July 22, 2018 FAITH IN ACTION

 

FAITH IN ACTION

July 22, 2018 Mark 6:30-43

Thinking about the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 I thought of my sister-in-law June Yordy, Carole’ sister now living in Goshen. When her husband was alive, and they lived in Lyons Il they went to their Mennonite church in Lombard and sometimes they would invite people from their church to Sunday dinner at their home. It could be 4 or 5 people, or even more. Sometimes it happened unexpectantly when they got to church that they decided to invite a new family or a new couple who had attended that day.  The one thing was they always had enough food to whip up to serve people with dessert to boot. Over and over again they would open their home and invite folks from their church and put on a feast not wondering what they had to offer but using what was on hand to make the occasion fulfilling and their guests welcomed. 

Thinking of this mornings Scripture lesson there they were, around 5,000 plus folks that gathered to listen to Jesus. They had come by boat, some walked. When Jesus was close they tried to go see Jesus, to listen to Jesus because they never knew what might happen. Much like what happens in the church. When people gather in Jesus’ name, there is where Jesus is.

Jesus and the disciples tried to find a solitary place to take a little rest, to regroup, to recharge their batteries. The disciples just come back from a preaching, healing mission and wanted to talk to Jesus about it but because of the crowds, Jesus suggested this trip. But, when news got out where they were going, well, people gathered, and kept gathering as news went out that Jesus was near.

Mark’s gospel says, “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, he began teaching them many things. By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him, “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding country side and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” BUT HE ANSWERED THEM, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wage! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So, they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.”

God’s word of faith for the faithful people of God.

You’ve perhaps have heard this story before. It’s one of those miracles that boggles the mind. 5 loaves of bread, not the giant Italian or French bread you might see at County Market, nor not those long, long, long Subway subs they often promote for some affair…you know those 3 or 4 footers. And those two fish? Well, they weren’t something that one might catch if you were out on a boat in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. This was no big tuna, nor small whale, not even a giant sea creature. No! they would have been those small fish that one might have bought at the market or that might have been caught in the Sea of Galilee.

But you know, the miracle of this feeding isn’t just the number of people they fed, but it was what happened to the disciple’s faith, even the faith of those that had gathered that day. They had come to see Jesus. They had come to listen to Jesus. They had come to be touched by God in some way, somehow. But when night was beginning to come the first thing the disciples wanted to do was send these folks on their way. So, when Jesus invited those 5,000 plus for dinner, their response to this emergency was to send them away. It seems they didn’t have the compassion that Jesus had for this group. “Jesus, you need to stop teaching, it’s getting late, and well, these folks and us are tired and hungry, so they need to go eat and we are so tired and hungry we need to rest as well. You need to bring this teaching lesson to an end and send them on their way.” 

But Jesus’ response wasn’t what they were expecting. Instead of agreeing to send these folks on their way, he said to them “You, my disciples, my followers, my workers for the kingdom, you take care of the situation. People are starving, not just for food, but for faith, for hope, for someone to care.” They just looked at Jesus, looked at their bank account and knew, we don’t have that much money to feed half this crowd. 

“What do you have?” Jesus asked them. Their answer 5 loaves of bread and two fish. And when they handed it over to Jesus, when he blessed them, giving thanks to his Father in heaven, and he handed them back to his disciples, not only did they multiply, but they fed over 5,000 people with 12 baskets left over, one for each of the disciples to use, or give out, or whatever.  

But that question could be directed to us as well. What do we have that Jesus can use, to multiply to take care of the needs around us? What do we have that Jesus can bless for you to use in your ministry to others wherever you go? What do you have that you can give to Jesus so that he can multiply it so that your faith can grow? Time? Money? Love? Caring?

It’s always been a great story to tell thinking what can be done when something is given to Jesus. The miracle wasn’t just the multiplication. The miracle was what happened to the faith of the disciples and the people who were there. Can you hear those who were fed passing their story to someone else as they returned to their homes? How about a child standing up in school to tell how they were on the mountain with Jesus and every person was fed as much as they wanted. Excitement could be in that classroom because of their witness. Or the guys telling this story at work, or the women sharing it with those around the well as they gathered water, or as they sat around and quilted might have touched a life or two.  

Three things we can glean from this story. First, is the compassion of Jesus. Even though he was tired. Even though the disciples were tired. When Jesus saw the crowd, who had gathered when they landed on shore he had compassion for them. In fact, when Jesus saw them, it was like looking at sheep without a shepherd.  

What happens to sheep without a shepherd? They wander here and there. They often get lost. Some have a difficult time finding a place to eat, or drink, or even rest. Perhaps the worst is that they are so gullible that they fall prey to wild animals who will come a long and snatch them. Or even fall to false teachings such was the case when you read some of Paul’s letters. So, it was with the people that Jesus could see. No leader to lead them. No leader to bring comfort. No leader to direct them. No leader to take care of their needs. No leader to offer hope. They were like those sheep that would be subject to the enemy. In this case, that mean old Devil himself who often prowls around like a lion in order to devour God’s lost sheep.

The second thing we notice is Jesus’ power. As we know, or at least should know, is that when something is in the hands of the Master there is power. In this case, it was the 5 loaves and two fish. And when Jesus thanked God for what he did have, and asked his Father in heaven to bless them, well it was as if Manna of old fell from heaven, enough to feed over 5,000 people, with 12 baskets left over. Can you see the excitement in the disciple’s eyes as they kept giving away fish and loaves and they never ran out? They perhaps told the crowd there was no need to get excited, there was enough for them all. Take what they needed, enjoy, be blessed, for Jesus and God provides. Can you see their hearts beating when one after the other were fed and when they came to the end of the last group of fifty or 100 people, they looked in their baskets and they still had fish left over? And when they returned to Jesus with those 12 baskets full, I can only imagine they fell on their knees in praise asking Jesus to forgive their doubting of what could be done by his power.

And finally, the fulfillment. The people were fed spiritual food because of Jesus’ teachings, and they were fed physical food because they were hungry. It was faith in action that took care of their needs and as Mark writes, “They all ate and were satisfied.” I would add they were blessed. They were happy. They were filled with more than some bread and a fish. They got the whole banquet feast of Jesus’ teaching and caring.

What do we learn? First, that the Shepherd is still the Shepherd and we are the sheep. The second thing is that compassion he had for them is the same compassion he has for us today. Third, the power that Jesus had then is the same power that he does in our lives today. Fourth, he continues to feed us through his Words. Fifth, by faith we continue to believe and trust in our Savior. Sixth, is this. Miracles still happen. God still provides and multiplies the things that are needed for his people. 

We marvel at times how at funeral dinners multitudes are fed because people bring food out of compassion for the family. Never once, have we ever run out of food. Came close a few times, but there was always enough. Some way, somehow, it always works out. Praise be to God. We just have to stop being doubting Thomas’ and believe it will be done. 

I believe this lesson for us today is really the lesson of faith in action. It was the faith of the disciples that took a turn for the better as they gave Jesus the 5 loaves and two fish. It was the faith of the disciples that became transformed as their baskets were filled the first time and never ran out of food to feed any of God’s people. Remember, this food did not fall from heaven like that manna, or quail. The miracle was that those 5 loaves turned into multiple loaves, and those 2 fish became a boatload or two as the disciples began to take one or two out to give the people, it multiplied. Their doubting of what Jesus could do was manifested through this wonderful miracle of the multiplying of the food. Though they could not see it. Though they did not realize it. Out of nowhere, like the manna from heaven, like the quail that came to feed the people in the wilderness journey that allowed the people never to be hungry or starve, on this day, on this mountain, a miracle happened to remind all that were there that God would provide for his people. All they needed to do was to trust and watch their faith grow more and more.

Isn’t that part of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught the disciples and us to pray. “Give us today our daily bread.”

And returning to my sister-in-law, for many years our families gathered for Thanksgiving weekend at their place, and every day, there was enough food to feed that army. Whether we knew it or not, God provided and multiplied the fish and loaves that we enjoyed. In this case the turkey, dressing, potatoes, and pies, Krispy Cream donuts, or even those many mini White Castle burgers, and whatever else we had to eat.

Let us remember one of our hymns that says, “No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you; lean, weary one, upon his breast, God will take care of you.”

Folks, God is good all the time, and all the time God is so good.

Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor
About Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor

Reverend Richard Piscatelli, (Pastor Dick) has been serving this church since 2006 and has begun his 13th year at Williamsville. Dick is a graduate of Asbury College, 1980, now Asbury University, and Asbury Theological Seminary, 1983, in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, he and his wife, Carole, have enjoyed living in the Midwest and have made many friends here. Dick’s first appointment was to Buffalo/Dawson UMCs, a two-point charge, which he served for almost 8 years when he was appointed to Paris Trinity UMC. He served at Paris for 6 years and was then appointed to First UMC at St. Elmo in southern Illinois. Dick’s final full-time appointment was to Roanoke/Secor UMCs, a two-point charge. These churches brought much satisfaction and lasting relationships in each. Williamsville UMC has been a joy to serve as he actually began his first church in “retirement,” and is very much involved in all areas of ministry, as the Lord leads. Pastor Dick has a special gift for doing Celebrations of Life and comforting the family. He prepares uplifting, inspiring sermons in a more casual and relaxed style, using humor when appropriate, yet ever-mindful of the importance of bringing the Gospel message for the salvation that Jesus Christ offers to all.