Pentecost 9 B 2021
Grace to you and peace, from God pour Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Awe… the feeding of the 5,000. It is a biblical story that appears in all four Gospel texts. You know the story. Jesus is surrounded by a large crowd, and it is getting late, and the people are starting to get hungry. Confused and overwhelmed by the task of feeding such a large crowd the disciples do not know what to do.
Philips sums it up so well. Philip said to Jesus “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get even a little.” Verse. 7 In other words, it was simply impossible to feed this large crowd with the resources that the disciples possessed.
It is at this point the story gets interesting. One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Verse 9
In other words, the situation was hopeless. There was no way that they were going to feed that many people with the merger assets that they had in their possession. And that is how we respond when we are faced with a task that seems impossible.
But that is not how God responds. The text states that Jesus told the disciples to make the crowd sit down. And then “He took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed the loaves to those who were seated; so also, the fish, as much as they wanted.” Verse 11 And the people ate and were satisfied.
We are told that after they ate, Jesus instructed His disciples to gather up the fragments that were left over, so that nothing would be lost. And when they had done so, the leftovers filled twelve baskets.
And when the people saw the sign that He had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” Verse 14 Wanting to be fed day after day by the One they believed could fill their tummies with good things, the crowd wanted to make Jesus’ king.
But Jesus would have none of this and we are told that He withdrew to the mountain so He could be by Himself. And this would have been the end of the story if feeding tummies was all there was to His time spent with this large crowd.
But His ministry was not just about feeding a large crowd with food that day. Instead, there is a deeper (more important) meaning contained within the text that we cannot ignore.
Just as Jesus used the five barley loaves and two fish to feed the crowd, Jesus can take the meager things we have to offer and use them to do great things in His Creation. Even when we have almost nothing to give, God can use what we bring to the table to fulfill His will in this world.
In fact, if we look at scripture, this seems to be God’s favorite way to work in the world. Throughout scripture God can take what is broken, or worthless, or empty, or small and weak and use it. For example… God used the barren and closed woman of Sarah to give birth to Isaac at the old age of 90. God took Moses, a murderer, and used him to lead God’s people out of Egypt. God used a poor peasant girl named Mary to be the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In God’s Redeeming Activity, God does not conquer the world with power and might, but by dying on a cross and by rising and defeating death three days later.
If there is one theme in scripture that can feed us this morning when we read the gospel text, it is the proclamation that God often takes our weaknesses, and our deficiencies, and the broken pieces in our lives, and uses them for His glory.
And this is all so “very different” from the way the world works. In the “real world” power, and money, and strength, and success, and hard work, and abundance is valued and rewarded and prized. And it is these exact same things that we want to lift-up in our lives and in the church. We forget that God often uses the exact opposite of these things to accomplish His will and His purpose in His creation.
Sometimes I hear talk about the way things used to be in the church. Back when the church was packed, and Sunday school was full, and the offering plate was overflowing. And I wonder if we are looking at it all wrong.
Maybe today, when our resources are low, and our attendance is not what it used to be, and the church is no longer the pillar in the community like it used to be; today, when it seems like there are 5,000 mouths to feed and only 5 loaves of bread and two fish to feed all the hungry people; maybe that is when God uses what we do have to create rich and fertile soil so He can do great things in our world.
As I read the text today, I am reminded of the wonderful gifts given to us when we were baptized. Think about it. When most of us were baptized we were little children, and we did not bring a whole lot to the font. We did not have a resume to show off, or awards to present, and we were not asked to present our qualifications.
It was as if God was asking us at our baptism “What do you have to offer?” And all we could say that day was “nothing.” To which God replied, “Fantastic. I can work with that.” And God’s people responded “We welcome you into the Lord’s family. We receive you as fellow member of the body of Christ, a child of the same heavenly Father, and a worker with us in the kingdom of God. Amen.”
Let us pray: Holy God, you sent your Son to be baptized among sinners, to seek and save the lost. May we, who have been baptized in His name, never turn away from the world, but reach out in love to rescue the wayward; by the mercy of Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.