a sermon based on Matthew 14:13-21
by Rev. Rick Thompson
Every Thursday morning at Holy Shepherd we have
happens at our lectionary Bible study. There is no sign-up list for
refreshments, but every week, something delightful to eat during our
coffee break appears. We jokingly call the refreshments "manna,"
because they appear seemingly from nowhere.
You probably remember the first story about "manna", centuries
before the time of Jesus. The children of Israel left their time of
slavery in Egypt in a hurry, and spent forty years wandering in the
wilderness. There was nowhere to get food and water there. But God
mysteriously provided "manna" each morning on the ground—not a lot,
but enough to sustain them for all those years. God miraculously
provided water for the people, too. It wasn't much, but it was
In today's story, Jesus has just received word that John the
Baptist had been beheaded. Knowing full well that he could be next,
Jesus needed some time alone. He needed to pray and reflect and
recharge his spiritual energy.
But people heard where Jesus was, and they swarmed into the
wilderness, seeking healing and wisdom and hope from Jesus. They
stayed all day, and Jesus, motivated by his deep compassion for the
hurting, healed many of the sick. The day was almost over. People
were getting hungry, and the disciples reported this to Jesus. "Send
them to the villages nearby," they recommended, "so they can buy
food." "No, you give them something to eat!" Jesus
commanded. And the disciples protested, "We only have five loaves of
bread and two fish, Jesus!" That would hardly be enough to
feed 5,000 men, plus women and children—probably 15,000 people or
But in the hands of Jesus, five loaves and two fish were enough.
He took the bread, and blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the
disciples, with instructions to give it to the crowd.
"Took…blessed…broke…and gave"—does that language sound familiar?
In the hands of Jesus, it was enough! It was enough to feed that
enormous crowd—with 12 baskets of bread left over!
Even in the wilderness, it was enough. It was happening again!
In the wilderness of Galilee, when Jesus blessed and broke bread, a
hungry crowd received enough to satisfy its hunger, and there were
Where God is at work, where Jesus Christ is present—even in the
wilderness—there is enough compassion and divine abundance to meet
every human need! There is enough to sustain hungry bodies and
spirits, and even enough to share!
Now, does it seem to you that we're living in a wilderness time?
Doesn't it seem as if the world is a terrifying and lonely place?
It's short on compassion and, instead, full of revenge and hatred.
There are Islamic extremists—not representative of authentic
Islam—willing to die in order kill those they consider enemies, and
American soldiers in harm's way tyring to stop them. The economy seems
to be sinking fast. There is violent and abusive behavior in the
streets and homes of our cities. There are people—all kinds of
people—searching, groping, striving, struggling, all too often in
vain, to find a reason to live.
Would you agree that the world can feel like a wilderness
And there are hungry people—people starving and dying because they
don't have enough to eat. Most of them are women and children.
According to our church's World Hunger ministry, over 13% of the world's
people are chronically hungry. In the United States, there are 35.5
million people—almost 11% of our population—who are hungry or at risk of
hunger, and 12.6 million of them are children. (The percentage of hungry
people in the U.S. has increased from 8% in the last three years.) In
the developing world, 8,000–8.000–children die every day
from hunger or diseases related to hunger. That's 1 every 5.4 seconds.
And yet, in the year 2000, there was enough food grown in the world to
feed every man, woman, and child 3-4,000 calories a day. Oh–and 10
children in the world have died of hunger during the time I've reported
these statistics to you.
Would you agree that this world can feel like a wilderness?
On my recent immersion trip to Mexico, I learned that 50% of
Mexican people do not have meaningful work. The minimum wage–for those
who even have a job–is 52 pesos, about $5, a day. Peasant corn
farmers are being compelled to leave the land and search for work in the
cities–work that doesn't exist–because imported corn costs less than the
locally-grown corn in Mexico. Is it any wonder that many Mexican people
are desperate enough to attempt to cross the border illegally and risk
detention, or being shot at by Minutemen, or dying in the Arizona
desert, or getting discouraged and going to work in a sweat shop
conveniently located near the border?
Doesn't it seem that this world is, indeed, a wilderness?
We live in a world that needs to discover the truth of the story of
the feeding of 15,000—that Jesus Christ is enough. Jesus is enough to
feed hungry bodies. And Jesus is enough to satisfy hungry
spirits. Jesus is enough to give peace and courage and direction and
hope—and compassion, so desperately needed.
And then there's the church. God's own people. We, too, are often
among those who need to rediscover that Christ is enough.
How often we are like the disciples. They had faith—sometimes, to
some degree—but often did not really trust in Jesus. In the
wilderness, when it came time to feed all those people—that was one of
those times. When Jesus said, "You give them something to eat,"
they should have remembered who was with them. Instead, they replied,
as the church often does, "We can't do that! We only have
The church says, "We can't do anything about
world hunger; there are only a few of us, and there are millions of
hungry people in the world!"
"We can't reach out beyond our doors, or support the wider mission
of the church; we can't even take care of our own people, and can barely
pay our own bills," the church laments.
We need to remember something. We need to remember who's
with us in the wilderness of uncertainty and doubt and fear, who feeds
us and sustains us, who guides and directs our mission. We need to
remember who it is that tells us, "You give them something to eat!!
Who is it? Of course, it's Jesus Christ! It's the one who
fed the multitude with one small meal. It's the one who had compassion
on the sick and the hurting and the needy. It's the one who came
from God to bring us back to God. That's the one
who's with us!
Who's with us? It's the one who defeated Satan, who went
fearlessly to his own death, who died to forgive sins, and who rose
again to release God's power and love into our lives and all the world.
It's Jesus Christ, who satisfies the hunger of both body and
soul! That's the one who's with us.
We live as God's people in the company of Jesus Christ! And
Jesus has proved that he will provide what we need for our lives and our
mission as God's people.
JESUS IS ENOUGH!
Remember that banquet Jesus offered in the wilderness.
Remember the banquet he provides again and again in the Eucharist. It
is a simple meal, with simple folk in attendance, and no one is
excluded. At this banquet, there is healing, and trust, and joy, and
sharing. It is the banquet of life!
Although it is far from extravagant, it is enough. What
Jesus offers, what Jesus provides—it is enough! Enough to
satisfy the hunger of body and soul. Enough to sustain the people of
God. Enough to give us life, and hope, and faith. It may not seem like
much, but it is enough!
There is even enough to share!
"You give them something to eat," Jesus instructs his
disciples—that's you and me, of course!
The Dalai Lama, world leader of the Buddhist faith, once delivered a
speech in which he addressed some of the deep needs of the hurting
world, and called for compassion from the world's people of faith.
After the speech, there was a question and answer time. Someone asked
him, "What's your suggestion for addressing the problem of world
hunger?" The audience settled in, expecting a long, complicated
answer. Instead, the Dalai Lama paused dramatically—and then spoke one
In the face of the world's enormous needs for food—food for the
body, and food for the spirit—we wonder if we can do anything that will
really make a difference. Well, we can. We can share!
When it comes to making a difference in addressing world hunger,
there's no better way than support our church's world hunger ministry.
Did you know that overhead is less than 7%, compared to the enormous
overhead of more highly-publicized relief agencies? Did you know that,
since our Hunger Appeal began some 30 years ago, there are fewer
hungry people in the world, even though the population has mushroomed?
And did you know that $1 will feed an orphan in Zimbabwe or Malawi?
That $10—about the cost of a movie—will ship blankets or health supplies
to a family of five after a disaster? That $250 will provide five goats
to a poor farmer in Uganda? That $1,000 will provide pre-natal care for
125 women in one of the world's poorest countries? That $150 will feed
a Mexican child breakfast and vitamins for a year?
We think that what we have may not be much—but it is enough,
enough to share!
We have received, and we are asked to give. We have
received the good news that God is with us to forgive, to give hope and
life, and we are asked to share that news. We have received daily
bread, financial resources, countless blessings from God, and we are
asked to share them to give life to the world.
Most of all, we have received Jesus Christ. When we think our
resources have run out, there is still Jesus—and isn't he enough?
We are reminded and invited to remember that Jesus Christ is
enough—enough to provide whatever we need for body and spirit, enough
even to share.
May God give us the courage and compassion to do just that, to
share what we have, from the abundance God has given us in Christ!