5 Loaves and 2 Fish
Our God is a God of miracles, and nothing is impossible with Him! He can meet every need that arises. Feeding five thousand with a couple of fish and chips was a small thing for Jesus. How did He do it? It was a MacMiracle! He can meet our needs today and is working miracles today in the church that trusts in Him!
One of the things that is enjoyable about reading the Gospel stories about Jesus is that each of them tells the story in a different way. For example, only Matthew and Luke tell about Jesus’ birth. Only John compares the coming of Jesus to the Word of God taking on a human form. The Sermon on the Mount is unique to Matthew and only Luke tells the wonderful stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.
But all four of the Gospel writers include this story of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the multitude with a small amount of bread and fish. The presence of this story in all the Gospels is a clear indication that this was an important event for those first believers, capturing as it does Jesus’ concern for both the material and the spiritual needs of people. When they were sick, Jesus healed them, when they were sad, he encouraged them, and when they were hungry, he fed them. They found their fulfilment in Jesus, whom they called the Lord.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand is also a special story because it recalls the many times in the past when God acted to feed his people. We remember when God provided manna in the wilderness to feed the Children of Israel during the Exodus. In Second Kings there is a story of the prophet Elisha feeding a hundred hungry men with twenty barley loaves. And we all remember the story of how God fed Elijah in the wilderness when he had fled from the wrath of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel.
And one of the reasons why this particular story became so important for the Early Christians is that it reminded them of the miraculous meal they celebrated regularly when they gathered for the breaking of the Bread. Could you not hear the Eucharistic implications in Matthew’s account: he took the bread … he blessed … he broke it and gave it to them. Two thousand years later we still gather in Christian community in the same hope of experiencing Jesus Christ in our lives through the breaking of the bread.
And it is also a message of stewardship.
There simply wasn’t enough food to food to feed the crowd. What there was wasn’t even a drop in the bucket. But Jesus took what was there, he blessed and broke it and had it distributed and all ate and were full. And in addition there were 12 baskets of bread and fish left over.
This is a stewardship message because it speaks directly to us about the resources we have. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are if you are a Christian. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor this congregation is. What does matter? What really matters is what we do with what we have been given to oversee and use.
No matter how much we have, our gifts, talents and our money are not enough to do the work that we are called to do in the name of Jesus Christ. Not only is what we have to offer not enough; it’s barely a drop in the bucket! If we only look at what we have, if we only look at our resources from a purely human point of view, our mission suffers because we will base our judgements on how little we have rather than how much our Lord can bless and multiply. When we look only at what we have then we are not exercising our faith; we are doing the opposite! We are exercising our lack of faith when we look only at what we have and fearfully use it just to preserve our existence. And once we use what we have just to preserve our existence, then we are no longer functioning as part of the Church of Jesus Christ. What we are expressing is a decided lack of trust in Jesus Christ that He will take what we have, bless it and use it for his needs.
So, what can we do to ensure we exercise our faith?
Firstly, we should assess what we have.
The disciples assessed what they had and came up with a disheartening response: There isn’t enough – we can’t feed all of these people – we don’t have the resources.
Today in the church our response might sound something like this:
“The Mission Committee’s budget can’t even begin to cover that” Or
“There’s not enough money in the entire church budget to cover that”
“A church 6 times our size couldn’t even undertake such a project”
“Even if we could pay for it, the bus will only hold so many and is in need of a tune-up anyway”
“We will never get enough volunteers to help and besides all the volunteers we do have are already working on the up and coming Harvest festival”
“We don’t have a logistics expert which is what it would take because some people will want white bread, others whole wheat and some gluten-free”
“We can’t afford to re-landscape after all those people sit on and trample the new grass we just put in”
How often as a church do we look at our resources: money, members, volunteers, property and say “Not enough”? How often do we look in the mirror and say “Not enough – I don’t know enough about the bible to teach Sunday Schools; I don’t have enough time to volunteer for that committee; I’m not smart enough, confident enough, rich enough, spiritual enough, you name it, to do whatever it is I am being called upon to do”.
The good news is that whatever we have, when offered in faith, is enough. God can do a lot with a little.
So, having assessed what we have the next step is to offer it to God and when we do this it is not only enough, it is more than enough because in His hands what we give is multiplied. We think what we have is but a drop in the bucket but when we offer it in faith, it becomes a bucket running over.
In 1976 a young economics lecturer Muhammad Yunus, loaned 27 dollars to a group of desperately poor craftspeople in a Bangladeshi village. His idea was to give the poor access to capital since traditional banks were not interested on loaning tiny amounts and village money lenders charged extortionate rates. He went on to set up the Grameen Bank which has lifted millions of people out of poverty by making very small loans for income generating businesses to poor people who have no collateral. Ninety-eight percent of the borrowers are women who borrow an average of $250. Even amid these trying economic times the repayment rate is 99 percent. Grameen, Yunus claims, is a message of hope, a program for putting homelessness and destitution in a museum so that one day our children will visit it and ask how we could have allowed such a terrible thing to go on for so long. Such is his vision and with God’s blessing multiplying his efforts he has made a huge difference to the lives of those he has helped. In 2006, his work was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1928, Agnes Bojaxhiu (boh-yah-joo), an 18 year old Yugoslavian girl, left home to become a missionary with the Sisters of Loreto. She went to Ireland to learn English and then to India where she was a teacher. Although she enjoyed teaching she was increasingly disturbed by the poverty surrounding her in Calcutta. A famine in 1943 brought misery and death to the city and the outbreak of Hindu-Muslim violence in 1946 plunged the city into despair and horror. She left the relative comfort of her order as she felt called to minister to the poorest of the poor while living among them as one of them. In time, with only 13 others, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Catholic order which now has over 4000 women in it. These nuns run orphanages, AIDS hospices and charity centres world-wide, caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless, victims of floods, epidemics and famines. We know this woman as Mother Teresa who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
These are a few things she said:
We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
Be faithful in small things for it is in them that your strength lies.
There are no great things, only small things done with great love.
These are 2 examples of people who offered their gifts which God than multiplied in amazing ways.
But we are not geniuses and saints; we are just ordinary people with ordinary gifts. So what about us?
Many years ago there was a woman who lived in a small town in France. Trained as a nurse, she devoted her life to caring for the sick and needy. After many years of kind and selfless service to the village’s families, the woman died. She had no family of her own, so the townsfolk planned a special funeral for her, a fitting tribute to the woman to whom so many owed their lives. The parish priest however, pointed out that, because she was a Protestant, she could not be buried in the town’s Catholic cemetery. The villagers protested but the priest held firm. It was not easy for the priest either, because he too had been cared for by the woman during a serious illness. But the canons of the church were very clear; she would have to be buried outside the fence of the cemetery. The day of the funeral arrived and the whole village accompanied the woman’s coffin to the cemetery where she was buried — outside the fence. But that night, a group of villagers armed with shovels sneaked into the cemetery. They then quietly set to work — moving the fence.
Five loaves and 2 fish may not seem like much. 27 dollars loaned by a young economist may not seem like much. A Catholic nun working in the slums of Calcutta may not seem like much. A nurse’s devotion to her villagers may not seem like much.
But God can translate what may not seem like much into something much greater. God is in the business of doing a lot with a little. Our resources, both individual and collective – our talents, our time, our ideas, our money – may look puny to us but when we take whatever we have and offer it to God, it is enough. In God’s hands it is more than enough.
Let us pray.
Lord of all,
Teach us to offer what we can, where we can, when we can,
Conscious that, with your blessing,
When we offer all we can, it will be enough.