Feed the People
Today’s scripture: Matthew 14:13-21
It seems like today everyone is worried about something. They are worried about the future of their jobs, business, the country, and even the church. I guess it is normal when the costs of all the things we need rise faster than our paychecks. The last few days CNN has sent me around fifteen messages to my phone about the national debt ceiling ordeal. Is this of concern certainly it is. Debt is always a concern, but no one really knows what will happen if this legislation doesn’t pass. We are caught in a limbo of theories and speculations. We have drawn lines in the sand and choose a side. But we often forget to consider the real issue; there are real people on the other end that we need to consider.
This state of limbo is a feeling we live in throughout our lives and it cycles throughout history. There is no other record of this state of mind as complete as in the history of Israel. The father of the nation, Abraham, lived in it. For over one hundred years he waited for the promise to happen. For over one hundred years he questioned why he trusted God yet he pressed on. He was to be the father of many nations yet only had two kids, one of blessing and one of unfaithfulness, both of them came after decades of waiting. King David waited as well. He waited to become king, running for years to protect his life from a sitting king out to kill him. Yet he always knew that he was going to be and was king. Then he waited to honor God by building a temple. In fact he was forbidden to build it. He had to wait for his son to build it for him. There was oppression, exile, war, waiting always waiting, and LIMBO.
A limbo between hopes and despair. Asking what will the future holds and can we really trust God. Israel is a great nation only because they are and have always been an underdog story. Small against an empire, hated and persecuted yet surviving, through it all wondering. This limbo causes problems though; it drives a wedge between people. Some lose faith and fall away while others harden their lives and focus on God. Though times only add to it.
This is where we find those in this story today. Many different things are going on. People are split in several directions. They were promised in scripture to be a nation yet they were ruled not rulers. They hoped for someone to rise up to lead them to greatness, yet they really couldn’t decide on who or what that leader or movement would look like. That is why the people are gathered. This traveling rabbi had hope and spoke with authority they saw and heard great things, and they wanted to see what might happen. They gathered from different camps some fro the raising of a king devoted to the Law. Others hoped for a spiritual leader to bring the people back to the heart of God. Others just wanted to keep things the same, not to rock the boat politically or spiritually. They came from different places for different reasons. Each one was seeking. Each one broken, hurting, and impoverished. Jesus gave them something. He taught and His teaching made sense. They were beginning to see life with God differently yet they still had their own personal desires.
Jesus was out alone mourning the death of his cousin John, and people came to find him. There were sick in need of healing, poor in need of hope for better days, spiritually drained needing rest. He met those needs for them. They came looking for something and he met their needs. They praised God and were excited because they a broken oppressed people had hope that God was again with them and the dark days were over. They were enraptured by the events caught up not worrying because at that moment they felt alive and united.
The time was getting late. These people, like us, get caught up in things and lose track of time. Last night (Saturday) several of us were enjoying the company of others, time flew by and we ended up leaving the meetinghouse at midnight. We were living, enjoying life, not worried… well less worried about other things. We were simply in the moment and were loving it. That is what was happening here. People experienced Christ and shared life. They didn’t just check in and check out. They lingered, talking until it was too late to leave. Five thousand people in a meadow, no Wal-Mart in existence to buy food and the kids were getting hungry. Reality was setting in.
In other Gospels Jesus and the disciples seem to have a discussion about what to do. Send them home without food, go find and purchase food…they ran out of ideas there, Jesus then ask what do we have? Two fish and five loaves. Our world is full of problems we look out even in Kansas City and see countless issues in society that are just unjust, inhumane or plain wrong. Kids are hungry, people live without homes, and schools are grossly under funded. We can get caught up in limbo between hope and despaired. What will we do as we look at the multitude living in poverty of finance or spirit. We can easily get bogged down.
The first thing to do is see a need. The disciples saw five thousand people and no food. They next talked about it, “How can we help?” They realized we couldn’t do it on our own and need help. So they brought it to Jesus. The natural state of our lives is spent in seeing and talking. Sometimes we see so much and talk so often realizing we can’t do enough that we just shut down. But what if we brought the needs to Christ and asked him what we should do? What would he say to us?
In John’s Gospel Jesus asks Philip to feed them and is answered in a way, “We could work half a year and not be able to feed all these people.” Then they assess what they have as well as what they don’t have. “We have five loaves and two fish”. Poverty is an emotional, cultural, attitude, and financial state. It goes beyond the lack of money. To begin to move out of poverty we first have to assess what we have. Jesus will ask us tough questions when we come to him and sometimes it is hard to see what we have over what we don’t have. They bring what they have and give it to Jesus. The people gather and sit. A blessing is given and all were served and satisfied. Five loaves, two fish. One meal for five thousand men plus women and children. We can debate on how Jesus accomplished this miracle, but we will only spin our wheels and miss the point. That point is that we have what Christ needs to change the world around us. We have a little in ourselves, we have Jesus, and through him all can be satisfied. We see needs outside and inside our meeting and wonder how we can do anything. We don’t have a million dollars, we don’t have a praise band, and we don’t have a lot. We don’t have and we can’t be affective is where our minds run. But what do we have? I see that we have much more than five loaves and two fish. We have people who cook, people who teach, people who love to have fun, and people who care about various things. Finally we have Jesus. Our needs our worries may seem as large as this multitude of people, but we have a lot to bring to Christ for Him to bless. This year at Yearly Meeting I attended a session lead by one of our missionaries in Rwanda and he spoke of what they were doing in that area. The people were worried because the people of the United States were not sending as much money. They felt they could not survive alone. They were begging Evangelical Friends Mission to remove this missionary because he was going to kill the Friends movement there. But slowly David encouraged them to see what they did have; soon they were beginning to change their attitude. Church meetinghouses were being built with out the help of the United States. People were beginning to move out of poverty and into a state of hope. Sure they still had moments of limbo but they know Christ is with them. As we consider our lives and what God is doing in and around us I pray that we will bring what we have to Jesus along with our concerns and let us then speak together about our hopes. We have all we need to do what Jesus says. Let us see the needs and feed the people!