Miracles Are All Around Us


The Gospel of Matthew 14:14-22

At that time, Jesus saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

This Gospel passage is a beautiful story, not that all biblical stories are not fantastic, but his one is especially enjoyable.  In this passage, we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with just a few loaves of bread and some fish.  I have used this passage before to talk about feeding the hungry and the Icon for this particular passage is used for our Church Community Meal, but there is another meaning as well that of miracles.

Just sticking with the food theme for a minute I offer this illustration. About five years ago a few people here at the Church decided we needed to help the local community by providing a meal for those in need, in need not just physically but emotionally and spiritually.  We planned it all out, picked the date, cooked the food and opened the door.  A few people came, 35 I believed for that first meal, it and was great.  We decided that we would cook a full on Thanksgiving meal that year and so the week before Thanksgiving we cooked turkeys and all the fixins.  We opened the doors, and the people came and came, and came.  So many folks came that we had to ask people to leave so we could seat more!  We were picking the bones of the turkeys to make sure we had enough food, but no one went without that night, and it has been the same ever since.

I read a sermon recently by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, if you have not read her stuff I suggest you do she is one of the brightest voices in Christianity today, anyway, in the sermon she mentions that this story appears six times in the Gospels.  She reminds us that there are only four Gospels so this story appears twice in some of them, so it is important.  Pastor Nadia asks the question about the miracle itself, was it that Jesus took the bread and the fish and multiplied it or was it that the people were so moved that they, reached into the own stores of food, and shared with their neighbors?  I like to think a little of both but will focus on the second part, the sharing part.

Sharing, as Pastor Nadia points out, is not new to many folks, after all we learned to share in kindergarten or at least we should have.  The people had come from far and wide to hear Jesus and I find it impossible to believe they did not plan ahead and bring some food, heck I don’t drive more than an hour away without a granola bar or something with me just in case.  These folks were used to traveling, and so I am sure there was food hanging around.  Sure maybe some did not come prepared, but I think most did.

Jesus taught them, Scripture tells us that the number was around 5,000 men and that number did not include the women and children so we can be safe to say that this figure was probably two or three times the reported number.  Apparently journalistic accuracy was lacking in the first century as well. (that was a joke my friends) The Apostles come to Jesus asking what they are supposed to do; Jesus looks at them in what I can only imagine is a look of exasperation, and tells them to feed them.  They look back with a look of total amazement, I can just see Judas clutching the money bag thinking that this is going to bankrupt them, and they say with what?  All we have is this bread and some fish; Jesus tells them to bring them to him, he blesses them and tells them to distribute them. They do, and the rest is history.

What we see here is the miracle of sharing full on.  Jesus, once again, gives us the example to live by, we take the extra of what we have and share it with others.  If they kept those loaves of bread and fish, they would spoil in the Palestinian heat.  Jesus blessed them and gave them away and encourage the others to do the same.  So they dug into their picnic baskets and found extra and gave it to the guy next to them who may be shared something with them, this is what we are supposed to do, share with those in need from the gifts that we have been given.

Several years ago I was on a train in Romania.  If you ever want an experience go on a cross-country train trip in Romania, it is amazing.  The train is made up of compartments of six people, you may or may not know all of them, but you travel together.  As the journey continued it turned to meal time.  Each person took some food from their bag and all six of us shared what we had, a loaf of bread, some cheese, a bottle of wine, some salami, whatever we had we shared, and each of us ate and were filled.

The miracle is not the multiplication of the loaves the miracle is getting people to think of another and help them when they need it and ask for nothing in return.  The miracle is the person next to you sharing what they have with you and you sharing with them not storing things up while others are in need.  Scripture tells us that if we have two cloaks we should give one to someone who has none, how many of us have more than one jacket while our neighbor goes without?

The miracle is a change in our hearts that makes us less selfish and more willing to help and love our neighbor that is the miracle of the story, that everyone helped everyone else and no one was turned away hungry.

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