Feeding of the Five Thousand
Once there was a little boy who knocked at the door of an elderly gentleman, and he offered him some picture postcards for sale at 10p each.
What are you going to do with the money he asked him?
'I'm raising one million pounds to send off to earthquake relief', he answered quite seriously.
He was so little and the sum he named was so large, that the gentleman began to laugh.
'One million pounds!' he cried, 'and do you expect to raise all that sum all by yourself?'
'No sir,' he answered gravely, 'My best friend is helping me!'
Two small boys, with high hopes….what could they possibly achieve?
Well an awful lot can be achieved from small beginnings!
Many of us in this day and age research family trees, and it never ceases to amaze me when I look at our family charts and see just how many people came into being through just four generations of people, from two ancestors.
Take one small acorn or one sunflower seed, and see how insignificant they look, but look at the heights they can grow to, look at their beauty and splendour, and consider all the many oak trees and sunflowers that will result?
In the news lately we have yet another example. We've learned that through one inaccurate statement in an important document can have a devastating effect and devastating consequences.
Five barley loaves and two fish? …'What are they among so many people?' asks Andrew in our gospel today.
What resulted was the feeding of five thousand people!
However people interpret this story, something very wonderful happened on that hillside by the Sea of Galilee.
Today in our gospel reading Jesus is hailed as quite a celebrity.
He has recently caused an uproar in the eyes of the Jewish authorities, for breaking the law by healing a man on the Sabbath day and for not honouring God's day of rest.
Now everyone's attention is on him.
The crowds come after him, not to him. Perhaps they had heard that Jesus worked miracles, and wanted to experience his supernatural ability, and witness a healing for themselves.
Jesus looked up and saw the crowd when he sat down on the mountain; his heart went out in compassion for them, and he had a mind to have them sit with him and eat.
The crowds were hungry, and Jesus felt responsible for their welfare, he didn't run off with his bodyguards, or escape in a limousine the way some stars would today, with the crowds swarming after them, hot on their heels.
No it was his desire to stay and feed them all.
Jesus, at first, challenged his own disciples to feed them. In all of the other three gospel accounts of this story, Jesus' response to his disciples is, 'You give them something to eat.
In other words, 'Be motivated, think, trust act! Let me see you do something!…Yet John, himself omits this all important line for some reason.
But this is where the small mindedness of the disciples rears its ugly head.
They cannot see, what Jesus sees as possible, and Jesus seems to want to stretch them … to consider whether they can trust him,
… to take them further than they have gone before.
And so he challenges Philip first.
'Where are we to buy bread?
He says this to test Philip, for Bethsaida is his native town, he of all people ought to know where the bread is kept
'It's not possible', even if we had the money, the town couldn't possibly supply it,' implies Philip.
Doubt is even expressed by Andrew who seems to possess special insight into the resourcefulness of Jesus. It is he who points to the only source of food, in the hands of a child:- five barley loaves and two fishes, an insignificant amount, but he very quickly adds, But what is that among so many?
There we have it, no vision, no hope…
Nothing but blinkers!
…JUST? barley loaves; the inferior bread of poor people, and two pickled fish, ….mere tit-bits.
People are just as small minded today.
They've have stopped believing in themselves.
They are even beginning to show signs in this Television addicted world of ours, of ceasing to live themselves in order to live their lives through the lives of others, second hand.
They have chosen to save themselves rather than step out in faith on stormy waters, to save others.
They begun to believe that it's far safer to stay in than venture out, outside is too dangerous.
It's far easier to withhold an opinion rather than get beaten into the ground for speaking your mind.
It's far easier to go along with the crowd than make a stand for what you believe, and for what is morally right.
But most people today want success without the effort,
They want celebrity status, yet possess very talent and real motivation.
I have a cartoon here which illustrates so well hidden potential, lost gifts, confused minds and a lack of courage…perhaps even a lost world. **
It shows a crowd of people looking extremely worried , all with the same speech bubble coming out from their heads, which says:-
What can one person do?
We may well laugh, but if this crowd were a group of Christian people, which words would be in the speech bubble?
We're no different really from the disciples or the world, in many ways.
We're sometimes too small minded when it comes to putting our faith on the line… when it comes to praying for friends, or trusting for a miracle in face of what seems to us impossible? … or when trusting that a family member can come to Christ?…or when stepping into a situation where we think God has deserted us, because things aren't going according to our plans?
Have we given up, and resigned ourselves to thinking the church won't get any better, in fact it's dying?
Have we convinced ourselves that we may as well give up trying to reach others, because the public tide of opinion seems against us anyway,
and have we given up expressing our opinion when God's rules are flaunted and disregarded?
Have we begun to accept what the media flings at us, have we convinced ourselves that this blatant drop in standards is acceptable ,just because no-one else is protesting.
Are we too, too small minded? Do we have real vision? Do we believe that God can still work miracles today?
We should do, God is the same , yesterday, today and forever, says the bible.
Let us see how JESUS handled a mere two barley loaves and two fishes.
He saw potential, he believed he had at least something to work with.
He knew his Father's will and he knew his heart, and his desire to provide for his children.
He believed in God's provision in the past and trusted his promises for the present and for the future.
He prepared the people to receive and told them to sit down.
And then he took the important step of faith, and giving thanks, he broke the bread; and acted ON God's promises.
Jesus initiated the miracle.
He distributed the food, and the people were given as much as they wanted, and they were all satisfied
Twelve baskets were left over!
There was more than enough, more than they could ever have imagined.
In answer to the cartoon, what can one person do?
Paul answers that in his letter to the Ephesians…
with God's power working in us we can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine!
Listen to his exact words:-
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us; to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout ALL GENERATIONS.(3:20)
Let's not going to give up trying to go forward for God, especially when the outlook is bleak, or there are mountains in our way.
I know I'm small and feel insignificant in the grand order of Creation, but you see in this one small speck of dust potential, help me to make a difference for you in your world, take me and use me and whatever gifts you've given me to your praise and glory.