HOW MANY LOAVES HAVE YOU?
The Gospel John is one of the richest in meaning of the Gospels. It tells us the story of Jesus’ life and ministry on at least two levels. The first level is a description of the event itself, and then there are other levels. What does the event mean?
Let’s delve into two levels. The people of Israel were occupied as a colony of Rome. They felt they were enslaved by a power that was quickly making them slaves starting with the enormous taxes they had to pay.
When Jesus came along; preaching, teaching, and healing they were beginning to wonder; could this be the long-promised Messiah who was going to free them from the yoke of Rome and make them a great nation again?
It was time to celebrate Passover. It was during the first Passover in Egypt that God freed his people from Pharaoh’s slavery and led them into the wilderness and eventually to the Promised Land.
Jesus went up the mountain and sat down. Oh, the symbolism of this act. Moses came down the heights of Mt. Sinai with a covenant with God that was the promise of leading them to the promised land under his guidance in every aspect of their life.
Could Jesus be the new Moses? He was healing them of the slavery of the diseases that were holding them down. Could he now be getting ready to lead a revolt from Rome to free them from Rome?
When Jesus sat down, he realized he had been followed to the edge of the Sea of Galilee by at least 5,000 people. He could see they were tired and hungry. He turned to Philip and said, “How are we going to feed these people?” He does this to test his disciple. Could Jesus here today be looking out for all the needs of our community? Could he be looking at the people who are out of work, or have jobs that do not pay them a living wage? How many of them are behind in their rent or house payments because they were out of work for several months? How many of them are on Wendover asking for assistance?
Could he be saying to us; “How are you going to feed these people” And like Philip we respond: “Jesus, not even six months offerings could do more than give these people a little bit.”
Andrew, Peter’s brother speaks up. “There is a lad here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they for such a large crowd?”
I could hear us saying to Jesus; “Offerings have been rather good recently; but we are still receiving below budget. Last year there were months we did not even conduct public worship.” What are our five barley loaves and two fish against such poverty?
Jesus responds by telling us to have the people sit down in an orderly way. We have a rather large lawn. We in an act of faith give up our five loaves of barley bread. By the way barley bread is the bread of the poor. This is not multi-grain or pumpernickel bread. This is the cheapest bread available.
Jesus takes the loaves and the fishes and blesses them. Then he starts to distribute them to the people. Then a great miracle happens. Every man, woman, and child are filled with food, and we are ordered to pick up the leftovers, and there are twelve baskets full of leftover food.
What is Jesus saying to us? First, I believe he is asking us to trust that he really feeds us his very substance; that we might receive life, forgiveness, and salvation. He knows we are hungry for forgiveness and strength for the journey. The older we get the harder the journey seems at times.
I am so pleased we have figured out a healthy way to serve this holy meal every Sunday and take it to our shut-ins who would like communion as well.
Secondly, if we but trust Christ gives us the resources, we need to do ministry here at this time in this place. Look how quickly the resources came in to replace our roof this year. I am told when you replaced the HVAC the same thing happened. I believe if our leadership lets people know what we are trying to do they will give generously, even if it is barley loaves and dried fish. The key is to look to Jesus to show us what the real needs are at this time, and in this place. Do we need to focus on Open Door Ministry, West End, Salvation Army, Simply Giving etc.? Or do we focus on giving to a different one each month. Those are issues our church council can decide.
But the question remains; How many loaves have you? How many loaves do I have? Am I willing to put all my resources in Jesus’ hands so that he can bless them, starting with guiding me how to best use the resources he has given me through our paycheck, or pensions, or unexpected gifts?
I remember hearing once; there are infinite needs; and finite resources.
But there is always enough to do Christ’s work in the world if we first take all our resources, individually, or collectively; and place them in Jesus’ hands to bless them?
To do that is an act of faith. To do that is to recognize all we have belongs to Christ and is given to us to be his hands in the world.
Thank you, Jesus. Amen.