Well, I think I've shared with you before, a story about my late grandmother. My grandmother lived in a small, one-bedroom apartment above a carpet store in Queens, New York. And most Sunday afternoons, our entire extended family -- aunts, uncles, and cousins -- would cram into that little tiny apartment. And my grandmother would cook a big Italian feast for us. Although my grandmother was not a wealthy woman, there was always so much food, so much so that we all went home with leftovers. And my grandmother would say that Italian word "Abbondanza!", which means “abundance.”
And to this day, I'm still so amazed that my grandmother -- a poor immigrant widow, who raised a large family during the Great Depression -- that she was so tuned into abundance consciousness. And I share that with you today, because of course, that's what today's Gospel story is all about: The multiplication of the loaves and the fish.
Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish and was able to increase it, multiply it so that everyone there was fed and there were even leftovers. With this miracle, Jesus is teaching us something very important. And that is The Spiritual Law of Abundance.
Now spiritual laws, they're just as real as all the other laws that govern the workings of the universe. So take, for example, the law of gravity. Noone here question, the law of gravity. You know that it's real. So are spiritual laws and principles.
Now oftentimes, when I talk about these spiritual laws, online I have people commenting that I am just spewing New Age mumbo jumbo. And I always say, I am not teaching you New Age, I am teaching you Old Age.
These laws and principles have been handed down to us for thousands of years, by people like Jesus and the Christian mystics, and saints and sages of all the wisdom traditions. Now, this miracle of the loaves and the fish, it is the only miracle that appears in all four gospels. The only one! So obviously, the early Christians felt this was a key teaching, a key demonstration of Jesus for us to emulate.
But you know, whenever I talk about miracles here, I always have people afterwards who ask, ‘Pastor, did that really happen? I mean, could you really take five loaves of bread and two fish and feed 5,000 people?’ And my pat answer is always, “I don't know, I wasn't there.”
What I do know is that the world's greatest theologians, people who have devoted their lives to studying the Bible, people who know more about the Bible than I ever will, have said that the Bible is not a history book. It's not a collection of literal stories, the people who wrote the Bible weren't writing literal stories, but spiritual ones, symbolic ones.
I've shared with you before my favorite quote from the progressive theologian John Dominic Crossan, who's one of the world's leading biblical scholars today. He was part of the famous Jesus Seminar, which is where 150 Bible scholars and theologians from around the world got together to discuss the accuracy of the Bible. And John Dominic Crossan said this: “My point isn't that the ancient people told stories, literally, and now we're smart enough to understand them symbolically. My point is that the ancient people told stories symbolically, and now were dumb enough to understand them, literally”
I love that quote. Now, even Pope Francis got in trouble a couple of years ago, when he was giving a sermon on the multiplication of the loaves and the fish. And in his sermon, he said, “the parable of the loaves and the fish,” and some conservative Christian Catholics went after him. And they said, “It's not a parable. It's not a story. It really happened.”
Now, I don't know if those 5,000 people in the field that day were physically fed, or they were symbolically or spiritually fed. But I don't think we should get too hung up on that. Because whether or not the stories, the miracles, in the Bible are literally true, the point is that they speak to great spiritual truths.
And the truth of this miracle is that you have the power within you, through the power and the presence of the Christ, to increase the good that you have been given, and to live your life more abundantly. Jesus said, in John, Chapter 10, verse 10, “I have come so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” That's why he came.
Jesus said, “It is God's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” So my friends, if you're not living life abundantly, you're not living the life that God has planned for you.
When I speak about abundance and prosperity, I want to be clear. I am not talking about material wealth, per se. Now we of course know there are many pastors in the US today who are preaching what's known as the Prosperity Gospel. These are pastors of huge mega-churches. And what they teach is that faith in Christ will lead you to great material wealth. And certainly those pastors in their churches are experiencing great material wealth. I mean, their churches are multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art facilities with all the latest technology. They have more people on paid staff than we have in our congregation.
Whether or not we see eye-to-eye with their beliefs, and how they go about things, I will say that I do agree with them on one thing. Jesus was, indeed, teaching prosperity principles. All of his miracles are about that. Every single one.
You remember his very first miracle, the wedding feast at Cana. People saw lack. “We don't have enough wine. What are we gonna do?” Jesus didn't see lack. He saw abundance, and he turned water into wine. In this miracle, the loaves and the fish again, people panic! They see lack. “We don't have enough to feed all the people!” Jesus didn't see lack.
Even in his healing miracles, people saw a lack of health, limitation. Jesus didn't see that. He saw wholeness, abundant health. We have the power within us to tune into that same Abundance Consciousness that Jesus had.
In our weekly newsletter this week, the E-Pistle, I shared with you a quote from the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, who is one of my favorite spiritual teachers. And his quote is, “Abundance is not something we acquire. abundance is something we tune into.”
It's not what we acquire. It's what we tune into. So how did Jesus tune into that abundance consciousness?
Well, we just have to look at today's story. Look what he did. He took five loaves and two fish -- adds up to the number seven. If you remember, last year, I gave you a talk about the number seven in the Bible, it appears so many times. It's not a literal number. It's a symbolic number, a spiritual number. And it represents completion, spiritual completion, like God created the world in seven days, right? Spiritual completion. He saw enough. And what did he do with that? He blessed it.
He blessed what he had been given. If you look up the word blessed, in the Merriam Webster's dictionary, it says, ‘to confer prosperity upon.’ To confer prosperity upon! He took what he had, and he gave thanks for it, just like he did at the Last Supper. Every Sunday we commemorate that here. He took the bread and the wine and what's the first thing he did? He gave thanks for it.
Gratitude opens us up to more abundance. What we appreciate, appreciates. So this principle is rooted in gratitude. Gratitude is the key that unlocks abundance. Another quote is from the contemporary spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle. And he says, “Acknowledging the good that we already have in our lives is the foundation for all abundance.” Acknowledging the good that we already have, that's the foundation. But you know, a lot of people aren't living there. They're living in another place. I’ve told you about this place before. It's a city. And the name of the city is Scare, scare city… Scarcity. They don't live from a place of abundance and prosperity. They're not dwelling there. They're living in Scarcity, and lack, and limitation.
It doesn't really have to do with money. Because I know a lot of people who have so much money in the bank, but they're not living prosperous lives, because they live in lack and limitation and fear. They're worried about their stock portfolio. They’re worried about their retirement accounts. It's not a prosperous life.
The good news of the gospel message is you don't have to live in scarcity. Jesus told us about another place you can dwell. And it's called the Kingdom of Heaven. And do you remember where he said it was? Within you? When we dwell there, in that state of consciousness, we can see miracles in our lives and live life more abundantly.
So what I want to invite you to do my friends this week is I want you to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven within you, consciously do that throughout your day this week. And in that place, acknowledge that God is the source of your supply. Give thanks for what you have been given. And then believe that more and more of good is on its way, on time and in full.
That is the good news of the Gospel message -- that it is God's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration & Guidance
By Eric Butterworth
The word affluence is an overworked word in our time, usually implying cars and houses and baubles of all kinds. Its literal meaning is “an abundant flow”—not things at all. When we are consciously centered in the universal flow, we experience inner direction and the unfoldment of creative activity. Things come too, but prosperity is not just having things. It is the consciousness that attracts these things. The word prosperity comes from the Latin root which literally translates “according to hope” or “to go forward hopefully.” Thus it is not so much a condition in life as it is an attitude toward life. The truly prosperous person is one who is experiencing what Jesus referred to as the life more abundant. Prosperity is a way of living and thinking—not just money or things. Poverty is a way of living and thinking—not just a lack of money or things. Considered in the broadest sense, prosperity is “spiritual well-being.” This involves the whole experience of healing life, satisfying love, abiding peace and harmony… a whole creature in a whole universe. We have been erroneously conditioned to believe that our lives are completely shaped by what happens around us and to us. But life is lived from within out. It is not what happens “out there,” but what we do or think about what happens. When we establish ourselves in the consciousness of God, the whole universe moves to flow into us with its abundance of life and substance. This is obviously what Jesus had in mind when he said, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
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