Hospitality at Jesus’ Table
“Hospitality at Jesus’ Table”
Rev. Jack Hodges
August 1, 2021
First & Franklin Presbyterian Church
The Prayer for Understanding:
O Holy Spirit of God:
You have gone before us,
You follow in stillness behind us,
And you come to this place with us,
Be with us still as we go forward.
Send out your light and your truth that they may lead us;
And give us the grace to rejoice in your mysterious companionship.
Through Jesus Christ, Amen.
The Witness of the Scripture:
The Epistle: Ephesians 3:14-19
The Gospel: John 6:1-13
Hospitality at Jesus’s Table.
Here’s an idea: What if we were to read the Gospels with this idea in mind, with this
particular tint to our glasses? It could be instructive. How many times is Jesus at table,
involved in a meal, joining in as people eat?
Of course there is the Last Supper, but also, there is the Easter evening story when the
two distraught followers of Jesus travel the Emmaus road. They experience Jesus walking
with them, but incognito. This Stranger – so compelling a presence – speaks with amazing
ease. As dusk descends, they invite him to supper. When Jesus breaks the bread, anonymity
lifts . . . and “they recognize him.”
Looking at the gospels in this fashion, Table Fellowship is very much a part of Jesus’
Hungry crowd stories are peppered throughout the gospels. Matthew is not satisfied
with one feeding of the multitude. He includes two, and Mark does as well. In the four
gospels, you will discover six stories.
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It’s John’s story that is on for today. We will hear:
• Jesus challenge the disciples into action;
• Jesus encourages them to observe, reflect, and to act (even if a deep
uncertainty surrounds their action);
• When the crowd is satisfied, the disciples collect what is left.
Amazing! a twelve basket yield.
Because it’s a pretty lively story, let me read this morning from the “Contemporary
Let’s not get caught up in the mechanics of “How did Jesus pull this off?” or whether
folks were hiding sandwiches up their sleeves. These are rabbit holes so unproductive.
Instead, we want to center on what does this passage mean? And more important, what
does it mean for us? And how does the cast of characters reflect us?
• Consider Philip. He’s the practical one; he sees the crowd, pulls out his
calculator, punches in some numbers and announces “We’ll need six
months’ wages to purchase bread, but that means only a crust for each
person. No can do guys.”
• Andrew, wandering among the crowd, uncovers a boy with five barley
loaves and two fish. His report? “Food for sure, but such a meager
amount it will get us nowhere.”
• The rest of the disciples just seem to stand around; I imagine them in a stupor.
As Cheryl Johns observes:
“The feeding of the multitude as portrayed in John’s Gospel
addresses our temptation to shrug our shoulders in the face of such
enormous human need.” 1
And Andrew Whaley joins in:
“Andrew points out a possibility . . . It turns out that’s all Jesus
needs. Jesus didn’t need the perfect mathematical formula. He
didn’t need GPS coordinates for the nearest supermarket food. He
didn’t need a top chef or the best event coordinator. He just needed
a disciple to point out a possibility, and Andrew, the pessimistic
one, was able enough to do the job. What a gift of grace!” 2
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COVID has done weird things with us.
First, we have become more careful than may be warranted. Not with masks –
goodness! Delta means we can’t be too careful with masks.
I am thinking of being too careful with Life itself. We are exploding. COVID has
pulled us in on ourselves. Now, maybe coming out, we’re not sure what to do. We have lost
our perspective. Is it “sunny days are here again,” or back to where we were?
Second, with a freedom to not isolate, the paradox is we have become more isolated in
our self-centeredness. The great “I” within us stands in the way of the “We” we need to be.
I thought Jay Jacobs, director of Timber Lake Camp in the Catskills captured this as he
bemoaned the recruiting of camp counselors:
“They make a commitment, then they find out their friends are
doing something else . . . Throw in the trauma of a year and half of
COVID, and it undermines the sense of what matters. The
commitment level is weaker. It’s all about me and how I’ve suffered
so much in the past year and I need to take care of myself.” 3
Me, Mine, My point of view. There is strong evidence of that in Washington.
Third, the world has gone a boggle. One can hardly read the paper without slamming
it down on the table. Reasonableness seems vanished, position politics the rule, inflexibility
the order of the day.
On Friday, Shawn Hubler wrote in the New York Times:
“The Summer is a season Americans thought we understood —
of playtime and ease, of a sun we could trust, air we could breathe
and a natural world that was, at worst, indifferent — has become
something else, something ominous and immense.
All has changed in a welter of heat-buckled roads, freak
monsoons, collapsed buildings, and raging fires. Our watchword has
become “extreme” — extreme threats to public health, extreme
violence, extreme division, extreme weather, extreme devastation.4
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How are your shoulders? More than a bit heavy, are they weighed down? It’s easy to
come to the end of our Knowledge and find ourselves in a place of despair.
So, how do we keep focus is the question?
Let’s swing back to our text. Remember, we want to turn from mechanics to meaning.
In this story, the disciples faced a situation that hits us every day: in the intractable face of
need, what can we possibly do?
Yet clearly, the text points out that “not enough” was not the final answer, not the final
word. As Cheryl Johns says,
“When placed in the hands of Jesus, human weakness and
finitude become more than enough.
“Around us are those who know human need but with few
resources to respond. There are countless small congregations.
There are people on limited incomes. There are those with physical
or mental disabilities. In the face of it, all these resources are like a
drop in the bucket. Yet, as this passage vividly portrays, in the
hands of Jesus, little can become much, the few can become the
many, and the weak can become strong.” 5
I am suggesting there is a way through this, it is to adjust our perspective. Maybe it is
that Worship can become our life’s our most critical attitude adjustment hour.
Perhaps you know the art technique of pointillism? Small, distinct dots of color are
applied in patterns to form an image. Stand too close and you see only a profusion of dots,
back up and the scene comes into focus.
Pointillism relies on the ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to blend the color
spots into a fuller range of tones. So, we have van Gogh’s self portrait, and Seurat’s famous
Sunday afternoon in the park.
I believe that is a major reason for us to be in worship – attitude adjustment. Worship
by it’s very nature is standing back so the whole picture comes into focus.
We are here to see the larger picture. We are here to see where we fit within God’s
plan. This is precisely what John wants us to do in our morning’s text: befuddled disciples,
impossible needs, and the hand of Jesus. He wants to show us the larger picture, to conjure up
for us specific tasks of serving God and neighbor. Attitude Adjustment Hour indeed!
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There is a hymn I quite like. I’ll wrap up this sermon with the second verse of “My
Life Flows on in Endless Song:
“Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear the music ringing,
It finds an echo in my soul,
How can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm
when to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?”
The Rev. Jack D. Hodges
John 6: 1-13 – Contemporary English Version–expanded version
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
1 Jesus crossed Lake Galilee, which was also known as Lake Tiberias. 2 A large crowd
had seen him work miracles to heal the sick, and those people went after him. 3 It was
almost time for the Jewish festival of Passover, 4 and Jesus went up on a mountain with
his disciples and sat down. 5 When Jesus saw the large crowd coming toward him, he
asked Philip, “Where will we get enough food to feed all these people?” 6 He said this
to test Philip, since he already knew what he was going to do.
7 Philip replied, “Don’t you know that not even with two hundred day’s wages could
we buy loaves enough to give each even a mouthful.” 8Andrew, the brother of Simon
Peter, was one of the disciples. He spoke up, 9 “There is a boy here who has five
small loaves of barley bread and two dried fish, but what good is that with all these
10 The ground was covered with grass, and Jesus told his disciples to have everyone sit
down. About five thousand men were in the crowd. 11 Jesus took the bread in his
hands and gave thanks to God. Then he distributed it to the people who were sitting
there. He did the same with the fish, and the all had as much as they wanted.
12-13 When the people had eaten their fill, Jesus said to his disciples, “Gather up the
leftovers so nothing is wasted.” So the disciples gathered and gathered, until they had
filled twelve baskets with what was left over from the five barley loaves.
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1. Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, Cheryl B Johns, on page 287.
2. From Day1.org, from Andrew Whaley: “Hope for Christian Pessimists,” July 25, 2021.
3. New York Times: July 25, 2021, “Camp Staffing.”
4. New York Times: July 30, 2021, Shawn Hubler: “The Year Summer Came With Dread.”
5. Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, Cheryl B Johns, on page 289.
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