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Feeding Five Thousand
a sermon based on Matthew 14:13-21
by Rev. Frank Schaefer

The first thing we may note about this familiar story is that the miracle of the feeding does not happen without human cooperation. The disciples come to Jesus after the crowd spent three days with Jesus in the wilderness and say something like: listen teacher, we might risk a law suit if someone might drop dead from going without food. We need to send them home.

And Jesus says: “no, no, that's alright, you give um something to eat!” I can see Peter now, turning to the other disciples: "O.k. has a head-count lately?" There are 5,000 men not even counting the women and children." But Jesus tells them to take what they have--5 loaves of bread and two fish--and after blessing and breaking it, tells the disciples to give it to the people.

Notice, no miracle has happened yet. Nothing has happened yet. Jesus didn't multiply the food in front of them. The bread didn't just--boom--turn into giant loaves, in honey-I-blew-up-the-kid fashion. I can see Peter again: "o for Heaven’s sakes, this is embarrassing. So, the first 15 people get a piece of food, and 4,985 will have to look on as those 15 gobble up the food. Now Jesus has really done it!" But they pass it on, and those who break of a piece of bread and fish pass the basket on to the next person, and so on.

And strangely, the food never runs out. I believe that in the story of the feeding of 5,000 is hidden a spiritual treasure for us to discover and to benefit from. You and I, all of us here symbolize the 5,000. And we are called to do something, to share something to make this spiritual principle work.

What does it mean for us to participate in the miracle of the feeding? Whatever it looks like, it certainly doesn't mean that the only person doing something in the church are the ordained clergy.

I don't know whether this story is true or not, but I once heard about a pastor...

who was very rigid about keeping an appointment at 10 AM each morning. If he was in a meeting, he would excuse himself, get in his car and drive off. This appeared very suspicious to the congregation and they decided to investigate. No, the secretary didn't know what he was up to. His wife didn't know. His best friend didn't know. So, the elders decided to stake him out. They followed him out of town to where he parked his car and entered a woods. When they caught up to him, he was standing by a train track as the train was passing by. He was shouting and cheering at the top of his lungs. He was pumping his fists into the air. Then the train passed and the elders came up to him and said -- "What on earth are you doing here?" And he answered, "I can't help it. I just get so excited when I see something is moving and I'm not the one pushing it!"

The point of the Feeding of the 5,000 is that we are all called to share in the work of God that will usher in a revival of grandest magnitudes. And it also takes more than a few committed people in any congregation. If we rely on the same few people to pray and to go forward to minister, we will see the few faithful ones burn out in a hurry!

Everybody is called to share their talents and resources just as we have received them from God. It takes the whole congregation--the whole body of Christ. The feeding of 5,000, just like any revival, is no instant miracle, it's no ready-made miracle. But to me, it's the greatest miracle of all.

All of us are invited to share in it as we are able to. Paul tells us in the Epistle to the Corinthians that all of us have been given a spiritual gift. Some of us may have received the gift of prophecy, or the ability to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit, to call sin sin, and to call people to repentance, others may have received the gift of encouragement, still others the gift of healing.

Sometimes, this gift lies dormant in us. Sometimes we need to discover that gift; and sometimes we may need to rediscover it. But it is there in every one of us. And once we start using these gifts of the Holy Spirit here at church, and start sharing them, we will be surprised. We’ll find that after all have been fe, after we had seconds and thirds, we will discover "there are still leftovers." Plenty for all to be fed: our family members, our friends, our colleagues at work, our people at home and our entire neighborhood. The miracle of the Feeding can happen among us again, if we’d only start to share what God has given us. Amen.