Stewardship Campaign - Week 2
September 25, 2022
What a Lunch
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Very few stories in the Gospels can be found in all four gospels. The feeding of the 5000 is one of those stories. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all have Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000 people with nothing more than some fish and bread. And the first question i always ask when looking at the feeding narrations is why is it so important that each of the gospel writers decided to include this narrative in their text?
I understand why the synoptics including it. But why John. John has proven time and time again that he doesn't have time to retell old stories. It has already been told. Why spend the parchment on retelling the same story, unless...Unless it is that important.
God cares about us so much that God want us to be fed. In the presence of Jesus, nobody should go hungry. When the early church began to meet following the days of the Ascension, the church gathered around a meal. St. Paul references such a meal in 1 Corinthians 11 and the abuses the church was committing during this meal. He writes:
When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?
Paul cannot identify what the Corinthians are doing as the Lord's Supper. The rich come and eat their fill while the poor go away hungry. Paul goes on to say:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.
For Paul, the way the Corinthians are acting will not only hinder relationships within the community, but with their Lord as well. If you eat in a unworthy manner, you will have to answer to our Lord. Paul concludes the section by writing:
So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation.
For Paul, it is simply not worth risking your covenantal relationship with Jesus to mess around with this meal.
Eventually, the church would say the abuses of the Agape Meal were too great and forbid it in the Didache. In the Didache, a 2nd Century manual of the liturgy, a new formula of worship where the only meal is the eucharistic. However, that didn't mean Christians were out of the business of feeding, it simply meant that the physical feeding was something the church would need to do outside of worship.
Food is a reason we all come together. You want to get people to come to something during the week, offer a meal. And let me tell you something, it usually works really well. I know, personally, Wednesdays in Advent and Lent are wonderful because it is one night during a very busy time that I don't have to cook. I get to come and be with you all, eat a fantastic meal, and then worship with you all. Having a meal together is something that Jesus did regularly with his disciples and it was through meals/banquets that Jesus revealed to us numerous times the power of God.
So, what is this meal showing us about the power of God? Notice the question that Jesus ask of Philip: ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ And Philip's reply: ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ A quick little calculation and in today's numbers, that would be about $14,400 dollars which works out to be about 3 dollars a person. After attending my brother's wedding last week, I think Philip under-estimated his figure slightly. The disciples look at this problem and cannot get past the grand scale of the situation. 5,000 people in a field have followed Jesus. Jesus wants to feed them. They see the cost of this being astronomical. None of them have that kind of money. They are not working. They are traveling the country side going from town to town, following a man whom they met who invited them to "come and see." Well, they came and what they have seen is a bunch of hangry people in a crowd and now Jesus has this crazy idea to feed them. Could you imagine having 5,000 people show up to worship and then expect to be fed after church? We can only fit 600 people in our church let alone all the parking, the extra bulletins. And how could they even begin to hear. You think about it, if everyone sat 20 persons to a row, you would have 250 rows. And if the average space needed for a person to sit is about 3 feet, the rows would go on about 750 feet or 2.5 football fields. We are talking about a massive amount of people, a massive cash flow problem, a massive undertaking for 12 mostly washed up fishermen.
Andrew says to Jesus, "‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’" That seems like a strange thing to say to Jesus. If you think it is a worthless idea, why even share it? 5 loaves and two fish. That is kind of an incredible lunch for a boy, isn't it. I mean, I have seen Thomas nearly consume a large cheese pizza from Little Ceasars, but 5 loaves of bread and two fish...perhaps he was on his way home to bring the food for his mother to make a meal. But that doesn't really matter. What matters is a child offered up some food to Andrew, a disciple of Jesus, to use in helping feed the crowd. Notice what Jesus does next. He says, ‘Make the people sit down.’
Jesus takes the bread and gives thanks for it. He begins to distribute the bread to the crowd along with the fish. Now, I have heard many different interpretations as to how Jesus preformed this miracle. The one that hear the most is that everyone looked into their bags and just shared what they had and then, using this homiletical device, it makes this miracle easily explained and turns this into a miracle of Jesus into a miracle that we can all preform when we share. I mean, maybe that is how it happened, but let's look at all that Jesus does in the gospel of John.
He turned water into wine.
Heals a little boy near death in Capernaum after his father begged Jesus to do so.
He healed the blind, lame, and paralyzed.
He walked on water.
Raises Lazarus backed to life after 4 days of being dead.
Why is so far out of realm of possibilities that Jesus could feed 5000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and have 12 baskets leftover? If we are willing to believe all these other things as gospel truth, why can't we believe in this miracle?
But none of this would have happened if that boy had not come up to Andrew and offer up his food. That little gift was used to reveal to us the power of God. It showed us that even with a little, God's power can be manifested in powerful ways. This miracle reveals that even a child can play an integral role in the mission of the gospel. This miracle reveals to us that people like Graham or his sister Paige play an integral role in the mission of the gospel. This miracle reveals that common, insignificant materials, gifts, goods all matter in the "revelational" work of the church.
I have learned more about Jesus listening to my boys tell me about God than any theology class ever taught me. I have learned more about how to treat my neighbor from my boys than I have from any other adults. But I think we also need to realize that all ages matter in the mission of the gospel. You know, growing up, my Sunday school teachers were not from my parents generation. They were from the older generation of people. Mrs. Pat didn’t have kids my age. If wasn’t like she needed to do this because of reciprocity—“my kids are in this program so I better volunteer." She showed up each week to teach kids she had no kinship with simply because she had the gifts to do so. Mr. Bill learned how to the play the guitar out of a necessity. After he learned, he eventually taught me. It was because of Mr. Bill that I still play guitar today and he is probably one of the reasons I am standing in this pulpit. Granted, I was a PK, but my congregation didn’t blink an eye when I played “Let it be” by the Beatles as an anthem one week in church after I learned how to play. They didn’t frown upon it or say, “We don’t do that kind of music.” They instead clapped after I played it. They clapped every time I learned a new song, whether it be Christian or secular. There are so many people that I have encountered throughout my journey of faith that have made sure I have what I need to walk with Jesus. Ministry is not just for the the little ones. It is for all of us, no matter our age, race, gender or creed. This means people like Adriane or Harry have the ability to be like this child and offer up something that may seem so insignificant to the rest of the world, but is just what Jesus needs to reveal the power of God.
We all have that one thing to offer. And I know that sounds so cliché to say, “Oh you matter to God.” It sounds like something you would cross-stitch onto a pillow and you all know how I feel about those things. But yet, how often I hear people say that they don’t matter. People make me pray because they think my prayers get to God faster than theirs. We Lutherans might all know about the idea of Justification by Grace through faith, but how many actually truly believe it? Many of us don't see the value that each of us holds in the Body of Christ. And sometimes it is hard to see the value in others. Sometimes pride and arrogance gets in our way. And when that happens, it is unfortunate and it complicates the mission of the gospel. But God can still do it. God can take your five loaves and two fish and feed the multitude on the grassy plain.
What do you have to offer today? I don’t care about your age. I don’t care about whether you have kids. I don't care whether you have a high school diploma or Ph.D. I don’t care about any of that. Christ is present with us. The new mission front is before us. There are more unchurch people now than ever before. There are so many people who don’t realize how much they need Jesus. Our Lord is asking us the same question he asked of Andrew on that grassy plain: “what ya got?” How are we going to respond?
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.