All Saints Sunday - November 1, 2015
St. Timothy’s United Methodist Church
Rev. Mark M. Norman Vickers
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
6 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near. 5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish 12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. 14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
Once again, we have food in the text, loaves of bread and fish! We have before us the remarkable story known as “the feeding of the 5,000,” arguably one of the greatest miracle stories ever recounted. Jesus had been doing miracles, healing and the like, even raising a friend from the dead around the Sea of Galilee. Now Jesus had obtained a few followers in this process and when he had reached the shore there were in estimate around 5,000 people—or at least that was the counted estimate of those who had gathered to see the celebrity. As with any good disciple, the concern came about how were they going to feed these people who had gathered to see the celebrity from Galilee? Much discussion was had by the disciples and those concerned and the only food in sight was with a small boy who had five loaves of bread and two fish. How on earth could a small boy with that amount of food feed 5,000 people? Hence the miracle! Now keep in mind, the Gospel of John is the only Gospel to tell us this, so maybe, just maybe, this might be important. Yet, 5,0000 people and the diet of the poor? Really, how was this going to happen? Yet we know this must be important because it is the only miracle that appears in all four Gospels. But only in John do we hear about the young boy!
Often times we miss the meaning of the gathering, we miss the purpose of the event because we get so caught up in the symmetry of the event, what is going on, what is happening, what is actually taking place.
I have a friend who is a pastor in this Annual Conference and he has a brother who is mentally handicapped. Morgan is wheelchair bound but often goes out with the family on many excursions. His brother tells the story of going out to eat on Morgan’s birthday in Mooresville to a little neighborhood diner. The family gathers, the food is served family style, with red checkerboard table cloths, tall ice tea glasses, and the whole Southern works. My friend continues with the story to say that as they were eating, his brother Morgan was pulled up along side the table enjoying a barbecue sandwich, when their father looks into the other room and sees Dale Earnhardt eating by himself. He says his dad immediately got up from the table, went into where Dale was setting and told him that his handicapped son was celebrating his birthday and asked Dale if he would come speak to him. Dale picked up his plate and drink and came and joined the family for dinner. My friend said it was the most amazing dinner he had ever experienced. After dinner they were loading Morgan in the handicap van and his dad said to him, “What was the best thing about this night Morgan?” Morgan simply looked at his dad and said, “The ketchup was really good!” According to my friend, Morgan missed the whole point of the meal. He missed the superstar race car driver being in their presence and the excitement that was contained in all of that experience.
Likewise in our Gospel text this morning it appears that the people who had gathered to hear and see Jesus were about to miss the entire purpose and meaning of the miracle. The purpose was for them to see and understand that Jesus was bringing them a new and special Kingdom, a Kingdom that did not need a Rome or an Israel. It was a Kingdom that provided food for the hungry, where the sick were healed and where the dead were raised. The essence of this miracle was that the Kingdom has to start somewhere! The Kingdom starts with Jesus and continues with us and all of those who go before us doing the work of the Kingdom.
We as the church are not alone! We have become who we are because of who went before us and carved the way for us, those whom we have named this morning. It’s interesting: Jesus never eats alone in the New Testament. He always has a meal with someone or some people. Just think how many people Jesus has dined with here at St. Timothy’s! We come to the Table twice a month here at St. Timothy’s and have done so for many years. We come as participants of the community, and we dine with those who have gone before us! We are nourished not only by bread and wine, but by the community that forms us and eats with us.
Yet in the breadth of this miracle, we see even more. People are fed because other people were present and were fed before them. We are able to partake of this Holy Meal not just on our own, but because people have come before us and given of their time, talent, and gifts. As we begin our Stewardship emphasis today, I encourage you to think about what it means to give to the community of faith as we begin this disciplined journey. Not just in financial ways but in ways that place upon our hearts the true understanding of stewardship and commitment. We gather as a people of God who truly believe we have something to offer because we are children of God. Those who have come before us have thought the same thing and done the same thing. We are a continual family of faith and believe that by giving of our time, talents, and gifts that we can enhance the community of faith to be the best the Kingdom has ever experienced. Just as the young boy in our miracle story was able to do with very little, so we are similarly challenged to bring our five loaves and two fish to the table.
Therefore my friends, I ask that over the next four weeks you spend time in prayer and meditation about how your five loaves and two fish can be multiplied here at St. Timothy’s. Yet today, I invite you to the Table of Our Lord to feast on the body and blood of Jesus Christ as those Saints have done before you.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.