And once we do that, once we become the walking embodiments of Chris the 21st-century, everything that we do will reflect that reality.
Matthew 14: 15-20 Collective Edition (CE)
15 Around dinner time, the followers of Jesus looked at the multitude around them and said, “It is getting late, and there is nothing around here for these people to eat. Let us send them back into the nearby towns for them to buy something to eat.” 16 Jesus looked at the crowd and was moved by compassion and said: “They do not need to go back to the towns, what did we pack to eat on this journey?” 17 They replied. “We only have our shares of bread and fish.” And Jesus said, “Take baskets and go around the crowd and tell them to fill the baskets with all that they brought to eat, no matter how small it may be, and bring them to me so I may bless them.” 18 After the crowds all shared what they had into the baskets, Jesus took the abundance of food and said, 19 “This cornucopia of sustenance represent the collective will of each one of you and your willingness to share in your abundance with others, let us bless this food, for in your compassion it has become Holy, come now and eat for all is ready.” 20 All of those gathered ate out of the abundance of food available, for all had shared, and all were filled, leaving baskets full of food untouched by those who no longer hunger.
One of my favorite things about the church, or at least church before the time of the CoronaVirus were the potlucks, I am a sucker for a good old church potluck. A potluck is one of those things that connects the institution of the church to almost 2000 years of history. The whole concept of sharing meals is as old as Christianity itself. We see it in the remembrance of the last supper, which many church communities today celebrate once a month. However, before communion became a simple meal of wine and bread, the early church celebrated community, through large meals that served as a lifeline for those who were poor and at the bottom of the barrel when it came to Roman imperial society.
And this is why potlucks are very dear to my heart and to my faith. For potlucks are a perfect example of faith in action, as the few shares of their abundance to feed the many. And yes I used the word the few on purpose, for everybody knows that in every church in America, even though we send out multiple invitations. announce it in the bulletins every week for a month, through mass email campaigns, from the pulpit multiple times a service, there are those among us who are the few and the faithful who always shows up with two or three dishes ready to share and serve.
These are all of you out there with that secret recipe of mac and cheese, that one bite into it, will make you wonder how that dish is legal, for the potential to become addicted grows after every bite. Or that famous fried chicken strips that come from your secret family recipe book, even though you almost got caught at Publix that morning buying your secret family chicken recipe from the deli counter. Potlucks are a way to come together and share our abundance and of the many quirks that make us individuals in a community. For potlucks become a window into our past, into our family, and into our willingness to bring food to share with others without expecting anything in return.
And on any given potluck Sunday, my favorite thing to do is get a little bit of everything, even the dishes that look very questionable to the naked eye, yet trusting that the love that was put into those dishes will see me through it all. For too many times, the dish that I thought looked the most questionable, is the dish that most in that room would kill for the recipe.
What does the Bible say?
Our scripture reading today is arguably the first potluck in the ministry of Jesus. And as we read today, nothing has changed in the last 2000 years when it comes to how to organize a potluck. Let us take a moment and use our sacred imagination to understand what was happening.
Jesus is tired and hungry from walking around the backwater areas of Judea, alongside groups of people who had become groupies to his liberating message. These were the people that had nothing to lose in following Jesus, for they were the ones that had been tossed out by the ruling class of Judea and by the oppressive economic realities of the Roman Empire. A reality that saw the few in control of lands and the products made from those lands. Therefore, the people following Jesus were already at the ends of their collective ropes.
Yet, the ministry of Jesus touched many of them deep at the core of their divinity.
And they followed the One whose compassion, as we learned last week, led Jesus to develop a ministry that challenged every aspect of the society which he was born, lived, and was killed by. And so people followed a message of hope that did not come from the promise for liberation from a God or gods that would come down from heaven to destroy the evil of this world. But, instead, came from an awakening of a new humanity, that discarded the evils of this world and was made whole by the promise of love and hope for all.
A promise that was quickly picked up by those who followed Jesus as they collectively recognize that salvation would not come from above, but would come from within, as they were inspired to look at the world, their lives, and their situation through a different set of ideals. Ideals that embrace compassion for all, and in doing so, sought to bring about an end to the toxic systems of the world of empire, through the sharing of abundance and community.
You see, in our sacred reading today, we see the beginnings of the mission of the church, as Jesus operating in his Christ identity, instructed the disciples to gather food and share that food with all present. Yet, the disciple’s first reaction is to operate within the old mentality, as they could not imagine a way of being in community with one another. An idea that would utilize the very human trait of sharing, and thus live into the Christ mentality that if all shared what they had, there would be an abundance of supply.
Now, I know what many of you are thinking and might be saying right now at this moment. It was a miracle, there is no need to justify, or even attempt to explain how there was enough food for almost 10,000 people. And yes, I know I said, 10,000 people. And that is because in most translations of the bible the 5,000 numbered are just the men and not their significant others or the children who would have been tagging along.
So my answer to you is yes, we can just leave the story there and say hallelujah is a miracle, the food began to self-replicate without the use of any technology. But to simply accept the story as a miracle from above, ties us the readers, into the same systems of old where the status quo is maintained by our inability, as the people of Christ, to imagine a world where these stories can become reality. Not because the food came down from heaven like mana, but because the “Mind of Christ” activated something in us. Something that tells us to share and to embrace the joy that comes from sharing with others.
And that is what I will choose to believe today. Believe that through the awakening of the Christ in us, we can become dissenters to the voices in our heads that say: “We don’t have enough food to share, so let them go home,” or, “not everyone has contributed or is able to contribute, therefore, let us share only with those that have and not with those that don’t.”
And as we look at the story, the disciple had enough food to eat with one another. For they, like any other person going on a long walk through a desert, would have brought food to eat, since the closest Little Caesars and their five-dollar pizza deals, were still a whopping 2000 years away. So it is here where the Christ Ideal gets activated, as Christ finds an innovative solution to the problem at hand. Jesus instructs his disciples to go out into the crowd and collect all the food that they are willing to share and bring that food over so that he may bless it. Jesus knew that his message of Hope and Love would inspire those around him to share and become One Collective Will with one another. And the people shared all that they had, and they ate and were happy. And for many, they realized that survival is not a lonely venture, for if others joined in, survival becomes communal actions, and that community becomes life through abundance.
The Dissenting Ways of the Early Church
Paul also knew of this abundance, for the early Christian communities that sprang up around the Roman Empire, became places where all people, from all walks of life, came together to have a common meal and be in community with one another. And because the church was mainly confined to people’s homes, they became places that exemplified the Kin-dom of God, by welcoming all to a common table and sharing of the abundance that was brought to that table. An abundance that would have also reflected the economic realities of the time, as those who had more would bring more, and those that had little would bring only what they could.
This my friends, is the beginnings of the church, the beginnings of an institution that no matter how conservative voices try to spin it, became a dissenting voice against a system of power, that sought to control the many, through the will of the few. Yet, the church stood in direct opposition to that control, as it formed a beloved community from all members of Roman society, of all walks and expressions of life, that came together and embraced the ideals of community. Ideals that state that as a unified collective, their survival was not tied to toxic systems of power, but to a way of being in community together that shared power and abundance with all. A community of people that embrace each other’s limitations, pain, hurts, and traumas. Seeking to collectively bring about healing by embracing one another, not within the labels created by the society that they were in, but by the unifying power which promises that in Christ, we are all a new creation and therefore must embrace one another as such. And Paul is clear about this message when he states that in Christ, there is no longer anything that separates us, for the labels that we have created to separate one another, have now been melted away by the One who chose to die on a cross for Love, so that others may awaken that new life in them as well.
Abundance is Life
This leaves us with an interesting truth, that for many churches today, the ministry that they are called to fulfill, has boiled down to potlucks and meaningful moments of community. And there is nothing wrong with that, for many of us are tired, overworked, and live day to day just trying to survive. For it is in us trying to survive that, we have lost sight of our dissenting mission and of one another. And this is how the broken systems of humanity remain in power. Keeping the many in a state of survival, barely making ends meet, in a society that keeps ballooning the cost of basic human needs out of control. So in just trying to survive, we become too busy, too stressed, and too lost in our own survival, to put our heads up and see that most of us are in the same exact place.
Now, I am not talking politics here, although there is plenty of blame to go around on all sides of that invented political aisle. No, I am talking about making the place that we call “church,” the epicenter of what the Kin-dom of God can look like, as a real place on Earth, and that must start with us.
Many of us look at places like Walt Disney World to sell us on a vision, on a dream of a better world, of a place where dreams do come true. But the truth is, the best parts of that Disney dream, exist in our ability as a church, as the people of the Living Christ, to offer liberation to all who come into contact with us. Allowing us to collectively look at our dream life, our dream world, and move beyond a what-if scenario. Given us the power to embrace the possibility of what we can do together, once our collective wills are aligned towards the transformation of the toxic and ancient systems around us, by first transforming ourselves into new creations in Christ.
And once we do that, once we become the walking embodiments of Chris the 21st-century, everything that we do will reflect that reality. For compassion would take over us, and we would stop in our tracts. Allowing us to embrace forgiveness and grace, for the times that we have been hurt by others, and for the times that we have hurt others as a symptom of our generational hurts and pains, and of our own self-destructive loops. And when compassion begins to emanate from our collective hearts, abundance will surely follow. As we become a people that share all that we have with one another, and in doing so, embrace a way of life that does not look at the sharing of abundance with distrust and wrapped in words of fear and political maneuvers. But instead, operates like the faithful few at our potlucks, by asking; what can I bring to make others happy? What can I make that is a reflection of who I am and of my heritage? What can I buy to ensure that all who come are filled and happy? What can I do to share my abundance?
For we all know that at the end of the day, we are all made equal in death. Therefore let us embrace the Christian way of looking at death and defiantly staring it in the face, by living our lives as Christ would want us to. In abundance and happy with one another. Sharing all that we have and all that we are with one another. Loving one another with no reservations or expectations of that love being returned, because we know that it is better to give than to receive.
The apostles could not imagine the possibilities of a life of abundance. Let us today, right here in our hearts and minds, embrace those possibilities. Let us become walking examples of the Hope of God for all humanity, as we seek to change the world, not through the solutions presented by the antiquated toxic systems of power. But through the embrace of creative dissenting solutions, made possible by compassion and sharing of our abundance. For as we share from the abundance of our lives, all will be able to partake. Moving humanity beyond living for survival, and instead, living for one another.
So, say we all, Amen.
By: The Collective Awakening and No Reservations Group