the one about that feeding
August 7, 2017, 9:00 AM

Sermon from August 6, 2017

Text: Matthew 14: 13-21

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, this is one of those stories that almost everyone knows. Jesus performing the miracle of feeding the vast multitudes of people gathered around him. I’d say its Jesus feeding the more than 5000 simply because it appears the tellers of this story only counted the men.

Miracles are pretty special and interesting aspects of our faith life and our lives in general. When we think of miracles we can think of a whole host of things that can fit that description.

Some would say that having young children and getting them awake, fed, cleaned, dressed, out the door and to church (or wherever) on time is a miracle in and of itself.

There are even those who look to incredibly exciting moments in the shared experiences of others as ‘miracles’ too. Like when Clemson won the National Championship with one second left in the game or for Texas Rangers fans like me when a former catcher - Benji Molina (not a little guy by any measure) hit for the cycle (hitting a single, double, triple, and a homerun in a single game) against the Red Sox at Fenway Park a few years ago.

There are those who have been diagnosed with a disease or some sort of potentially life-threatening ailment – like cancer or other serious foreign ‘things’ within their bodies – and the next time they have a check-up that ‘thing’ is gone.

Some will even say that a miracle is just what you spread on your sandwich to make it taste better.

Yet, as we encounter this miracle in Matthew’s gospel, I’m not sure we always notice where the miracle actually takes place. When we tell this story – or have heard this story told and interpreted – we usually hear about how the miracle is in the actual feeding. Look at how many people Jesus fed! 5000 people were fed – just like that! Even more than 5000 since women and children (unfortunately) weren’t included in the count.

It is wonderful and amazing that Jesus in this miracle was able to feed those who gathered around him in that remote place so that they could hear what he had to say and be healed by him. Yet, when we focus strictly on the feeding, we might lose sight as to what Jesus actually did. As it seems with every story involving Jesus, there is actually much more to this story than we might have thought before.

We’ve heard the stories about the five loaves and two fish. This particular account of the feeding miracle is significant because of how the disciples approach Jesus before the miracle takes place.

Now, a lot of places within the wilderness desert land of Israel are pretty ‘remote.’ Way more ‘out there’ than any place here in South Carolina. Probably a lot closer to the ‘remoteness’ of driving through Texas where I was last week. Jesus after hearing about John the Baptist’s death heads out to a deserted place to be alone – perhaps to mourn, reflect, and pray, but the people catch wind of where he is and follow him and gather around him. He doesn’t push them away or continue to find a place away from the masses. Instead, he was moved with compassion. He heard their stories and he healed them where they needed to be made whole – which is almost a sermon in and of itself, but for another day.

I imagine the hour becomes late and the disciples are getting tired and grumpy. Maybe the onset of being ‘hangry’ is nigh. They don’t want to be responsible for all these people who will need to eat - soon. Sure, it is what good hosts would do – feed the people in their midst and essentially under their care. But, that’s way more do-able with 10 people than it is with 50 or more; almost impossible with over 5000. They come to Jesus and ask that he ‘send the crowds’ away so that they – the crowds – can go and eat. It’s a long walk back to town; we’re spent, tapped out. We don’t have anything to give them.

Jesus just asks, “Well, what do you have to eat?”

Their reply, “Not much – just this little bit of bread and fish.”

“I can work with that, tell the people to sit…”

When have you been at those times where you’re tapped out and dried up? When you feel like you have almost nothing else to give? Or that what you are able to give is almost nothing compared to what you feel you need or want to give?

The disciples are in that spot – it isn’t so much that they don’t want to help. They just feel like they don’t have the ability to help. What they have to offer wouldn’t be enough. Too small. Too little. Too late.

I believe that this is the sense that the greater church is feeling now. As we continue to hear about the shrinking numbers, the dried-up faith, the apparent ‘moral decay,’ the multitude of stories insisting ‘it didn’t used to be this way.’ We – as the church – are like the disciples coming to Jesus and saying, “this is all we’ve got… it isn’t much… probably more of an insult to offer this than nothing at all.”

Have y’all experienced something similar to that before in your own lives? Those times when you truly feel almost spent? Where you feel this way as you’ve approached the ministry within the church, in your relationships, at your job, in the community, among your family? Where you feel that whatever you have to offer is nothing compared to what you feel like you need to offer?

We can’t do anything about it; we don’t have anything here, but some older folks and a few kids.

We can’t do anything about it; we don’t have anything here, but enough money to pay the bills.

We can’t do anything about it; we don’t have anything here, but, but, but, but . . .

How often has a thought like that rolled through your mind the past few years? We don’t have thing here, but…

Yet, Jesus’ response is – bring them here or I can work with that.

Whatever we have to give Jesus – to give to God – no matter how small we might think it is, it can be used. Not only can God use what we offer, but God can do great things with just even a little bit of what we can bring.

God has, does, can, and will use what we bring to be used. We open and share what we have so that God might be able to use it. We offer it freely and without obligations/restrictions. We give of ourselves – our talents and skills. We give of our time – re-prioritizing what we devote to so that we continue to look towards and serve our God. We give of our treasure – seeing that what we have can and will be used to help spread the Word of God and enrich the Kingdom of Heaven. We may not be where Redeemer once was in years past (and almost every congregation can share a similar story), but that doesn’t mean God can’t still use what we have to offer – use us as sisters and brothers in Christ, use us as Redeemer, use us as the ELCA, use us as Christians speaking to the world – God can and does use that which we bring to do great things. And with that little bit, Jesus gathers it up, blesses it and watches it grow.

The disciples brought to Jesus barely enough food to feed themselves – yet Jesus uses what they had to offer – a meager meal – and was able to do something pretty fantastic. Miraculous we say.

What we offer and bring to God to be used in the world seems pretty small – words of encouragement, a little bread, a little wine, a splash of water, a helping hand, a few dollars here and there – but God can and does use that to bring about miracles in everyday life.

The person who hears they are loved...

The person who gets a little food…

The person who receives a few bucks for gas…

What we might be able to offer may be small – but God can do miracles with even that.

As one of my favorite sermon writers wrote once.

The kingdom of heaven is like – a tiny mustard seed that turns into a tree that grows big enough for a bird to roost in.

The kingdom of heaven is like – leaven that a woman puts in the dough and the bread rises and rises and rises.

The kingdom of heaven is like – Jesus taking loaves and fishes and turning them into a feast that knows no end.

The kingdom of heaven is like – a congregation of Christians bringing all they are and all they have to Jesus, and being ready to be a part of the amazing new things God will do through them. Amen.

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