Readings: Genesis 32:22-31; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:13-21
Jacob wrestled with God. It seems to me that this story says a lot about the Jewish people and their relationship with God. In contrast, many Christians we God as loving and kind and always looking out for us. A few months ago I was talking to a friend and she was telling me how guilty she felt because she was angry with God. Her life was, from her perspective, going badly and she blamed God for all the wrong turns her life had taken. Now, to top it all off she felt guilt for being angry with God.
I told her it was OK to be angry with God and she could even yell at him if she wanted. God could take it. When I look at a lot of the old testament writings I see people who are arguing and stressed out with the way God was treating them. The Jews in exodus were generally unhappy with God as they wandered through the desert. Job was the same. We have the saying, “the patience of Job” but if you read Job you will see that patience was not really his strong suit. He complained, he argued, he clearly let it be known that he was not happy. He verbally wrestled with God.
So, if you think God is handing you lemons and you don't feel like making lemonade. Let God know. Sometimes it is good to vent and get it off your chest.
Lets look at the gospel lesson, 'the feeding of the five thousand'. Five thousand is a lot of people and that is just the men in the crowd. The women and children were not counted. To put this into perspective the city of Chariton has a population of four thousand.
At the beginning of this gospel story Jesus had gone off to be alone. He had just heard that his friend John the baptist had been killed. But when Jesus saw the crowd being drawn to him he let them come. It was late and he knew the people would be hungry and you know the rest of the story.
Jesus knew that in order for someones attention to be lifted to the spiritual, the belly should be full. So he fed them and he fed them in a way that has kept our attention for two thousand years. The more important thing to me was that Jesus was ministering to his followers. We are called to do the same today. We are here to do God's work by attending to the needs to our fellow men.
That doesn't mean we minister just when it is convenient. Jesus had gone off to be alone but the needs of the five thousand came ahead of his own. He made sure they were fed.
Not all ministers are like that. Several years ago I was president of the inter-church council and I was going around to the other churches and asking their ministers if they would be interested in joining. One day I visited a very large church in Chariton with the intent of talking to their lead minister about the prospect of becoming an active member. I didn't get past the secretary. Maybe the guy had had a hard day but it couldn't have been as bad as the one Jesus was having.
The irony of feeding others through our ministry is that when we feed others we are fed as well. It reminds me of the story I read to you last week of heaven and hell. The souls who learned to feed each other were in the kingdom of heaven. The souls in hell were gnashing their teeth and wallowing in their misery and it didn't even occur to them that by feeding others they would be fed.
This is a wonderful congregation and I feel so fortunate to be a part of St. Andrew's Episcopal church. You know how to give, to feed and I encourage you to be there when your brothers and sisters need fed.