Summary: When we see with the inner eye of faith, we trust that the Lord will provide through all things.
August 2, 2020
Hope Lutheran Church
Pastor Mary Erickson
The Eyes of Faith
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
A verse from the appointed Psalm for today, Psalm 145:
The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord
And you give them their food in due season.
This Psalm always takes me back to my seminary days. The seminary choir once sang a rendition of this psalm. The line mentioned above was to be sung by a soprano solo. And Terri, who sang the solo, was totally blind. “The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season.”
To have Terri, who was completely blind, sing the verse regarding the eyes of all! It sent a very powerful message and unpacked the real meaning of the words. The Psalm isn’t referring to outward, sighted eyes. These eyes are inward in nature. These are the eyes of trust. In trust, we look to God as the source of our daily bread. Terri’s eyes, too, though blind outwardly, looked to God for her daily bread.
We live in an inward-outward balance. Inwardly we know that God is the giver of our daily bread. This includes Martin Luther’s list of everything meant by daily bread: food and clothing, home and family, daily work and all we need from day to day. But at the same time, we also know that responsibility for implementation falls on us.
So we work for our daily bread, and this makes us seekers. Our eyes – our outward eyes – look after our needs. We search for deals. We scour the flyers in our Sunday paper for sales. We compare prices online to find the best deal.
A little of both of these visions were at work in our gospel story today. Both the inward eye of faith and the outward eye for our next meal were in play.
The feeding of the 5000 is one of the few miracles of Jesus that is present in all four gospels. When you compare them next to each other, the four accounts may vary a little around the edges. But the basic gist is the same.
Jesus and his disciples travel to a remote place along the Sea of Galilee. But people see him going there and they follow him on foot. Matthew explains that Jesus goes there because he’s just heard about the beheading of John the Baptist. Jesus withdraws to mourn the loss of his friend John.
But the eyes of all wait upon him, and they follow him to this lonely location. Question: Did they follow with the inward eye of faith? Or were they led by the outward eye of “here’s a fellow who can help us?” Maybe a little of both.
Jesus and his disciples pull up on shore only to discover a huge mass of people. Well over 5000 people in total, have followed them there! Jesus had withdrawn to this lonely place to mourn John’s death. But when he sees the crowds, Jesus doesn’t say, “Get back in the boat, fellas, we’re out of here!” No, he responds with compassion. When gospel writer John tells this story, he remarks that Jesus has compassion on them because “they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus proceeds to spend the rest of the day curing the sick among them. As evening approaches, the disciples are getting edgy about the situation at hand. This is a huge mass of people, and they’re going to need to eat dinner soon.
Masses of people create their own needs. I was talking to a man who attended a Boy Scout Jamboree with his son and their scouting troop in West Virginia. We talked about the infrastructure needs required in order to support this temporary gathering of 40,000 people. He said, “We were the fifth largest city in West Virginia.” He told me about the temporary hospital they had set up just for the jamboree. It was remarkable!
So the disciples were justifiably concerned about the needs of this large crowd. They were viewing the situation with outward eyes. These people needed food.
But Jesus has another plan, a plan involving the inner eye of faith. He says that the people don’t need to go anywhere. “You give them something to eat,” he tells his disciples. The disciples respond with outward vision. “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
“You give them something to eat.” There are some commands of Jesus which reach out beyond the context of their story’s situation. It’s like they were spoken directly to us. This is one such statement. “You give them something to eat.”
Our calling as Christians bids us to consider our neighbor’s need for daily bread. It requires outward eyes. We need to keep our eyes and ears open so that we can be aware of how our neighbor needs help. Frequently, our initial response to Christ’s invitation is much like the disciples: we are overwhelmed! Our resources seem as small as the disciples’ handful of loaves and fishes. How can we address the overwhelming need of the world?