Mark 6: 30-44
So the way Mark tells it, the disciples had been out and about for awhile, doing the discipling thing; and now they’re reporting back to Jesus to tell him all they’d done. And as Jesus sees them and listens to them he notices something: his disciples have been working hard. Perhaps too hard. They look tired, worn out. Mark tells us: there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.
We know what that’s like, don’t we? Those days when our day is so busy, so crammed full of meetings and classes and soccer practices and appointments that, before we know it, it’s 6 in the evening and we haven’t eaten a bite since breakfast. Our busy-ness has literally made our body forget to sustain itself.
I guess I find it kinda comforting that people so close to Jesus would do the same stuff we do – cram our schedules full, go from one appointment to the next, cross 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. Because there was constant coming and going. Because they didn’t have time to eat.
We know what that’s like, don’t we?
Isn’t it interesting how, in our busiest moments when we are so laser-focused on whatever is demanding our attention at that moment, isn’t it interesting how we often fail to see what’s right in front of us, what truly deserves our attention?
For those disciples, what they had failed to see were the people. Hurting and hungry. Seeking and searching. Because word was getting out that Jesus was there. So in that moment, when the disciples were removed from their regular routines and schedules, they could not help but see the people, the need within each one of them.
And I love this part of the story. It’s like a light bulb goes on inside their heads, all at once. It jolts them – like having your name called out in this really high-pitched voice, the way Caroline Reid did at TheoPizza, the pizza night Grace and I had with the senior highs back in August. STEEEEEEVE! she said. Just like that. It got my attention!
It’s like each one of those disciples heard their name called out in a high-pitched voice when they realize: Omigosh, the people! There are so many of them. They’re out here, and they’re hungry. They haven’t eaten all day. And then it hits them: They haven’t eaten all day! You know that’s not good, right, Jesus? It’s getting late, really late. It’ll be dark soon. That’s not good.
So what do the disciples suggest to address this problem? They tell Jesus to send them away. Send the people home to get their own food. It’s not the disciples’ problem, after all. Not theirs.
We know what that’s like, don’t we? Those moments of clarity when the problem right in front of us comes to light. That “a-ha!” moment – that STEEEEEEVE! – and so we’re compelled to address it…..…..by placing it squarely in the lap of someone else. In Jesus’ lap, nonetheless. It’s Jesus’ job to fix – not mine. It’s the pastor’s job to make right – not me. I think that falls under someone else’s ministry team – not ours. I think so-and-so should have that conversation – not US. Some future generation will need to deal with this mess. But not this one. It’s a problem. But it’s 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, you do it. You get them some food. You fix their supper.
You know why I love Jesus’ response here? I love it first of all because he communicates quite clearly that the task of ministering to and with God’s people is not something that automatically defaults to the son of God, just 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, it’s going to be us doing the feeding.
Which leads to the second 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. And why? 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 healing 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. Right now.
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’s the miracle of Jesus opening their eyes to see something they were not able to see on their own. The call of ministry to act now.
A few Sundays ago, your College of Elders – those who’ve served as an elder in this church or any Presbyterian church – your College of Elders met for a dinner and program in our Fellowship Hall. Grace, our featured speaker, shared some of her hopes and dreams for a new missional identity at Trinity. And I talked about the vision our session has created for the coming year, a vision you hopefully learned about this past week in the Stewardship packets that were sent out in the mail.
The theme for Stewardship this October is COMMIT – identifying what matters to us, what’s important to us, and then demonstrating how important those things are by pledging our time, our talent and our treasure to see them come to fruition. Your session, with the guidance of the Stewardship Ministry Team, is asking each of us to consider our commitment to three things in particular for 2016. They are:
- Commit To Fearless Generosity
- Commit to Growing Spiritually
- Commit to a “Now” Vision
It’s that last one I want to unpack a bit this morning, because the term “now vision” isn’t one we hear a lot. Typically when we hear the word “vision,” we think of something long-term; at least a year or so down the road, if not more. Something to have in our periphery, but not anything that needs immediate action.
That, my friends, is not the kind of vision our session has created. Our session created a vision we feel we’re being called to live into right now. It cannot wait until some later date, some other time down the road. Truth is, we’ve been on that road for quite a while already! So the time is now, right now. And each of us are being called by God to help make that vision happen.
Now we can do like those disciples did – try to fluff it off on someone else, hoping it’ll get taken care of eventually. But I would suggest to you that the church – ours and the one universal – the church has been doing that for far too long, sticking our collective heads in the sand and ignoring the need around us and the vision we are called to engage in the present. So I would humbly suggest to you this morning that Jesus is calling us, in this passage, to refocus, to see the need right in front of us, and to do something about it now. Not some time down the road, but right now.
Now is the time for our church to discover its missional identity – more than simply supporting our time-honored outreach initiatives; but doing something that involves creating a new thing, something uniquely Trinity, that furthers the kingdom of God in our neighborhood, in our community and city, and beyond.
Now is the time to bring on board a new staff position, a part-time Director of Christian Formation and Youth, to support our wonderful laypeople who are already doing amazing things in Sunday school, children’s ministry, Sunday night youth group; while also equipping us to do new, innovative ministries that are essential if our church is going to go where God needs it to go.
Now is the time to join me in doing something I’m inviting the entire congregation to do – to read the Bible in a year, beginning January 1st and concluding New Years Eve 2016. I’m researching different reading programs, trying to find ways for folks to engage it through a reading list, a daily email, even a smartphone app. So that we as a church family can journey over twelve months deep into the story of our faith that binds us together.
These things, and others you will find in our Stewardship brochure, make up this “Now” Vision. A vision I am convinced Jesus is calling us to in the new year.
Which takes us back to our scripture. We know how the story ends, of course. Five loaves and two fish. Thousands upon thousands of fed. Their hunger satisfied, their souls filled.
In just a little bit, my friends, we will be fed from this table, bread and cup. We will be fed because we are a hungry people, even if our stomachs are full. We are hungry because we need God to move mightily in our lives. So we can be witnesses of God’s grace to the world, and feed the hungry ourselves.
That is what it means to be church. And if there’s anything the world needs from us right now, it’s that. Being who God wants us to be. Being the church. The ministry of Now!
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 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.