A Sermon for Proper 11, Year B: Mark's Feeding of the Five Thousand Men
Isn’t it amazing what can happen when one person steps forward and offers to share their gifts? Those moments are often nothing short of miraculous. Certainly, the miracle of feeding the five thousand people couldn’t have happened any other way.
I imagine that most of us can sympathize with how the disciples were feeling on that evening by the shore. They had been working hard – so hard that they had not even had time to eat. There was so much need among the people – sick people needed healing, lonely people needed comforting. The overwhelming needs simply wore the disciples down – and when the crowd needed to eat, they said “Send them away, because what we have will not feed them – its just not enough.” In their exhaustion, the disciples chose to see need and scarcity – but not Jesus. Jesus sees with the eyes of abundance, and asked the disciples to share what they had – five loaves and two fish. And that small gift made all the difference: five thousand men – plus the uncounted women and children – were fed that night. And twelve disciples learned that what we are given is enough, if we are willing to share our gifts.
Twelve different people learned similar lessons this past week. As most of you know, this past week was the youth mission trip in Tennessee. Eight youth and four adults spent the past several days clearing trails, taping drywall, swimming in the river and getting to know each other a little bit better. On our last full day in Tennessee, we spent time in group building activities. One of those activities was called the Muse. Our guide led us to a clearing in the woods, with several small platforms and a few wooden beams. Our task was simple: as a group, we needed to get everyone across the platforms using the wooden beams, and if anyone or anything touched the ground, we would have to start over. It looked simple at first, but after several attempts, the group began to get frustrated. We didn’t have enough people strong enough to carry the beams, the beams weren’t long enough to cover the distance between all the platforms, and we didn’t have enough energy after three days of mission work to think of any other way to solve the task. Some of the youth started to get creative, wanting to use other materials from the forest – but the guide told us “What you’ve been given is enough to get across.” After an hour or so of trying, the guide was right. All of us made it across the platforms to the goal. We had enough boards, enough people to carry them, enough patience, enough creativity, enough perseverance, and enough willingness to reach out and help each other. The gifts we had were enough, as long as we were willing to have faith and really use what we had.
Rabbi and childrens author Sandy Eisenberg Sasso recently commented in an interview that as a culture, we are good at teaching our children to be competitors and consumers. The consumer mentality teaches that we never have enough, that what we have isn’t quite good enough. We always need the better car, the newer toy, the latest clothes or music. We can’t fall behind because then we will not be enough, and we will not have enough. Jesus tells us something different. Each of us have been given extraordinary gifts – talents, skills, interests and experiences that we can choose to use and to share. We are called us to see that what we have might be enough – to see the possibilities the way that Jesus sees, that two fish and five loaves are enough to feed thousands of people.
The problems of the world are overwhelming, and it is so easy to get caught up in fear and focus on scarcity. But as Christians, we are called to witness to the abundance in the world. God has given us enough. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone – yet 30,000 children die each day. There are enough strong and skilled workers to spend their time fixing substandard housing, enough creative minds to find treatments for all kinds of diseases, enough ears to heard each other’s stories, and enough love to share with anyone who needs it.
All of these are gifts from God, and we are called to use them – because when we share what we have, miracles beyond our dreams can happen.
Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Amen.