(Mark 6: 30-44)
First, before anything else, the disciples were called. The way Mark tells it, there were two of them fishing when Jesus happened by. Follow me, he said, and I will make you fish for people. And that was all it took for Simon and Andrew, and they dropped their nets right then and there. Because they had been called.
After that they became connected. Connected to Jesus for sure, but also connected to each other. Because you don’t share meals with each other, experience teachings and sermons with each other, witness the healing of a synagogue leader’s daughter with each other, and watch a native son get rejected from their hometown with each other without being drawn into those other people in profound and meaningful ways. That’s just the kind of thing that happens when you’re connected.
And so now these disciples have been out and about for awhile, doing their discipling thing; and they’re reporting back to Jesus to tell him all the things they had done. And as they do this, Jesus notices something – he notices that their discipling is taking a bit of a toll. There was constant coming and going, Mark tells us. They didn’t even have time to eat.
We know what that’s like, don’t we? I know what that’s like. There are four people in the Lindsley house, and even in these Covid times when we are out and about much less than before, it is nevertheless a small victory when all four of us get to gather around the table for an evening meal together. Seems there’s always a Zoom meeting or work obligation from one of us getting the way. Our busy-ness has literally made our body forget sometimes to sustain itself.
I don’t know, I guess I find it comforting in a way that people so close to Jesus would be in the same kind of situation – cramming our schedules full, rushing from one appointment to the next, crossing things off our ever-growing “to-do” list. And I find it equally comforting that Jesus would see this, recognize it when no one else did, and call time-out and whisk everyone away for a little weekend retreat.
Who among us could use a little weekend retreat these days?
Isn’t it interesting how, in our busiest moments when we are so laser-focused on whatever is demanding our attention in that moment, that we often fail to see what is right in front of us?
For what those disciples failed to see right in front of them in that moment were the people. A whole mass of people. Hurting and hungry people; seeking and searching people. People who had gotten word that Jesus would be there and knew enough about him that their curiosity was piqued, that he just might be the hope they’d been waiting for. And only when the disciples were removed from their regular routines and schedules were they able to see the people the way Jesus saw them.
And it’s like a light bulb goes on in their collective heads at the same time: The people. Omigosh, the people! Whoa! There are so many of them. They’re out here, and they’re all hungry. They haven’t eaten a thing all day. Omigosh, they haven’t eaten all day! Jesus, you know that’s not good, right? It’s getting late. It’ll be dark soon. These are some hungry people here.
And the only solution that occurs to them, the only way they see to resolve this situation, is for the people to leave. To go and find their own food. It’s not their problem, after all. They’re not responsible for all these people. So they want the people to be sent away, and they want Jesus to be the one to tell them. Send them away, Jesus. Tell them to get their own food.
I am drawn to this part of the story because it feels familiar. Those moments of clarity when the problem right in front of us comes to light, when we finally see what needs to be seen, and we choose to address it by placing it squarely in the lap of someone else. It’s Jesus’ job to feed these people – not mine. The pastor is the one to make things right – not me. I think that falls under someone else’s ministry team – not ours. I believe so-and-so should have that conversation – not us. Some future generation will have to deal with this mess – but not this one. It’s a problem, yes. But it is a problem for someone else.
Send them away, Jesus. Tell them to get their own food.
To which Jesus replies – and I just love this – Tell you what, disciples – you do it. You get them some food.
I love Jesus’ response here for a host of reasons. I love it as Jesus modeling leadership; that part of being a good leader is not feeling like you’ve got to do everything yourself, even when others put that on you; but that sometimes it is entirely appropriate – and even necessary – to empower others to take the lead. To delegate. I love that Jesus does that here.
I love it even more because in doing this, Jesus communicates quite clearly that the task of ministering to and with God’s people does not default to the son of God simply because he’s the son of God. Jesus’ purpose and role in the world is not to serve as some divine lifeguard or ambulance, rushing in and saving the day whenever calamity strikes. No, the task of ministry and ministering belongs to all of us, because that is what it means to be the body of Christ that is the church. If people are going to be fed, literally or figuratively, it’s going to be all of us doing the feeding.
Which leads to the third reason why I love what Jesus says here. With his words, Jesus communicates to his disciples in no uncertain terms that the need before them demands an immediate response. Right now. Because you cannot tell hungry people to hold off on their hunger a little while longer. You cannot address brokenness by offering the promise of a future reconciliation at some point down the road. There is an immediate need present that demands an immediate response. And the only way that’s going to happen, Jesus says, is if you are the ones to do it.
Send them away, Jesus. Tell them to get their own food.
No – you do it. You get them food. You fix their supper.
Not tomorrow. Not next week.
The ministry of Now, my friends. That’s what this passage has to say to us today. Besides the miracle that follows. Besides all those hungry people getting something to eat. You want to know what the other miracle here is? It is the miracle of Jesus opening the eyes of his disciples to see something they did not see on their own. The call of ministry to act now.
There are times in the life of the church when we are called to take pause. When we think on things and meditate. When we dream big and imagine possibilities. We look at the big picture and prayerfully consider what the future might hold, and how we might live into that future, into that vision; something that is not here yet but is to come.
And then there are times in the life of the church when the calling is clear, when the task is before us now, when our action in the moment is what matters. And the question is less about what we believe or envision and more about what we are prepared to do. You give them something to eat, Jesus said. Are we in? Are we committed?
Your Stewardship Ministry team created its 2020 theme based on all of this. Called. Connected. Committed. We are called to this place. You have heard stories from some of our church members, from the youngest to the oldest, from newer members to long-timers, who have shared what it is about this place that has called them here. Thanks be to God, we are called.
We are connected to this church. Not to programs or ministries, not to the things we do or the buildings or campus we maintain, but connected to God and to our church family, and to our neighbor. We have spent the entire year digging into this connection and how critical it is if our church is going to live into the calling God has placed on it. Thanks be to God, we are connected.
And so now we stand as disciples with Jesus, who opens our eyes to see the needs of the world – people who need to be fed, yes; but also a community experiencing brokenness, a country in need of healing, a world who needs to know the love and justice of Jesus Christ, his living water and food for the soul. And we are the ones to help give it to them. We are the ones, through this church, to be the body of Christ to the world in this moment, in this time and in this place. Right here and right now.
Are we in, friends? Are we committed?
That’s the question Jesus is asking us. Not sometime down the road. Right now.
For now is the time for our church to continue figuring out what it means to be the church in a global pandemic, who we are called to be and become in this unique moment, and then support the church in doing that with our time and our talent and our treasure.
Now is the time for our church to rediscover its missional identity – continuing our time-honored outreach initiatives, yes; but also creating a new thing, something uniquely Trinity that furthers the kingdom of God in our neighborhood, our community and city, and beyond.
Now is the time to keep connecting with God, our church family, and our neighbor, even though we’ve been talking about it and doing it all year, the need for those connections never ends and in fact only grows, because the strength of those three connections is what brings out the best in church.
Now is the time to support the work and ministry of the church through our annual giving, as we anticipate next week’s Response Sunday. We have a goal once again this year, and yes, this goal will allow us to support the work of the church and pay our staff and maintain a building, and all of those things are good things. But honestly, it is less about meeting a goal and more about answering the calling of Jesus who is asking us to step up and be the church right now so he can do amazing things through us that will blow us away.
I mean, he did it before. Five loaves of bread and two fish is what they brought him. That’s barely enough for one of those Lindsley dinners when we’re lucky to get all four of us around the table. They brought it to Jesus, and somehow all were fed. Somehow, all were satisfied. There was even some left over.
Jesus did amazing things with the gifts those disciples brought to him in that moment. People of God, why in the world would we think he would not do the same with us?
We are called. We are connected. We are committed. That is what it means to be the church. That is what it means to be the ministry of now. May next Sunday, and every Sunday after it, be a clear and undeniable statement of our joyful willingness to be part of God’s great work.
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, thanks be to God – and may all of God’s people say, AMEN!
* Because sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation, the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.
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