Caring for the Hungry
HW in HI
It is the job of the Christian church to feed people. To feed people spiritually, but
also physically. Jesus has called us to care for the hungry.
In todays reading from Matthew, we come upon Jesus just after he has learned that
Herod murdered John the Baptist at his (Herods) birthday party. John was one of the
few people on earth that understood something about Jesus own call. John died for
his faith, his head on a platter. Herods gift to an evil dancer. John the Baptist
was the first Christian martyr. When Jesus heard about Johns murder, he wanted to be
alone. He wanted to grieve. Many people prefer to grieve alone, and Jesus, it seems, was
one. He took off in a boat.
But the crowd that followed Jesus did not understand. They followed him. They were
hungry. Starving. Ravenous. They wanted God in their lives so desperately that they went
by foot to the place where Jesus boat came to shore. It was a huge crowd. In those
days they sometimes just counted men they said there were 5,000 men. If Christians
then were like they are now, there were likely more women then men, so the crowd numbered
well over 10,000 adults, and with children could easily have topped 20,000 people.
Something like everyone in Waimea and Waikaloa and Kawaihae and Kohala and maybe
Jesus went about healing the people. Then when evening came the disciples asked Jesus
to send the crowds away. The disciples were being reasonable. If they sent them away, they
would have time to get to the villages for food. Imagine the whole of Kohala and maybe
north Kona showing up here for food. Their needs could not be met. Many would go hungry.
Jesus said no, that they would feed the crowds. Actually, he told the disciples: you give
them something to eat.
Jesus showed the utmost compassion of God. He saw the crowds were hungry. They were
hungry not only for food, but for something deeper. They were hungry for justice for John
the Baptist, but not only this, but something deeper. They were hungry for a spiritual
experience and the opening of their eyes to faith so that they might be able to live in
the Kingdom of God.
The disciples told Jesus that there was nothing to eat, nothing but something for maybe
one person, only two small fish and five loaves of bread. Very little. Very little indeed.
But the disciples brought the food to Jesus. He blessed it and they passed it among the
people, and everyone was fed. In fact, there were leftovers.
This story of the fish and the loaves, the feeding of the multitudes, is in every
Gospel in the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This story was told by Jesus
followers after his death, and eventually written down. Something rather close to this
But it is exactly stories like these that ;lead so many of our friends to say: how can
you believe that kind of drivel? What was Jesus a magician? In my case, to be
honest, they dont say it to me, seeing as I wear a collar a lot of the time. What
they say is something like: I see God in all of nature. Or: you must really have a lot of
So it is good for us to ask ourselves: what went on? There are several possibilities:
One is simply that God broke through. God did what God occaisionally does, and God broke
through the regular limits of life, and did something quite wonderful, somehow expanding
what was there. Another possibility is that the people began to share what they had, some
putting the food they had brought into the baskets that were being passed around. Others
took out food for themselves and their families. A third possibility is that something
like eucharist happened. The people needed only a very little bit of bread, because it was
infused with the presence of Christ.
There is a story told by John MacArthurs that rather illustrates the presence of God
and the truth of miracles:
A king was seated in a garden, and one of his counselors was speaking of the wonderful
works of God. "Show me a sign," said the king, "and I will believe."
"Here are four acorns," said the counselor, "will you, Majesty, plant them
in the ground, and then stoop down for a moment and look into this clear pool of
water?" The king did so, "Now," said the other, "look up." The
king looked up and saw four oak-trees where he had planted the acorns.
"Wonderful!" he exclaimed, "this is indeed the work of God." "How
long were you looking into the water?" asked the counselor. "Only a
second," said the king. "Eighty years have passed as a second," said the
other. The king looked at his garments; they were threadbare. He looked at his reflection
in the water; he had become an old man. "There is no miracle here, then," he
said angrily. "Yes," said the other, "it is God's work, whether he did it
in one second or in eighty years."
When we consider the feeding of the multitudes, there are a few things that stand out.
When the disciples perceived that the people had a need, Jesus told them to respond to it.
He said, You give them something to eat. When the disciples found very little
to work with, they took these resources to Jesus. Jesus blessed them. A little became a
lot. However small the offering, it is enough to offer in thanksgiving to God.
God sometimes seems to work with very little. In fact, usually God works with very
little. Surely Jesus had at his disposal the resources of Israel. The psalmist tells us of
God saying he has no need for burnt sacrifices:
I will not accept a bull from your house, or goats from your folds. For every wild
animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the
air, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for
the world and all that is in it is mine.
All belongs to God. Yet Jesus simply, ate simply. His great work was achieved with his
own hands, his own words and the effort of those who followed him. There wasnt a lot
of wealth backing him up. But in some ways, he had the whole world. All that was
This is good news for us. At St. James we are trying to do a lot with very
little. Right now we are working with our new youth minister to reach out to the teenagers
that are part of St. James, but also to reach out to those who never come here.
There is very little money to back up this effort, just his own hands, his words, and the
words and hands of those who help.
We are planning a new and very special program for our children. And we find ourselves
in the very same situation: not much money, just our words and hands.
Joining us are the words and hands of our Lord. What will happen as we begin these
efforts? We ask God to bless what little we have to work with. And we begin our ministry.
Will our resources miraculously multiply? Will some people add what they can to the
effort? Will we find we dont need so very much after all?
We are moving into ministry that is beyond ourselves. Our work with teens and children
will join our work with the thrift shop, reaching beyond the walls of St. James into
the community. Reaching beyond our own families, to the greater family of God.
Will we be up to the task? Let us remember that God works with very little, even us. We
have only to ask his blessing. Amen.