(Mark 6: 30-44)
Will you join your hearts with mine in prayer, gracious and loving God, move your spirit among us, open our ears and our hearts to listen for your words to us. God, I ask that your spirit work through these words to deliver a message of good news. Lord, let your spirit abound in this place so that we may come to know you even a little more. And may the words of my mouth and the mediations of all our hearts be pleasing to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Have you ever come home exhausted? Have you ever come home, eyes secured on the couch, ready to prop your legs up on the ottoman, let you head back and let out a big “the day is over” sigh?” Probably, most of us probably have. And most of us have probably been met with the moment the phone rings, or the moment kids come rushing in and someone wants something from you. Someone wants you to get off that couch you have had your hopes set on all day, someone wants you to take your feet off the ottoman, someone wants you to pick your head up and they want something from you. Maybe they want a conversation, or maybe they want a ride, or maybe they want you to make dinner.
That’s the disciples here. The disciples return from their mission to get some time with Jesus. They have returned to go for a bit of rest, a little “disciple R&R” in the midst of the great mission which Jesus has sent them on. They gather together, ready to sink into the couch, put their feet up on the ottoman and chill. And then someone wants them to make dinner—well, in this case, a lot of people want them to make dinner. Jesus says to them “you give them something to eat.” To which you can almost hear their whiny voices saying, “seriously, how?” “seriously, how are we going to feed these people?” We have nothing left to give, we are exhausted, we are tired, we have no money. We have nothing to give them.
They don’t see how this crowd can ever be fed. They don’t see a solution to this problem. So, to their credit, their very reasonable voices say to Jesus, “send them away so they can eat.” Their very reasonable voices tell them to let the people leave so that they might be able to find something to eat on the way home. But Jesus, as Jesus has a funny way of doing, has a different plan.
You and I, we are reasonable people for the most part aren’t we? I like to think of myself as a reasonable person. I’m sure you like to think of yourself as a reasonable person. A person with somewhat status quo, not totally earth shatteringly controversial thoughts on life, a rational person who is easy to talk to, not totally ‘out there,’ a reasonable person who thinks things through logically, who knows what makes sense and what simply makes no sense. Yea, I like to think of myself as a reasonable person. And as a reasonable person, I must admit sometimes I look for the “reasonable” answer to Jesus’ miracles. The rational way in which Jesus took the humble offerings of the disciples– 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and fed a haggard, hungry crowd of thousands.
It has often been suggested that the feeding of the 5,000 was not so much a miraculous event but a special moment in that all the people so moved by the teachings of Jesus which they had just heard, so affected by all that they had learned that day, opened up their lunches and shared. Rather than hiding away and keeping their food, they shared, they shared their lunchbox with their neighbor and in the sharing—the multitudes were fed. This sits well with the rational reasonable human that I am, it sits well with me to be able to explain this, to make sense of this odd desert feast. Certainly, there is something wonderful about this idea, something divinely beautiful about God’s people opening up to one another and sharing. Don’t get me wrong, this is a beautiful idea. But when it comes to Jesus, there is more, when is comes to Jesus, there is always more.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, the Denver based preacher and pastor of the church “A House for All Sinners and Saints” wrote of the feeding of the 5,000 in a recent sermon saying “Because miracles, and not lessons about sharing, miracles are what we really need. So as crazy as it is – I believe in miracles – not because I think I’m supposed to but because I need to. I need to believe that God does what we cannot do.”
I think she has got it right, I really do. I need a miracle. We need a miracle–to know that when Jesus looked up to God for divine blessing, he got it, that when he blessed those 5 meager loaves of bread and 2 small fish and broke it, he broke it into 5,000 abundant pieces. 5,000 pieces that not just fed but filled the crowd that gathered around him. I believe this because I believe that Jesus can make something out of nothing.
In college, I ran out of gas a lot, I mean, a lot. I can count five times without having to think too hard on it.
The first, of many, times I ran out of gas, I had just bought my 1999 Oldsmobile Bravada, a big red beast of a car. I bought it because it had heated leather seats. The car got about 13 miles to the gallon which is probably part of the reason I had such a hard time keeping the tank filled. I was working at a summer camp in a small town in Northern Michigan. One Sunday a friend and I drove into town before church and as we drove the three miles into town, I felt the speed of my car slowing, 65 to 60, 55, out of gas, again.
As we started walking down the road to the gas station a mile down the road, a pick up truck slowed to a halt. Having seen that big red Bravada a quarter mile back, they knew we were broken down, they popped their heads out the window and asked if we needed a ride into town.
I’m not usually one to hop in the trucks of people I don’t know but I had a friend with me, the gas station was still two miles away, I was still thinking about that two mile walk with a gasoline can in my hand, and something else let me hop into the bed of that couples car. We rode down those two miles, our arms resting on the tire ledge, we hopped out of the car, thanked God that we made it to the gas station safely and thanked the couple for their kindness. As we did this, the man went inside, bought a canister and filled it up with gasoline, he looked at us and asked if we were ready to head back to the car. We were, we hopped back into the bed of that kind man’s truck and headed toward the old Bravada.
I hopped off the bed of that truck, grabbed the gas can and headed to filling the tank up. The man said he would wait to be sure our car started back up again. While we were waiting, he asked what our matching t-shirts were, were we from the camp up the road? We were and we were running late for the Sunday morning service in the outdoor chapel.
He told us how he walked out of church 20 years ago and hasn’t walked back into a church since. He was mad at the church, he was really mad. We listened, we talked about church, we invited him to service at 11, just in case, and we thanked him for his kindness, we turned the engine on and drove back to camp, and the kind man drove back to town.
A week later, sitting in that outdoor chapel, twenty minutes into the service, I felt an elbow to my side, prodding at me, I look up, meet my friend’s eyes as he nods his head to the entrance of the chapel, to that same kind man walking into that outdoor chapel. The next Sunday, there he was, a little closer to 11a, the next Sunday and the Sunday after that for the rest of the summer and for the ten years since that happened and then that kind man wrote our sweet little summer camp into his will.
It wasn’t my short conversation about the church that brought that man to church that Sunday, it wasn’t my friend’s interesting stories about life at church camp. Sure, they helped. But, no it was Jesus taking this ordinary moment, this small insignificant moment, and making it something, making it a holy and extraordinary moment.
Remember earlier when I described that evening you had your eyes set on relaxing on the couch? And someone or something comes in and wants, or needs something from you? Someone wants you to make dinner maybe? Or help them through a problem? And the easy answer here is to take care of it quickly, maybe microwave last night’s leftovers for dinner, or sleepily talk through a problem with someone. Giving just enough, just enough to make the problem go away.
In the gospel story, that would be the easy answer—feed the people, give them something to eat and make. Them. Go. Away. That would indeed be the easy answer. But like I’ve said a few times this sermon—with Jesus, there is always more. So Jesus does not simply feed the people, he does not just give them something to eat, he does not just fill their stomachs, he does not just give them dinner and send them on their way. No, with Jesus, Jesus feeds them and then there is something leftover, Jesus feeds them and there are 12 baskets of extra food, after “all were fed.”
And even still, even at this, this is not the end, there is more—because, with Jesus, there is always more. And so it is, that Jesus feeds them, Jesus feeds them and has leftovers. And Jesus feeds them not only with food but Jesus feeds their needs, meets their needs, fills them with compassion. Jesus fills them full of teaching, so they can overflow with knowledge of the Lord, Jesus fills them with his compassion so that they overflow with love, Jesus fills them with heavenly bread, so they might overflow with peace.
I can think of no better way to describe this than to consider the feast we are about to receive. In a few moments, Heather and I will walk behind this table and we will do like Jesus did, look to God for divine blessing on this bread and on this cup and break it and we will give it to the people.
But, let’s pause for just a moment to consider how that feast got there, I’ll tell you it did not in fact just appear, and I know that because yesterday afternoon as I left church, I came to grab my notebook in the sanctuary and I saw the feast being prepared. I saw two women carrying the silver dishes out dish by dish, and pouring the wine into the tiny little cups, and cutting the bread into pieces. I know that this feast did not just appear but it was brought here by two women who gave their afternoon to prepare it. Now, that alone is pretty special. It is pretty amazing that they take the time from their Saturday afternoons to set the table for Sunday morning. That they delicately carry the dishes out to the table, setting each plate in its right place. That is quite wonderful.
But friends, with Jesus there is always more. This feast that we are about to partake of was indeed prepared by two faithful and devoted women, who gave earnestly and gave wholly of their time. But with Jesus, this table will become more than a simple feast lovingly prepared. With Jesus, this feast becomes something that feeds us, something that makes us whole, something that sees our needs and meets them, something that heals our brokenness, something that reminds us of the grace of God, something that brings us peace.
The good news is this—Jesus not simply does miracles, but Jesus does abundant miracles, miracles that surpass our wants or desires and rather meet our great, deep, profound needs. When Jesus broke the bread and broke it into those miraculous 5,000 pieces, he did it not simply to fix the problem, and not simply to prove that he could. No, he did it because he knew what the people needed. He knew that the crowd gathered together that day to be fed, to be fed with compassion, to be fed with love, to be fed with deep knowledge. He broke that bread into thousands of bountiful pieces so that his people may be comforted, may be put at peace in the presence of their savior.
Jesus is constantly doing more, doing more than being kind to the crowd but rather he has compassion on them, he does more than give them something to eat but rather gives them living bread, he does more than have pity on them but rather teaches them. Take heart in this, Jesus is always doing more.