The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire


Sermon - August 6, 2017
Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:13-21 
Sermon Title: Enough For All

The Rev. Robert Vodra

     It was getting late, they were in a deserted place, and they had no food to eat.  Frankly they didn’t plan ahead.  Feeding 5,000, or even 500 for that matter, is not an easy task.  Just a few weeks ago we had a Cub Scout meeting and had decided to do hot dogs and hamburgers for everyone.  I got a text that morning.  “I am at Sam’s club, how many hotdogs and hamburgers should I buy?”  Some of you know my formula, 1 hot dog and 1 hamburger per person, plus 10%.  The next question is “and how many people are we expecting?”  That is much harder, 30 kids in the pack, maybe 10 are away, so maybe 20 kids will be there, some will bring one parent, some will bring two parents, some will also bring siblings, a few of those 20 kids are siblings, so they might only bring one parent for the two kids… 

     So in that aspect the disciples had it a bit easier.  5,000 people, I don’t know, maybe one loaf and one fish for every 2 people, plus 10%.  Oh, it was 5,000 plus women and children, bit harder… Guess it depends on the size of the loaves and fish and how many people there really are.  Maybe the disciples had other priorities on their minds.  5,000 people plus women and children, you are going to need some crowd control, and sanitation.  No port-a-John rentals back then.  Perhaps not as much trash as today, but certainly a lost and found would be needed.  And maybe first aid, someone might step on a sharp rock and stub their toe. 

     I doubt they even thought of those.  They just followed Jesus, without thinking about the future, without planning.  You could say that they followed Jesus on faith that somehow it would all be OK. 

     Their mind was certainly not on food.  But Jesus should have been on top of the food situation.  Remember that wedding they had in Cana, where they ran out of wine?  Yep, Jesus was on top of that.  And throughout Jesus’ ministry, food was important.  We will be celebrating communion today, sometimes called the Lord’s supper, remembering Jesus’ last meal with his disciples.  We don’t do a lot of pot luck suppers here, but have heard about a few of them happening.  You never run out of food.  The women who do the funeral receptions, may have no idea how many people will be there, but always plenty to go around.  Sometimes after coffee hour I will find on my desk a piece of cake, or a few cookies in a bag to bring home.  As a church, as followers of Jesus, we know how to do food. 

     So you know what Jesus said “Give me the loaves and fishes, I got this.”  Not quite.  As recorded in the scripture this morning Jesus said “They need not go away, you give them something to eat.”  You, not me, you give them something to eat.  Now Jesus took the loaves and fishes, blessed them, and gave them to his disciples to hand out to the crowd.  Jesus didn’t do it alone.  Yes, he gets the credit for multiplying the loaves and fishes, but it was the disciples who actually handed out all that food, it was the disciples who were told by Jesus to give them something to eat.

     If you read your Bible you know that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all complete stories of Jesus’ life, but told from slightly different views.  Matthew, Mark and Luke are pretty similar.  Some suggest that some of the authors may have had access to one of the other books, or another source, when they were writing their story of Jesus’ life.   John is the odd one.  Some suggest that John may have had a “book of signs” when he wrote his gospel, as it really focus’ on miracles of Jesus.  There is one miracle recorded in all 4 gospels, this one.  Now if you accept miracles or not, why was this story so important as to be recorded in all 4 gospels?   As you read through the 4 gospels there are some pretty amazing miracles we hear about.  Raising Lazarus from the dead, healing the blind man, but this is the only one that all 4 gospel writers felt was important enough to include in their gospel. 

     I think it is summed up in Jesus’ statement to his disciples.  You do it.  In that one simple statement, Jesus is saying to his disciples, “Live already. You can’t sit back and watch me do all this awesome stuff. Live it. Live life. I am counting on you. I need you.”

     I mentioned a while ago how my house is a favorite of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I am not sure if it is true, but I have heard that they have a cell phone app that has most, or perhaps even every house in the country in it, and they record when they visited that house, what the response was, what they left for them to read, all the info they can.  This way, when a different person shows up, they already know that last time they visited they were warmed welcomed, were able to leave several pamphlets, or not.  Or course they never introduce themselves as Jehovah’s witnesses, so unless I get a pamphlet I can never be 100% sure.  But last time they visited, I politely answered the door like I always do, and the man asked if I was saved.  What a loaded question. 

     A huge part of me wanted to sit down with him and dive into exactly what saved means.  I am looking forward to the day I am retired, no kids to run around, and a free hour or two when I can invite him in for something cold to drink and really dive into what he means.  But 100 other things I should be doing, I told him that I was a member of a church already, and excused myself.  But later I got thinking about what that may mean to be saved.

     I consider myself a follower of Jesus.  What that means to me is that I find in the Gospels a story of a man, who I believe is the son of God, who has given us a glimpse into the Kingdom of God, and a path for reaching that Kingdom.  So when I read stories like we read this morning, I see a miracle.  Could have happened, might not have, really in the end does not matter to me.  Something very special happened that day, so special that all four gospels recorded it.  So what does it matter to me.

     You, I believe it is an instruction for all followers of Jesus.  The disciples were is a desolate place, 5,000 or more people, dusty, dirty, sun is going down, it will be dark soon, and there is no food.  And Jesus says you.  You feed them.  I will provide, but you need to participate in this.  Saved, in my mind means changed.  You are saved or not saved, there is not a middle ground.  And when Jesus calls us, if we accept that call there is that change.  Perhaps, if that is what he meant by saved, I would have to answer yes, I am.   You may hear this story, hear the miracle and it helps you to understand who Jesus is., that is good.  Or you may hear this story and see a call to participate.  I think Jesus is not just calling his disciples to participate, he is calling all of us.  That changes me, that challenges me, if I accept that I might consider myself saved.

     Today, in our church we face struggles.  We are all getting older.  Members have died over the past year.  Finances are tight.  There are probably days where many of us are ready to say “Send them away.”  We could really dig into who them are.  The sun is setting it is going to be dark soon, and we have no food.  Some might think that we can just take our few fish and bread and run off with Jesus.  Let the other fend for themselves, at least we will have our food.

     But Jesus says “you.”  You go feed them.  You take of them.  I will do what I need t do, but it is not all on me.   No matter how desolate, how dirty, how crowded or empty, no matter how late, no matter how hopeless the situation is, Jesus will be there, but is not saying “I’ve got this” rather staying “You’ve got this.” 

     What is Jesus calling you to do?  That answer is going to be different for all of us, and can change often.  Sometimes day to day, sometimes hour to hour.  And most of the time, we are not just being called to do one thing, but there are many things that Jesus is calling on us to do. 

     Last year I hiked with Keri and the boys up Mt. Monadnock.  We hiked the Marlborough trail, I don’t recommend that, I have heard that there are better trails.  As I was hiking, I kept thinking that it was a good analogy for following Jesus.  When you start out the trail is easy, a few little rolling hills, but trees on either side of the trail.  From time to time you could look up, and through the trees see the top of the mountain.  We had a goal, we could see it.  Not all the time, but at least catch a glimpse of it, we knew we were heading in the right direction.  As we got further along the trail got steeper.  Some places at steps, a few areas were so steep you used your hands and feet to get over a boulder or up a big rock.  There were places where I knew we were going the wrong way, the peak is over there, but the path going that way. 
     Sometimes you just followed the path because you knew in your heart it was the right way to go, even if your brain was telling you that it was not.  There were some difficult spots, we would to stop and catch our breath, get a drink of water, sometimes get a bite to eat for that little boost of energy you get when you have something in your stomach.  I suggested at one point we turn back, we had not made it to our goal, but I was getting tired, I could tell the boys were also getting tired. 

     And that is what it has been like, in my life to follow Jesus.  We can sometimes see the final goal, the Kingdom of God, or at least get a glimpse of it.  Parts of the journey are easy and fun, but other parts of that journey are hard, sometimes we pause, sometimes we consider turning back, sometimes we follow blindly even when our brains question the direction.  Jesus never said it was going to be easy.  And I believe that Jesus walks that journey with us, sometimes pointing the way, sometimes pushing from behind.  But it is not all on Jesus, it is you, and me, who are called to be the disciples.  It is you and me that are called to feed the 5,000, it is you and me that are called to be the church, to tell others our wonderful story and invite them to walk with us. 

     After our Cub Scout meeting we had a lot of food left over.  I had forgotten that we had invited families to all bring a side dish or desert, so we had lots of leftovers.  I don’t think I would consider it a miracle, there were only about 40 people there, and no food multiplying was occurring we just really miscalculated.  Today, after we are all fed with our communion elements, there will probably be left overs.  In many areas of our lives, our immediate needs are met, but as we celebrate that, I invite you to think about this next week what Jesus is calling you to do.  Where is Jesus saying, “I will help, but you need to participate.”