Philip answered, “Not even with two hundred days’ wages could we buy loaves enough to give each of them a mouthful!” One of the disciples, Simon Peter’s brother Andrew, said, “There’s a small boy here with five barley loaves and two dried fish.  But what good is that for so many people?”Jesus said to them, “Make the people sit down.”  There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand families sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting there; he did the same with the fish, giving out as much as they could eat. When the people had eaten their fill, Jesus said to the disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces so that nothing gets wasted. So they picked them up and filled twelve baskets with the scraps left over from the five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that Jesus had performed, said, “Surely this is the Prophet who was to come into the world.” Seeing that they were about to come and carry him off to crown him as ruler, Jesus escaped into the hills alone. As evening approached, the disciples went down to the lake. They got into their boat, intending to cross to Capernaum, which was on the other side of the lake.  As evening approached, the disciples went down to the lake. They got into their boat, intending to cross to Capernaum, which was on the other side of the lake.  By this time it as dark, and Jesus had still not joined them.  moreover, a stiff wind was blowing and the sea was becoming rough. When they rowed three or four miles, they caught sight of Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water. They were frightened, but he told them, “It’s me.  Don’t be afraid.” They were about to take him into the boat, but suddenly the boat was ashore at their destination.

July 26, 2015

Nurturing Soul: Feeding Each Other

I met Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber at the Wild Goose Festival summer before last. She is the Lutheran pastor of the Church of All Saints and Sinners in Denver, Colorado. Tattooed and buff with a clergy collar, she was frankly not the kind of person I naturally gravitate toward, but when I heard her story and heard her preach I found myself paying attention. She has a way of being natural and matter-of-fact about the basic Christian message of love and repentance. She’s preaching at a local Lutheran Church in our area this fall and I recommend hearing her.

Last spring, I read a comment she made about our assigned reading for this morning that stuck with me. She said that when she reads this passage with its peculiar reference to Jesus feeding 5,000 men, specifically not including women and children, she would wonder why women were not included in the numbers of people Jesus fed. As she reflected on the passage, she finally decided that the reasons only the men experience the miracle of the loaves and fishes was that the women knew how the miracle really happened – since they were the ones, when the need arose, who pulled out the food they had made to serve the multitudes.

We guys often think food is a miracle; but women usually know how that miracle happened.


So that got me thinking about a different kind of soul nurturing – nurturing the soul in the midst of adversity. When we face adversity, whether it be a crowd without food or a church full of conflict and division, how do we make sure people are fed? How do we respond – with grit and determination or with resignation and apathy?

I’d like to tell you the story of Hugh Herr, a mountain climber. Maybe mountain climbing is not a sport many of us relate to, but often the stories of someone taking on a great challenge can inspire us to take on our much more manageable situations. That’s my excuse for telling you this story anyway – which captured my attention this week.

Hugh Herr grew up in Lancaster PA, and was a precocious mountain climber. By the age of 8 years old he was climbing sheer rock faces and formidable mountains in Canada. By age 17 folks acknowledged him as one of the best climbers in the United States. In January 1982, at age 18, after having ascended a difficult technical ice route on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, Herr and a fellow climber Jeff were caught in a blizzard and became disoriented.

He and Jeff ended up digging snow caves to try to shield themselves from the cold and wind. They survived three nights in 20 below zero cold and had such severe pain and frostbite that they began to wish for death. They both thought they were seeing a vision when a woman on snowshoes appeared and directed a helicopter to rescue them.

Both of Herr’s legs had to be amputated below the knees and the doctors told him he would never be able to climb again. They said maybe he could learn to ride a bike. As these stories go, Hugh thought they were full of nonsense and he was determined to be able to get back on the rock faces that he loved.

He found the prosthetics that they offered him painful and awkward, so he designed some of his own that allowed him to start climbing again. Eventually, he designed feet that allowed him to stand on ledges the size of coins. He could make himself smaller or taller depending on how he felt or what he needed to take on the next challenge. His competition accused him of cheating and he invited them to become amputees themselves and use the same methods he could use, but no one took him up on the offer.

Hugh went back to school at MIT and got a PhD to work on developing prosthetics for other people to help them be more comfortable and to take on the challenges of their lives. He has more than 10 patents on designs for putting small motors in joints and computer assisted devices to make formerly disabled people feel quite able indeed.


I found Hugh Herr’s story inspirational in that kind of way that says, if he can do so much when faced with such profound adversity, surely with just a fraction of the determination and grit he has we can take on the much more minor difficulties of our lives.

Jesus expected his disciples to be able to handle large hungry crowds and to find ways to feed them. Certainly, we as disciples can find ways to nurture our children and raise them to have the grit and determination to live productive and loving lives within God’s creation.

We have set ourselves a goal to be a more specifically welcoming congregation – of people with disabilities, or LGBT folks, of people from all kinds of backgrounds. How do we need to resource ourselves so that we can reach out to people where they are, without condescension or self-congratulation, but with a genuine offer of the abundant multiplication of loaves and fishes and love that is always offered by God in Christ – not just in times of adversity, but always when our hearts are hungry.

Take a moment now before we sing to think about the ways in which your heart is hungry. Think about the places of adversity and challenge you face these days. Hear the voice of Jesus asking, “What do you have?” A few loaves, a few friends, a few fish, a willing spirit. whatever we have likely doesn’t feel like enough. Yet placed in the hands of Jesus, that “not enough” is not the final answer. Our weakness and finitude become more than enough. Our need and our desperation become a gift of the encouragement of the Living God to turn every challenge into an opportunity for grace, an opportunity to show what God’s spirit can do to feed every hungry heart, to take on every obvious and hidden need. Feel the encouragement, commit yourself to the task, to the need God is focusing your attention on right now.

Take a moment and then we’ll sing to God, “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart.”

This is God’s good news

Responsive hymn  629 You Satisfy the Hungry Heart