Pastor Michael Frye:
Pastor Mark was making a home visit to one of the families in his congregation.
Their five year old son, Tommy, answered the door.
“Daddy’s on the phone, and mommy’s changing the baby’s diaper.
They’ll be here in a minute,” he said.
In order to make some conversation with Tommy, Pastor Mark asked Tommy what he would like to be when he grew up.
Without any hesitation, Tommy replied: “I want to be possible.”
With puzzlement in his voice, Pastor Mark responded: “What do you mean by that, Tommy?”
“Well,” Tommy replied matter-of-factly, “Every day mommy tells me I’m impossible, so I want to be possible.”
Throughout his entire ministry, Jesus always seemed to be accomplishing the impossible (at the age of twelve, he was stumping the temple priests with his questions and responses; people were stunned by the healing miracles he performed; he had even raised a little girl from the dead!)
But the two miracles mentioned in the gospel for today also created quite a stir among the disciples and the people who had been following him from place to place.
As Jesus went up a mountain to escape from the crowd so he and his disciples could rest, he became concerned for the masses of people who were coming up the mountain towards him.
Jesus did not view this intrusion by the crowd in a negative way; rather, he had compassion on them.
It was getting late; they were tired; and they had to be hungry.
Jesus used this situation as a lesson for his disciples by posing the question to Philip: “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip had to wonder about Jesus’ sanity at this point: Lord, “six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”
Now, Andrew was somewhat of a problem-solver, so he pointed out to Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.
But what are they among so many people?”
Calmly, Jesus said, “Make the people sit down” (all five thousand of them).
Now, you know what happened next – you have heard this story many times before.
What you may or may not realize is that a feeding miracle was performed by the prophet Elisha centuries before, as reported in our first lesson today.
Elisha fed one hundred people with twenty barley loaves and fresh ears of grain; and he, too, had some left, according to God’s word.
This was done at that time as a sign to remind the people that God would provide for their needs.
Jesus would have been well-aware of this story from the past.
Not only was what he was about to do the compassionate thing; it was also a sign for the people to know that Jesus was acting on God’s behalf; because, only God (through is Son) could provide such a miracle (just as God had provided manna for the Israelites in the desert).
Jesus had also been born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.”
The most common biblical image for God’s divine mercy is food, and John’s gospel views Jesus as the “bread of life.”
It also is not a coincidence that there were twelve baskets of food left over after the five thousand had received their fill.
Jesus was making it clear to the people that God’s intent was for all the tribes of Israel to be fed with the spiritual food that is Christ.
True – not all would respond to that message; but those who did were assured that Christ would fulfill God’s promise of salvation for those who trust in his abundant blessings.
Just as Jesus’ disciples were confronted by their own inadequacy to meet the needs of the hungry crowd, he reminds us that our task is to open our eyes to see what God has given us, and then to open our hearts to share what we have with those in need.
Jesus fed the people on that mountainside, but not before telling the disciples to take stock in what they themselves had on hand.
This gospel story serves as a reminder that Christ has given us all that we need in order for us to share it with a world that is hungry for God’s love and mercy.
However, we aren’t used to operating like that in this world.
We are people who like to know what is on hand in order to come to reasonable conclusions about how to solve a problem.
You have heard it said, and you may even have said it yourself: “The need is so great, and we have so little; how will we find the resources to meet such a need?”
Or, “Perhaps in time we will have enough to be able to make this happen; but not now.”
Well, Jesus begs to differ.
He hands us our basket and he expects us to share what we have so that all God’s children shall receive enough of his spiritual food in order to be fed and nourished.
Is it really possible to have that kind of faith that God can, and will, use us in that way?
Well, Cheryl Johns gives us two examples from the not so distant past: In 1946 Agnes Gonxa Bojaxiu came face to face with those who were suffering and dying in Calcutta.
She felt the “the call within the call” to serve those who were suffering the most.
Certainly her knowledge or wealth or wisdom would not be enough for her to fulfill her call.
But the knowledge of God’s love fueled her passion, and along with an order of thirteen “Missionaries of Charity”, Agnes (now known to us as “Mother Theresa” amassed thousands of willing servants to serve the needs of the most destitute people in the world.
In 1976 when Millard and Linda Fuller began Habitat for Humanity International, they had a few tools and a handful of volunteers to fill the insurmountable need for affordable housing.
Yet, their passion for justice grounded in the incarnation of Jesus compelled them forward. Evidence of the tens of thousands of volunteers who have built thousands of homes around the world can actually be seen in the eight pictures of our own volunteers and the homes they have helped to build which can be viewed as you walk down the hallway toward the chapel.
Do you want further evidence of the miracles Christ performs through committed disciples? Visit the soup kitchen on Thursday and witness how with a few resources over a hundred hungry people are fed every week; or, be among the dozens of volunteers who “rise against hunger” on August 8th in the fellowship hall to pack 10,000 meals in a matter of a couple hours.
Never underestimate what the love of Jesus in the human heart can accomplish through God’s guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Remember, too, that we all are fed every time we gather on Sunday on the body and blood of our Lord and Savior.
We come to his table to be nourished so we can go about doing Christ’s work in the world without fear or trepidation, because we know that Jesus’ blessings are upon us just as they were upon the disciples and the five thousand who were fed on that mountainside centuries ago.
There is so much to do and so many neighbors to be fed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Is there enough?
You bet there is!
Let us pray:
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.
And with your food, let all be blest.