Sermon Seeds: More Than Enough
Sunday, July 25, 2021
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost Year B
(Liturgical Color: Green)
2 Samuel 11:1–15 and Psalm 14
2 Kings 4:42–44 and Psalm 145:10–18
More Than Enough
By Cheryl Lindsay
Enough is enough.
Do you ever wonder where clichés come from? Who was the first one to say that particular phrase or how did it catch fire and become commonly shared in the lexicon? I do, so I did some research on the above statement and found that it was first identified as an English proverb in the 1500s, which equated enough with abundance: “At that stage ‘enough is enough’ meant ‘enough is good enough, we don’t need more’ – another way of saying ‘enough is as good as a feast’ in fact.” (https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/enough-is-enough.html)
But language evolves, because language articulates the meanings of our lives, and our lives are not static. Today, enough is enough reflects a committed refusal to continue with conditions as they are. The same website continues: “’Enough is enough’ wasn’t commonly used for several centuries until it received a boost in the civil rights and feminist movements in the USA in the 1960s. The meaning is the expression had by then completely changed, ‘enough is good – all I need’ to ‘I had enough of that – no more’.”
Are these two meanings all that different?
One of Jesus’ most well-known miracles was the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus had amassed a crowd who noticed his work. The text says the crowd “kept following him,” because, when faced with a crowd, Jesus would often try to elude them. He would take the opportunity to teach, and he would respond to human needs presented to him, but Jesus did not seek the crowd. So many conversations around the state of the church center around how do we increase our numbers (getting the crowd to come to us) rather than how can we be more faithful in following Jesus’s example of telling God’s truth and responding to human needs as we go about living our daily lives.
The moment pivots on Jesus noticing the need before him and inviting the disciples to participate in fulfilling it:
The theme in the feeding story is abundance, stunning in its quality, quantity, and its very existence. Jesus’ concern for feeding the crowd comes as a surprise, for there is no sign that they expect him to provide lunch. The story would seem to demonstrate responsibility toward the hungry. The crowd does not ask to be fed; rather, it is Jesus who takes this daunting task upon himself. The story emphasizes the wonder inherent in Jesus’ ability to feed such a big crowd with a mere five loaves and two fish, but perhaps the larger miracle is the concern to provide for others in the first place. (Adele Reinhartz)
Philip and Andrew demonstrate an orientation toward scarcity. Jesus asks where the necessary supply may be located, but Philip responds to a perceived obstacle instead. They lack the funds that Philip assumes makes Jesus’ query immaterial. Andrew gets closer in identifying a young person who has brought provisions, but he focuses on the limits of those resources rather than the possibilities.
How many possibilities for ministry have been thwarted by initial objections based on a scarcity orientation? We don’t have enough to keep the lights on if we open our doors to community needs without receiving compensation. We have a few members who are passionate, but not enough to maintain a sustained outreach. There’s not enough money, time, or energy to do a thing so we can’t even allow a moment of consideration or curiosity for how it might be done?
Fortunately, in our texts, Jesus models overcoming these objections. He lets the questions breathe but provides no oxygen for them. He neither affirms nor disputes them. Instead, he makes use of what has been identified and gives instructions for the crowd to follow. As Reinhartz notes, it is remarkable that this is an unexpressed need that Jesus endeavors to meet. The crowd does not ask for or expect this act of generosity; however, when presented with the gift, they are ready to receive it.
Isn’t that what attracted them to Jesus in the first place…the unexpected that transforms, heals, and restores? They had heard of his works healing the sick, but this was different…yet the same. Scarcity is a sickness, not of the individual body, but of the community that has resources it withholds out of fear of deprivation. Do we really imagine that only this one young person had packed a lunch? Or, was this the only one unafraid to share? Was this the only one who had not learned the societal lesson that enough is never enough? That giving to someone else means taking from me, my family, and my household.
I do not question that Jesus had the ability to make the loaves and fishes multiply…and that could be the whole story. But I do find myself wondering…is the subversive miracle that Christ frees us from the mindset of scarcity to embrace the good news of abundance? Would it be an even greater miracle if after Jesus takes that bread and begins to distribute it…if others open up their satchels and shared what they had previously decided to keep only for themselves? Could the lesson be not just that Jesus can multiply, but that the miracle doesn’t happen until we stop clinging to what we have and place it in God’s hands?
We know that in calculating the crowd size, only the men were counted. Women and children were certainly there, but not deemed worthy enough to be included in the census of the event. Yet, here is this youth breaking through and providing the catalyst for the miracle that takes place. Not just because he had it, but because he shared it…and it was received by those in authority. How many times are efforts to lead by those deemed too young, too inexperienced, too new to the community, too old, too quiet, too loud, or too _____________(fill in the blank) been ignored or stymied because we lack the imagination to see them, hear them, and amplify them?
That young person did not have enough for everyone, but he had something to offer. It was more than enough. It was a start. In moving forward with these seemingly meager provisions, Jesus releases us from having a fully researched and resourced plan before embarking on the work of the ministry. While the disciples worried about how to pay for it, Jesus instructs everyone to sit down. To be still. To wait. To be present. To rest. Those who sat down were nourished by the meal that Jesus stirred up in the kitchen of possibilities.
Of all the miracle stories of Jesus, the feeding of the five thousand is the only one common to all four gospels. John’s telling has a significant difference. Jesus receives the bread and gives thanks for it, but this account omits his breaking of the bread. Scholars agree that even without that detail this narrative has eucharistic overtones. The question is then, why omit this step in the distribution of the meal? Bruce Longenecker theorizes:
In ways different from the traditional story of brokenness, the Johannine story flows in subtle but significant ways at crucial points to avoid the motif of brokenness and to include an emphasis on unbrokenness. The evangelist, in weaving his own narrative, has completely by-passed traditional resonances within the established storyline, and his readers are left to consider the story anew, challenged by this theological reworking of it to involve themselves in a new way of hearing the story about their champion, a Messiah who is associated not with brokenness but with unbrokenness.
An unbroken Christ takes the resources from an uncounted person and uses them for a kingdom demonstration–the abundance of God’s creation. This story does not encourage us to sit and wait for Jesus to wave a magic wand to feed the hungry without any participation from us. It invites us to bring what we have, place it in God’s hands, and to trust that what we have is more than enough. It’s a call to notice the need we aren’t expected to fill–and fill it anyway because that’s what love looks like. It’s a compulsion to be the good news and agents of God’s restoration and abundance manifested in the world.
An unbroken Christ would have us declare that enough is enough to systems that generate, perpetuate, and profit from scarcity. Enough is enough to billionaires racing themselves for a personal joy ride into space when world poverty is on the rise during a continuing global pandemic. Enough is enough to inequity in pay based on gender identity and expression due to sexism, misogyny, and cis-gender bias. Enough is enough to racism and racial violence that targets Asian elders in the era of COVID-19 and kills black and brown bodies without consequence. Enough is enough to the systems of this world.
But the unbroken Christ also warned us not to avoid the log in our own eyes. Enough is enough to the church that prioritizes the beauty of her buildings over the needs of her community. Enough is enough to the church that functions with the same scarcity mindset as the rest of the world while proclaiming to serve the God with the cattle on a thousand ills. The unbroken Jesus who saw the crowd, who saw the little children, who saw the widow, the marginalized and the oppressed, declares that enough is enough of this broken world because God’s enough is more than enough.
I imagine that young person being approached by Andrew, who sees that he has some provisions and giving an account. Or, maybe Andrew simply noticed him and did the count on his own. Or, maybe this young person, who so often goes unnoticed, was there all the time, hearing this conversation…hearing the need, and realizing that he has something to offer. It’s not everything, but it is enough. Enough to start a miracle. It’s enough to change circumstances. It’s enough, more than enough, for God to work with and to work through.
And that’s a miracle.
For further reflection:
“All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is enough.” –Art Williams
“Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.” ― Brene Brown
“I did my best, and God did the rest.” -Hattie McDaniel
Suggested Congregational Response to the Reflection:
Invite a youth member of the congregation to respond to the sermon with a reflection or call to action.
Longenecker, Bruce W. “The Unbroken Messiah: A Johannine Feature and Its Social Functions.” New Testament Studies 41, no. 3 (July 1995): 428–41.
Reinhartz, Adele. “John.” Gale A. Yee, Ed. Fortress Commentary on the Bible: Two Volume Set. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014.
A Bible study version of this reflection is at Weekly Seeds.
Sunday, July 25, 2021
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost Year B
(Liturgical Color: Green)
2 Samuel 11:1–15 and Psalm 14
2 Kings 4:42–44 and Psalm 145:10–18
2 Samuel 11:1–15
11 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3 David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. 5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
6 So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, 13 David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”
1 Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is no one who does good.
2 The LORD looks down from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.
3 They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one.
4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon the LORD?
5 There they shall be in great terror,
for God is with the company of the righteous.
6 You would confound the plans of the poor,
but the LORD is their refuge.
7 O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
2 Kings 4:42–44
42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’ ” 44 He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The LORD is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The LORD upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.