Summary: BRIEF sermon (homily) given to a group of sailors recently graduated from boot camp which could be modified to recent graduates from High School or a retreat or confirmation.
Jesus Feeds the 5000
5000 people, all together in a tight space, all sweaty, and hungry, and tired.
Kind of sounds like life on an aircraft carrier.
No matter how long we have been in the service, be it 5 weeks or 5 years, we have already experienced crowds of people. Lines in the Galley, Ranks for Inspection, classrooms, sickcall, command PT.
Memories of crowded times like these are often accompanied by memories of frustration and anger. It’s too hot, Everyone is too tired, What if we miss chow, I’ve got to get back soon, I’ve got watch.
Jesus saw the crowds coming and knew these same concerns would be on the minds of the people who were flocking to him. They were tired, hungry, and probably thinking of other things they could be doing. Such as the Passover that was approaching. A holiday that deals with family and tradition and heritage, it is a difficult time to be away from loved ones. Yet another aspect of this story that sailors can relate to.
SO Jesus asks his disciples what to do. It’s overwhelming! Philip replies We would have to work for months just to pay for everyone to get one meal.
Andrew says that there is a boy with five loaves and two fish. How could these few items help the crowd, and from a boy. Not just a boy, a little boy. The original Greek word used in this story is used no where else in the Bible so that the audience is clear about who this boy’s status. He is not simply a child, but a little child. The smallest, weakest, most powerless one among them. He is the new-bee, the recruit, the FNG of the 5000. The lowest person on the chain.
And he’s the one with the bread and fish. (REPEAT) He has something to offer, something to contribute. He is a part of making a better world.
Jesus orders the people to sit down. Then he uses the bread and fish of this little boy to feed the entire place. And after everyone has had their fill, there are still twelve baskets left over.
Now some people say that the miracle of this story is that Jesus fed 5000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. But for those of us who understand rank and chain of command, the miracle is that Jesus chose to work through the lowest, most diminutive person there to provide for the needs of all. Jesus works through us, each and every one of us, to provide for the multitude. God uses our talents and possessions and in that way God is active in our lives and faith, hope, and love are renewed.
Paul wrote in Ephesians that “Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me…”
God’s grace is a gift to us, and we are empowered by God, even as we are the least of saints like Paul, the youngest person like this small child, or the lowest ranking person. Everyone who receives the grace of God has something to offer. We become part of Christ’s active love in the world.
There are times when we may feel like we are the little child, someone who is seemingly insignificant and without anything to offer. With our empty hands outstretched, We are fed during word and worship such as this.
Through our spiritual nourishment of Word and Sacrament, and among a community of believers, we are equipped to be the one who stands ready with the loves of peace and fish of grace. And blessed by God, we are prepared to share it with those we meet, and the crowds that surround us.
When we pass it on, or when we pay it forward, we become part of God’s care for those crowds we find ourselves a part of. The peace and compassion and grace we receive from God get spread with all whom we encounter. And all are filled, everyone is satisfied.