Notes from the sermon by Anna Bland 13th October 2019 – The Eucharist (Part 2 – Kingdom Economics)
Hello for those who don’t know me I am Anna.
I’ve been asked to talk to you about kingdom economics and the Eucharist. The symbol of self-giving love and a meal shared by friends on that fateful night which has resulted in two thousand years if us doing the same.
The gospel reading today is about a different meal shared by 5,000. Thousands fed with a meagre 5 loaves and two fishes.
In my reading for this sermon I came across a theological view I’d never heard before.
Rather than Jesus doing a miraculous multiplication of bread and fish, Jesus sharing the generosity of the young boy to inspire all to share what was in their bags and all were fed as a result.
To quote Myers the theologian who shared this view: ‘the only miracle here is the triumph of the economy of sharing within the context of a community of consumption.’
I love this.
It speaks of a Jesus who isn’t showing off his miraculous power but inspiring a change in each of us.
Making everyone more generous with those around them.
He’s helping us to create community through generosity -something that I think many of us would admit we don’t find easy.
The crowd is likely to have been a real diverse mix of Galilean society:
young, old, male, female, rich, poor, people born in Galilee, people not born in Galilee.
But all shared as equals.
It made me wonder:
Where in our lives could we eat alongside those who different from us?
I believe in this story as in many others Jesus is challenging us to seek out and be generous with those who challenge our view of the world, making us all more well-rounded and compassionate people.
We’re part of a culture built around consumption and forcing us to desire more and more, so never has this been more challenging.
Economist Grace Blakely said at Greenbelt that capitalism as a system is broken.
It’s a system based around gain for the rich and with the poorest paying the price, something we see reflected around the world today.
Unequal trade deals, tax havens, extreme weather hitting poor regions and some rich governments doing nothing – I could go on.
Since the financial crash Blakeley states in Britain the only people who are significantly wealthier are the wealthiest, so the average worker is no better off, the vulnerable are often far worse off due to government policy but the richest few are richer.
How different this is from the generosity of those listening to Jesus on the hill that day 2000 years ago.
One word really stands out to me in that story: all were ‘satisfied’ after the meal.
Not some were stuffed and some remained hungry but ALL were satisfied.
It speaks to us of a system running in a different way, on kingdoms economics rather than earthly economics.
This idea is reflected in 1 Corinthians where Paul chastises them for their Eucharist meals where some, the richer individuals in the party, are full and drunk while others leave the meal hungry.
This has implications for us. Where are we greedy and full, leaving others hungry?
Or do we ever feel that we’re leaving the table hungry?
Where in our lives, in our local communities, can we adopt a system of kingdom economics rather than earthly economics?
One way is as a consumer, as Christians partaking in the Eucharist we are contributing to this global system: where is our bread produced?
Who made the wine?
Gorringe has some strong words for us on this topic: ‘bread which takes from the poor for the consumption of the rich is not the bread of life but bread of death.
In that case our worship is not a Eucharist but idolatry and worship of mammon.’
His words do offer a significant challenge to me and force me to think not only about where my bread and wine come from, but also my veg, tea, coffee, clothes -I could go on.
I believe we’re called to understand our place in the world and in this complex capitalism system and do the best we can to create a more beautiful and equal world from where we are.
One of the reasons the Capitalist system is broken, says Blakeley, is due to climate change and the ecological disasters which are already happening, and are predicted to get worse.
She shared a terrifying message for the future but also her more hopeful view that through this disaster comes opportunity:
because powerful people are now seeing that the capitalism system is leading us to death and destruction and we NEED something different.
It’s no longer optional.
Many here I think would say “about time, and they really need to hurry up.”
With 100 councils declaring a climate emergency and much talk around the green new deal she suggested things are moving in the right direction.
I see a parallel with the child in the feeding of the 5,000 and the young people of today led by Greta Thunberg – the school strikes and their strong views on plastic.
I pray they are leading us to a better, fairer, greener future.
When I read back over this sermon I felt overwhelmed by our responsibility as consumers, campaigners, community members.
And I feared I was only contributing to the feelings of inadequacy many of us feel in the face of such overwhelming problems.
There simply isn’t enough time in the day, week, year or lifetime to make the difference we want in the world.
I believe God sees our intentions for good and even if we don’t hit the mark every time, when we buy something unethical or fail to invite our neighbour in for tea because we are tired, I believe there is always forgiveness and grace.
I leave you with this poem by Thomas Merton, which has relevance for us as individuals but also for our world:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
If you would like to find out more about this series then please visit Phil Gardner’s site.