It’s been said that the first Christians remembered Jesus, not in death, but with food. When they gathered around the table to eat a meal, they not only thanked God for the bread from the earth but also the bread from heaven that came to nourish the world. In the early church every meal was sacred and holy because of stories like this one.
Even though Mark doesn’t say it, we assume the people who had gathered to see Jesus are hungry because the disciples seem concerned. When they mention this to Jesus they are told to “go and feed them.” I’m sure the group nervously chuckled as they rummaged through their pockets looking for what little, if anything, they had. “There isn’t much” they finally lamented.
So Jesus asks the twelve, “Well then, what do you got? How many loaves do you have?” It’s a quick count. Five. Not even close to what they need to satiate their own hunger, muchless five thousand men, plus their families.
Jesus sees their hungry eyes upon him and knew what the twelve were trying to convey. They had witnessed him turn giant vats of water into the most amazing wine they had ever tasted. They saw him raise a good friend from the dead. If anyone could make a meal fall from the sky, at this place and at that hour, it would be their teacher.
In fact, that’s why all those people where there in the first place, to see Jesus do something amazing. But Jesus didn’t come to do magic tricks. He came so people could see the glory of God, and to teach us to do the same.
This story opens our eyes to the power of God’s love, and it teaches us what it means to share that love with others. And it also reminds us of how God empowers you and me to take our ordinary lives and make something extraordinary.
At this church we affirm that God is love. And we believe Jesus is the perfect definition of what God’s love looks like. For example Mark said, “Jesus saw the people and had compassion for them.” He did not turn the crowd away, but took the time to talk with them and care for their needs. We might say he fed their souls.
God is love, and if Jesus is a representation of that love then that tells me there no need is too great or too small to bring before God who loves you enough to take the time to ensure your needs are met. So we pray, give us this our daily bread.
This is good because people are hungry these days. They’re hungry for love. They’re hungry for justice. They’re hungry for peace, and unity, and reconciliation. We may not hunger for food, but we all have a hankering for something greater than what we can give ourselves. Whether we know it or not, we all hunger for God.
You might have noticed in this story the people aren’t demanding to be fed. They didn’t come for actual bread, but came for the bread of life himself. “Whoever comes to me,” said Jesus, “will never be hungry again.” That was true then. It’s true today.
Because of great love for us, God has prepared the most exquisite banquet feast for all who wish to come and be fed. At God’s table, no one is turned away, and there’s more than enough to go around.
We affirm that God’s love, and that divine love is made manifest through Jesus, the Christ. Through him the power of God’s love is made known to the world. One of those ways Jesus does this is by sharing that power with those who follow him...including us!
For some great mystery to me, God has entrusted you and I with an awesome responsibility – to let God’s glory to shine through us upon the darkest of places. As it is written, “no one has seen God, but when we love one another, God is made visible through us.”
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Take a look at the story again and you’ll see that Jesus doesn’t feed the people. The disciples do it. God works through people like you and me. We are the body of Christ, the hands and feet and heart of Jesus through which God’s will is done.
Whether it’s making a sandwich for a hungry child at the border, or holding the hand of a grieving friend suffering a tragic loss, or praying with someone who lives alone on the street… Jesus calls us to be the bread of life – to feed those who hunger for God’s love and righteousness.
That’s right, you and I are like Jesus, called to be the bread of life. How does knowing that change the way you hear Jesus’ question: “How many loaves do you have?” In other words, how can you take what God has already given you and feed those who hunger for it?
You might believe you don’t have much to offer. That’s what the disciples thought. They saw what little resources they had and believed it was impossible to meet the needs of all those people. But Jesus gave them the imperative, “go and see.”
I invite you to do the same. Go and see, and you will discover God’s love is in you. Just as he did with the disciples, Jesus takes what you have and blesses it. That’s when the real miracle begins. Love multiplies and soon there is enough for everyone, and then some.
We affirm that if God’s love is in you, then you possess all that you need to share God’s banquet feast with others, and you do that through concrete acts of love, justice, compassion and mercy. You have enough love in you to forgive those who have hurt you or betrayed your trust, and to reconcile your difference with your enemies.
When you see and do what Jesus does, allowing God’s love in you to be made manifest, you become not just miracle worker… but the miracle itself, the one blessed and multiplied by Christ.
Whenever I read this story, my mind always goes back to the apartment complex where Kathleen and I first met. It was one of the greatest churches I’ve ever gone to. It was communal and life-giving. Filled not with statues of pious saints, but with breathing sinners from all walks of life who had great love for one another.
That love was best seen in the meals that we shared around a rickety old garden table Kathleen and few others had painted. On any given night we fed one another with a collection of stuff gathered from our refrigerators and cupboards. A jar of spaghetti sauce from Stacy, a head of lettuce from Kristine, carrots from Rochelle, bread from Kathleen’s kitchen, spaghetti from mine, and left over bottles of wine from pretty much everyone who had some. We all ate, laughed, cried, sang, confessed and hoped together. There at that table our hearts were full.
“When we all come together with what we have,” writes Shane Claiborne, “we all will be fed.” That was true in that apartment in Hollywood, just as it was in that field with Christ and the twelve. Jesus asked the disciples to go and see what they had to give. The twelve took an inventory of their hearts and faithfully began to share what little they had.
But I believe the real miracle happened when those who saw what the disciples did … looked within themselves and began to do the same. A little bread, some fish, cheese, olives, and perhaps some wine. Those who had, shared with those who had none. No one was left hungry, and there was plenty left over.
Maybe this is why the early church loved this story and told it all the time, especially when they ate. Not only does it speak to God’s abundant love for them, but it also gave them a concrete way to live and share that love with one another. In the days following Pentecost, it is written that “everyone shared what they had and no one was without.”
If you ask me, this is how God manifests real, life-changing miracles every day. In us and through us. When we share God’s love amazing stuff happens. Ordinary things become extraordinary.
So as you leave here today, remember that whatever you have to give, it is more than enough for God to bless and use for the good of the world. (Remember that when you think about tithing to our ministry.)
Jesus led by being a living example – by being the bread of life for all so no one goes hungry. Through him God feeds us, nourishes us, and empowers us to go and do the same…to continue his mission of sharing God’s glory in all that we do.
When we come together in unity and faithfulness, miracles happen. Love is shared. Lives are changed. Souls are fed. And no one goes without. But more importantly the glory of God’s love, peace, and justice prevails…in abundance.
Through us, and with us, God is setting the banquet table to feed all who are hungry. And thanks to Christ Jesus, the bread of life and the cup of salvation, no one will ever be turned away.
Bartlett, David L and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A, vol. 3 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011) pp. 308-313.
Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution. Living As An Ordinary Radical. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) pp. 154-167.
Held-Evens, Rachel. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church. (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015) pp. 125-133.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”