18th Sunday of the Year

The category: Uncategorized

The tags:

Loaves and Fishes by Eileen Sieben

This week’s sermon is by Kathryn Rose

For the last few weeks our Gospel readings have been some of the parables of Jesus: analogies for what the Kingdom of God is like, and how the world works. This week, the reading is an account of a more direct example.

It’s a familiar story to many of us: Jesus has been healing people all day, there’s a huge crowd assembled, it’s evening and they’re hungry. Probably also hot, tired and thirsty… and with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus feeds five thousand people – actually, probably a lot more than five thousand, since the five thousand only refers to the men. There is so much food, that twelve baskets of leftovers are collected.

But there is more to this event than just the sheer amount of food. In the first place, the disciples recognise that the crowd is hungry. And they ask Jesus to send the people away – the people he has just spent the day ministering to – so that they can go and buy some food. Jesus is having none of that but instead meets people’s needs where they are. He tells the disciples to give them something to eat; and the miracle only occurs when the disciples rustle up those five loaves of bread and two fish from their own provisions, which they were probably planning to eat themselves after a long day. The disciples, too, do the distribution of the food to the crowd, and the gathering up of the baskets of leftovers afterward. This is a miracle that involves the active participation of the disciples at almost every step, from recognising what people need, to pointing out those needs to Jesus, to attempting to meet the need out of their own resources, to actually physically handing people the food.

Since the 5th of April, the Soup Kitchen at St John’s has distributed nearly 1400 hot meals. And in this, I hope we are at least a little bit like the disciples in today’s reading: we recognise an immediate, urgent need. We bring that need to Jesus in our prayers. We try to find resources to meet the need. And we do our best to distribute the food to people who need it. Of course, we can’t all do everything by ourselves: some of us can give food or money, some of us can volunteer our time growing vegetables or cooking, some of us can only pray. It all counts when the disciples do it, and it all counts when we do, too.

There are many, many needs in the world today. It’s easy, for me at least, to feel overwhelmed and daunted – as the disciples might have felt when faced with a crowd of over five thousand hungry people. They didn’t know how they were going to feed all those people: but Jesus told them what to do. And when we recognise another person in need, we, too, can ask Jesus for help.

When the five thousand were fed, the disciples didn’t go hungry, either. Each of us, gathered here or reading and praying at home, has our own needs. Like the crowd, we have physical needs like food and shelter, but everyone also needs encouragement, companionship, belonging, forgiveness, and love. In the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus meets people where they are in their hunger. In his death on the cross and in his resurrection, Jesus meets all of us, just as we are, at the point of our own deepest needs. In giving us his body to be our food, he feeds us out of an abundance that cannot be exhausted.

So let us continue, as the disciples did, to see each other’s needs and bring them before God. Let us continue, as the disciples did, to follow the example and instructions of Jesus as we take action to care for one another and this planet. And let us come to this altar, his table, thankful for all that he does for us and with us.   Amen.