Rev. Mark M. Norman Vickers
November 8, 2015
Luke 9:10–17 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”13 He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14 (About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
My friends, we have before us again, the wonderful story of the feeding of the 5,000! As I am sure was mentioned last week that this wonderful miracle story appears in all four of our Gospels. With last week’s text from John, it is only there we have the appearance of the young boy carrying the elements that are the focal point of the miracle story, or is it? We have in Luke this morning the same elements appearing with the absence of the young boy. If one is a serious student of biblical formation and biblical texts one must make the astute assumption that this is a very, very, important text, a very important story in the life of Jesus.
Yet it is interesting that when a story, miracle or not, appears in more than one of the gospels, we tend to take it to mean the same thing in each of the gospels. I want to take issue with that assumption especially when a miracle story appears four times, something must be at the epicenter of the story.
We spend a great deal of time studying, arguing, attempting to figure out—how in the world did they feed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish? I want to suggest to us that the real element of the miracle story is not just in the “how” of the feeding, but in the impact of the feeding.
“Now preacher,” you ask, “How coy of you to say that it is the ‘impact’ of this story that makes a difference rather than the nature of ‘how’ we feed the five thousand!” The preacher may say in response, “People, it is exactly the same, the ‘how’ equals ‘impact.’” The true essence of this miracle story is that five thousand were fed and that is quite an impact statement. Therefore, our miracle story not only takes on the nature of a miraculous feeding and story, but it takes on the true nature of the Kingdom as we see it in stewardship and action.
I was thinking about this story the other day. What if nobody had been fed? What do you do with five thousand hungry people? If you are Jesus, you meet their need. You meet them where they are. You meet them where their hunger is and where they need to be fed. If you are a Christian and claim to be Christ-like, then we do the same! We meet them where they are and where their needs are. That my friends is the impact of Christ’s miracle and the story of the feeding of the five thousand.
So what do we do with this story? Or, better yet, maybe we should look at what we have already done with this miracle story. How have we acted in the midst of this story? How shocked have we become when we realize that we are the ones in the midst of the five thousand and have to do something because God in Jesus Christ requires us to do something? You know, if we look at this story with a quick glance, I would like to be one of the ones who was being fed, not the one doing the feeding. Why? Because when we look at where the feeding comes from, that is the miracle! I’d much rather be hungry than try and feed someone. Think about that for a moment. Would you rather be hungry or feed someone? If we take this story seriously then we have to become the ones who do the work. We have to be the ones who are willing to feed. We have to be the ones who are players in this miracle story. We have to be the ones who make the “impact” on the world!
Working seriously with this text, we have to move forward to understand that the 5,000 stand for so much more today. 5,000 would have been a “drop in the bucket” for what we are called to do today. We look at our impact in the world and it is still small in comparison but moved to do what Jesus calls us to do, we can, will, and do big things!
When I look at this week’s emphasis on stewardship, especially here at Christ Church and at St. Timothy’s, we need to understand that we are doing great things! We are doing what Jesus wants us to do, but we can still do more. In my years of ministry I am convinced that in order to “do” more in the area of stewardship we have to be able to see where we have been. We here at Christ Church have set the bar high! We have been the people who make and move and shake beyond what is called for in the sense of giving to God in Jesus.
This past summer, I had the privilege to watch four of the youth from St. Timothy’s bond, build, and foster relationships with more than 120 youth from Christ Church. I had the “quick” opportunity to visit with all of them in SC and, again, the work that was being done was phenomenal. It was work that you, my friends had enabled to be done by giving more $46,000 dollars to that worthwhile mission experience that will form those youth for life and impact, yes, IMPACT the lives of those in Hollywood, South Carolina, for the remainder of their lives. Last week, we celebrated the life of the Saints that had gone on before us here at CUMC and STUMC! We have seen how vibrant and essential these lives and the lives of others have been because we have given more than $23,000 in memorials, educational memorials, and music memorials in memory of these wonderful people who have helped shape and form our lives. We have made over 4,000 sandwiches for Greensboro Urban Ministries, collected more than 3,700 pounds of canned food between CUMC and STUMC!. And we have donated more than 4,000 pounds of food on First Food Sunday!!
Friends, you have made an impact! You have made a difference in the kingdom!
I have a friend who has constantly worked with me on my cycling skills, helping me with my pedaling, my cadence, my posture, and he never gives up on me. Yet in the midst of all that he does for me, he reminds me that I can always get better. That I can always improve.
As I look closely at our feeding miracle story this morning, I keep hearing Jesus tell me, “I can do better.” I may have done well, but I can do better because of the gifts that God has given me.
This summer I had the awesome, God-given opportunity to visit the Tenderloin District, the Famous District 6 in San Fransisco. The District where 64 percent of the population is homeless, and 57 percent of San Fransisco’s homeless are in District 6. Nestled in District 6 is the famed Glide United Methodist Church, a church that stretches two city blocks, empowers more than 600 volunteers, and serves 1,500 meals to the homeless a day. That happens everyday! When I turned the corner on Market and Ellis Street and saw more homeless people, addicts, and sick people than I had ever seen in my life being tended to by volunteers, fed by people of all nations, races, genders, sexual orientations, I knew Jesus had fed the 5,000! I knew this was a genuine miracle and God through Jesus has called us, where we are, here in Greensboro, North Carolina, to be the miracle workers of making an impact on the lives of those who have no impact.
We have covered a tremendous amount of information and ideas concerning this miracle of the impact. But I am convinced, that it is our miracle, through the love and compassion of Christ that allows us to give as we do and empowers us to give even more in the days and weeks ahead.
Brothers and sisters, we are empowered to make an impact because we are Children of God! Everyday this week, I have held the words of a dear theologian and friend in my mind, I believe it defines stewardship in the ultimate way, he reminds us, “God doesn’t call us because we are qualified, but because we are able.”
My friends, we are able to make an impact in the year to come! Let us do it in the name of the Lord.
AMEN & AMEN.