I am slowly, SLOWLY getting use to this 9:00am worship hour. It is definitely a change. More for Alycia who has to wrangle two kids and get them here by herself by 9. We will get used to it and week three was a little easier than the past two. I was talking with a friend of mine who wants to come here me preach but lives about an hour and half away. I told him that worship is at 9:00 and he requested we change it to 11 for the week he and his family were coming. I told him no.
I realize there are some pros and cons about this worship time slot. Some of the pros are the fact that I will never miss a Panther’s game. I’ll be home in plenty of time and heck, I could even make a game when we are done at 11:00. I will never have to wait in line at a restaurant after church. I still have plenty of time in the day to do whatever I want. One of the cons is I will have to figure out some different sermon illustrations than what I could use if we worshiped at 11:00.
For example, how many of you are hungry? If this was 11:30 instead of 9:30 I be the number would be almost doubled. Plus, there are some awesome snacks down in the fellowship hall as a nice buffer between breakfast and lunch. Hunger is a fickle thing. It is something we all experience at one time or another. We all know what hunger is because we all have had it. But there are people in this world who know real hunger because they haven’t eaten in days. The backpack ministry we donate too here is great because there are kids in our community that will go home on Friday and not have a good meal until they come back to school on Monday. But we all get hungry. It is cycle of life. We use up all the nutrition in our last meal and our bodies start to remind us that we need to eat. We need to put some fuel into our stomachs.
We all have different ways we react to that feeling. For me, when I am hungry I start to get irritable. My head might start to ache a little and my fuse gets really short. But after I have put some food in my belly, I’m better. I wonder what the crowd was acting like that had come to see Jesus. They had seen the miraculous signs that Jesus had done with the sick and they wanted to know more about him. They flocked to him because of they started to learn something about this guy named Jesus and what he could do. They wanted to know more. So they came in huge numbers. We come here today hungry for Jesus too. We hunger for that connection, that grace, that love, that forgiveness that only Jesus can offer. Are you hungry this morning?
There are four gospels in our Bible, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels. They seem to share similar sources and although they take different perspectives they follow each other in their story telling. John seems to stand out on his own and looks at the story of Jesus a little differently. You can come out from reading these four gospels with the same message but the story is told differently in each. One difference is found in the telling of this story. In the synoptic gospels the disciples look to Jesus and ask how they are going to feed the 5000 people sitting there. Here in John’s gospel Jesus asks the disciples, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” John tells us that Jesus asked this question to test the disciples and he already knew what he was going to do.
In John’s gospel there is no doubt that Jesus is divine. Jesus is God’s Son and John does everything in his power to demonstrate that. In other gospels you can see a more human side of Jesus, but not in John. In this story we see that Jesus is aware of the needs of the people and knows how to deal with them. But instead of doing it himself he wants to involve the disciples. He looks at Philip and poses the question, “Where are we going to buy enough food to feed these people?” Philip opens the calculator app on his smart phone and does some quick math. “Roughly five thousand people give or take. Multiply that about $5 per extra value meal at the Kosher Deli and you get $25,000. Jesus, you will need about half a year’s salary to buy enough food to feed all of these people! And that is just a value meal, which will not fill everyone up!”
Then Andrew comes up and says “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?” That is all Jesus needs. He found his gap and he is ready to burst through. I have more in common with Philip then I care to admit. As a planner I like to calculate everything. Alycia makes fun of me because she will ask me question and if it is number related, out comes the calculator and I find out the answer. Alycia is rolling her eyes the whole time. I like the easy answers and sure things. I try to think about every option and what is the most feasible. I love to find what is the most reasonable way to handle a situation. I don’t like to fail, although I have a lot, and so if things aren’t going to go well, then I may not think about doing it. Yet Jesus isn’t interested in the safe answer or the sure thing. Jesus could care less about what is reasonable.
So where does that leave us this morning? I love preaching this story because of what it represents. This demonstrates for us the idea of abundance. When God gives he gives abundantly. Jesus say in John’s 10th chapter, “I have come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.” Jesus brings to us more than we can ever imagine. What he offers is more than we actually need.
When we think of abundance what is the first thing that comes to mind? The amount of French fries you get at Five Guys? The amount of cars on 74? The amount of political ads on TV now, no wait that will become worse as we get towards November. When we think of abundance we also think of stuff. Those people on Hoarders have an abundance of ‘stuff’. How many cats do you have to own until you have an abundance of cats? This story is really all about God’s abundance.
After Jesus receives the five loaves and two fish from the youth what does he do? Notice it wasn’t an adult that stood up and said, “here Jesus can you use this?” No it was a youth. The adults were probably hoarding all their snacks to make sure they had enough for themselves. That would be the reasonable thing to do right? Jesus is holding the five loaves and two fish and he tells the disciples “Have the people sit down.” The verse goes on to say, “There was plenty of grass there.” The first sign of abundance was the grass. There was enough room in this field for everyone to have a seat. How much grass has to be available for 5000 people to sit down on? I don’t know if you could fit 5000 people on our lawn out there? We probably have just under 100 people here this morning and so think about 50 times more people like us. That is a lot of space yet there was enough room.
I think this shows that Jesus has enough room for all of us. There is enough space in his heart, in his grace, for all of us to be there. I know there are people who feel they can’t come to church because they won’t be accepted or they say “the church doesn’t want people like me.” Yet in Jesus’ eyes and at this spontaneous meal he makes sure everyone has a place to sit down.
All 5000 people sit down and then Jesus gives thanks for the bread and fish. Then he passes it out to everyone. I love what it says next, “each getting as much as they wanted.” Jesus didn’t just pass out enough to fulfill everyone’s needs. No everyone got what they wanted. One fish sandwich may be enough for some, but some may have wanted a second. Jesus’ didn’t hold back, he gave them what they wanted. All 5000 people ate until they were full on those five loaves and two fish. They didn’t get just enough to take away their hunger headaches but they ate until their bellies hurt, until they had ‘plenty’ to eat. Not just enough but plenty.
You know what plenty feels like don’t you? You have had plenty to eat when you can’t suck in your belly any more. You try but for some reason that 2 pound burrito you ate is sticking out and over your belt. Plenty is that third plate of Thanksgiving that you probably shouldn’t have had. But there is the abundance again. Jesus doesn’t give us what we need but offers us even more. His love and his grace is more than we can ever desire or want. In Psalm 23 it states, “my cup runneth over.” Everyone in that crowd that day felt taken care of, loved, and full.
Then after everyone was full the disciples picked up 12 baskets of leftovers. 12 baskets! It isn’t just a couple of pieces of bread but it was tons more than what was originally offered. Even then there was an abundance of leftovers. Can you imagine if you were the youth who offered up the 5 loaves and two fish and then after dinner the disciples walked back up to you with the12 baskets to take home? How would you explain that to your parents. “Yeah, mom, I know you sent me out on my trip to hear that Jesus guy with two fish and five loaves of bread. I decided to give it to him and then he let me bring all these baskets back home! NO I didn’t steal them, it was a miracle and Jesus made my bread and fish multiply to feed everyone there and these are the leftovers!”
There are some people who like to claim that what really happened was that when they saw that the youth had given up his food, they dove into their own pockets and shared what they had brought. I can see how this might happen. If you get enough mom’s together you could probably cook a holiday feast with the amount of goldfish crackers, gummies, and other snacks they have in their purses. But what this does is really take away from the miracle here. That idea says that if we shame people enough then miracles can happen, but I don’t see that here. I see a miracle.
There is a story about a man who was caught in a flood. As the flood waters were rising, a man was on the stoop of his house and another man in a row boat came by. The man in the row boat told the man on the stoop to get in and he'd save him. The man on the stoop said, no, he had faith in God and would wait for God to save him. The flood waters kept rising and the man had to go to the second floor of his house. A man in a motor boat came by and told the man in the house to get in because he had come to rescue him. The man in the house said no thank you. He had perfect faith in God and would wait for God to save him. The flood waters kept rising. Pretty soon they were up to the man's roof and he got out on the roof. A helicopter then came by, lowered a rope and the pilot shouted down in the man in the house to climb up the rope because the helicopter had come to rescue him. The man in the house wouldn't get in. He told the pilot that he had faith in God and would wait for God to rescue him. The flood waters kept rising and the man in the house drowned. When he got to heaven, he asked God where he went wrong. He told God that he had perfect faith in God, but God had let him drown. "What more do you want from me?" asked God. "I sent you two boats and a helicopter."
How many times are we the man waiting as the flood rises? How many times do we say, God will save me as we ask the boat to leave? I know when I am struggling with faith or for answers to come for God I tend to get it in my head the way it supposed to be and I look for that instead of being open for God to work in God’s own way. I tend to look for the most reasonable way to do something but then later I realize I may have denied God the ability to work and provide a miracle because I was too caught up in the fear of failure. When we do this it seems that we are telling God we know better. In one of the synoptic gospels during this story the disciples beg Jesus to let the people go but instead he lets them stay and eat. The people going home would be reasonable but then a miracle could not happen.
Are you hungry? Did you come here today hoping to be fed by the Spirit? Well welcome, there is plenty of room on the grass. Come and have a seat. Are we willing to let God work through you? Are you willing to give God our five loaves and two fish and then get out of God’s way? Give him what you have because he can turn it into enough to feed thousands. Are you willing to eat plenty have so many leftovers that you have to share them with those you know are hungry? Are you going to leave this place today so filled with grace that you flock to the next time we come together and you bring others with you because you have been fed by Christ?
My prayer for Indian Trail UMC is that we are hungry and we trust in God to feed us. Because we if are willing to hand over our five loaves and two fish, if we are willing to eat plenty of what is offered, then I promise we will see a miracle of abundance.
And all God’s people said…Amen.