As a kid I was never allowed to drink soda.
And I couldn’t figure out why. All my friends got to drink soda all the time.
But even out at a restaurant – if I tried to order soda, both my parents would chime in and suggest – orange juice instead. Or water. Or milk. Or something.
And I found it to be pretty frustrating.
But at some point they eased up a bit.
And I was allowed to have some sodas – sometimes.
Not the caffeinated ones.
But sometimes I could have a sprite. Or a ginger ale.
But for some reason – when I got what I wanted – it’s wasn’t what I expected.
And it wasn’t enough.
And though I would never have admitted it to them – I realized that all those years when they told me the soda wouldn’t quench my thirst –
That it wouldn’t help me feel less thirsty.
They were telling the truth.
It might taste good going down – but it leaves you just as thirsty as before. If not more thirsty.
I also needed to have some water. Because I got what I wanted – but it wasn’t right…I was still thirsty.
Truth be told, I’m not even sure why it was such a big deal.
Probably just because it was something everyone else seemed to have and like.
I actually didn’t even like it for a long time.
But once I was allowed to have it – I sort of forced myself to like it.
Because I wanted what everyone else had.
And I would never have admitted to my parents that it wasn’t right – or that it wasn’t enough…but it wasn’t.
Today’s texts are all about hunger – and thirst – both spiritual and physical.
In Isaiah – the people of Israel are hungry for God – but they don’t realize it.
And so they fill up the gaps with other things.
And then they can’t figure out why they’re not satisfied – why they don’t have enough.
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
But the problem is – those things don’t actually meet their needs.
Because what they need is not just to eat enough to physically sustain them – but to grow in God’s wisdom – and presence.
Listen carefully – and eat what is good, Isaiah says.
And what is good – is the everlasting covenant with God.
That binds them up as a people.
That quenches their thirst for connection – for community – with each other – and with God.
Sure – it also ensures their physical needs – that they will be safe – and that together they will have access to food and water.
These are a tribal people – who found their identity – and their ability to live and survive by living and working together…
So there are important ways in which this covenant meets their needs and goes much deeper.
To the very core of their being – as children of God – created to participate in God’s mission.
Isaiah promises that God will glorify the people of Israel if they live into this covenant – if they hold on to what is important.
And in the context of this part of Isaiah – holding on to that covenant does not mean that they conquer and reign over other countries.
Or even that they win for themselves any kind of victory.
Even though – that was how they interpreted it for a long time – and probably was the reality they might have enjoyed more…it wasn’t what God had in mind.
Instead – this covenant means first and foremost that they live in community. They follow the law. They pursue God – and a life with God.
And they take joy in what it means to be God’s chosen people.
In what it means to be in relationship in that special way with God.
This is what Isaiah is asking them to do.
And it stands in stark contrast to the lives they were living – lives where they chose to work for things which would not satisfy.
In which they ate and drank to their fill – but still found that they were empty.
That they were missing something.
Something that couldn’t be found in all the bread – or wine – in the world.
That they were missing God.
Jesus, too, sitting on that boat – knows that the people in front of him are hungry for spiritual wisdom – and for the presence of God.
And so he gives them that.
In stories and parables.
In teaching and lessons.
He brings the kingdom of God near to them – and explains the truth of God’s love for them.
But in this story – he knows, too, that they have a human need.
It’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and.
These folks not only wanted God – because that’s why they were sitting on this hill – clambering to be near him.
But Jesus – who cares for all us – knew that they also had a physical hunger.
They also needed to eat.
And so Jesus arranges that for them.
He commands the disciples – who are totally lost – and can’t understand what he’s doing – to gather up what’s there.
And the disciples know – they know that this isn’t enough.
That they and the people around them haven’t come up with nearly enough to feed this huge group.
To satisfy their hunger.
But still – however much they don’t believe it – they do as Jesus commands.
And they gather up the 5 loaves and 2 fish.
And as Jesus always does for us – he takes what is ours that is not enough.
He takes what is ours (that which has been given to us by God – but that we use in a way that still renders it not enough)…
And he gathers it in – and makes something much more meaningful
Something whole out of the pieces – and the fragments- that we have offered.
And from those pieces – those fragments – Jesus creates something more beautiful than anything we could have imagined or dreamed up ourselves.
In this case – from 5 loaves and 2 fish – he feeds 5,000 people.
And they are satisfied.
With food left over.
Because they were not only fed food that satisfied their hunger – but because on the side of that hill they also shared in community with one another.
And they were granted the spiritual wisdom – and the presence of God that they needed as well.
Often when we think of this story – the church has made this an either/or. You need one or the other.
But it’s not true.
Our texts convince me that this is a both/and.
As human beings we need both.
We need both the food that feeds and nurtures our physical bodies.
But that in isolation won’t satisfy us.
That – separate from Christian community – separate from God – won’t be enough for us.
And it will lead us down a road of questing – questing after a thirst that will never be met or satisfied – until we turn our attention to God.
But Jesus, too – sets a precedent today.
Our job as Christians isn’t just to force-feed the world some kind of watered down Christian theology.
It’s not just to share our impressions of who God is – or even to hope that people will be converted to seeing things our way.
But Jesus, here – does both.
Yes – there are stories – and parables – and lessons about who God is.
But Jesus wasn’t going to let these hungry – and mostly poor people – leave without feeding them.
Without caring for them as they are.
Without meeting them – and their needs – exactly where they are.
This is the same Jesus who reminds us that all of the hairs on our head are counted.
So of course – he wants to care for us too.
To quiet the rumbling in our heads – and our hearts – and our bellies.
And in so doing – setting for us an example of how we are supposed to feed the world.
It’s a both/and.
Jesus will always take what we offer – and make it into something else.
And what we offer, though it may not seem like enough to us – will be enough after Jesus has fashioned it into something different.
Especially when we add our “not-enough”s together.
Yours and mine. Ours.
Like those 5 loaves and 2 fish – Jesus is waiting to take our disbelief – as he did with the disciples – and turn our “not-enough”s – into something that will feed the world.
That will calm the hunger pangs in the people around us.
And also point us all toward a deeper understanding of God’s love –
Which is the only thing in the world that can truly satisfy.
There isn’t enough bread – or wine – or water – or food – or money – or anything else in all of creation that we can buy or make or take – that will ever calm the rumblings.
That will ever grant us peace.
That will ever make us whole – or turn our “not enough”s into enough -
Or satisfy our hunger and thirst except God.
In God alone will we ever find that peace.
Because it is only God who can take our “not enough”s – and make them eternally, and forever, completely enough.
Enough for us.
Enough for the people around us.
Enough for the world. Only in Christ – only by choosing to live into this everlasting covenant- do we ever find enough. Amen.