“Be Kind to One Another”

Ephesians 4: 25 – 5: 2, August 12th, 2018

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


 

“Hear now these words of scripture from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians, chapter four, verse twenty-five thru chapter five verse two.”

Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2

25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.  26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil.  28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.  29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.  30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.  31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

“Having heard this ancient writing with our ears, let us now open our hearts to these words of instruction from the Apostle Paul, as we seek their meaning for us in the Twenty-First Century.”

 

“Be Kind to One Another”

Kindness is an action in which one shows consideration, or thoughtfulness and possibly helpfulness to another.  The action of kind-heartedness often is done with compassion and is frequently offered when a moment of charity is needed for the good of someone other than yourself.  Sympathy is an act of kindness and is commonly used when consoling and comforting someone over their loss of a loved one.  One of our beloved members of our fellowship, Louise Richards, shares with me about kindness, virtually, every time I visit her.  She shares how when she was a child, a long time ago, her grandmother would tell her to be kind to others and they will be kind to you.  Be kind to one another, what a wonderful message and she has carried it with her since she was a child!  I searched high and low for an idea of how to talk about today’s scripture lesson from the writings of the Apostle Paul, yet, I find myself resonating on this simple phrase given to me by Louise, which was passed on to her early in her childhood from her grandmother.  She has also shared with me how the plight of slavery is part of her heritage, yet front and center in her cherished memories is this sermonette surrounding being kind to one another!

Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, to the Ephesians who were struggling to be a viable church in that region of the world, contains this same message.  In verse thirty-two Paul clearly states: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you!” /Ephesians 4:32b/ As we have studied Paul’s words over these recent weeks, we have learned how he has instructed those early Christians, that they must recognize all whom have confessed a relationship with Christ and thus have been baptized with the Living and Holy Spirt, of Christ, of God our Creator; thereby being in true and unrestricted fellowship with them.  In today’s lesson Paul speaks of all the emotions and triggers that keep people from honoring their sisters and brothers in the faith, and in so doing have blocked themselves from the ability to be kindhearted and thereby preventing them from imitating the example of Christ in their lives.  Which, Paul clearly believes we are meant to do if we are to be followers of Christ.

People come to me wanting to know how we can build up our declining and aging congregation.  Every pastor I know understands the depth of this question.  It is a question deserving an answer.  There are as many answers as there are communities of faithful Christians meeting together this morning throughout the world!  The current Pope since 2013, Pope Francis, serving and leading the largest group of Christians, speaks of the simple values of ministry, all the time, and has literally, rocked the Roman Catholic Church with the power of his simplicity!  Perhaps, it is said by many, this is because of his Jesuit background.  Which is a religious order which takes a vow of poverty and they are known for their reverence.  His methodology for leading his vast congregation is to go back to the simple teachings of Christ, which is to keep it simple.  Love God and your neighbor as yourself by imitating the man Jesus and follow his teachings.  To many his methodologies are a new beginning.  At the same time there are those that feel strongly he has taken them the wrong direction, wanting to go back to the old rigidness of their church, reinforcing the conservative ‘hard lines’ of Roman Catholic doctrine.  You perhaps can see the struggles which pastors throughout the world face when someone asks: “how do we strengthen our church”, yet not wanting their pastor to try anything new.

The Apostle Paul was the lead pastor of these young churches, like this church in Ephesus, to whom he has written his letter and now we look to for guidance.  In the case of the Ephesians, there must have been signs that members of their fellowship were still doing things the old way and not the new open hearted and charitable ways of Christ Jesus.  Consider his chastisement about not being truthful with each other, or being angry towards others, or in Paul’s own words: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.” /Ephesians 4:32a/ Clearly, this must have been a problem, or he would not be dwelling on it like he is!  In this scenario the message is clear: “remove and discard all these negative and unproductive pagan ways!”  Paul is clearly telling this small church, your nonreligious secular ways do not work in the church, not if we want to build it up in a model supported by the example and teachings of Jesus!  Sounds clear enough doesn’t it?  But, let’s be honest here, letting go of old biases and habits is much harder than just snapping one’s fingers and presto everything is new!

Many of us have tried to make changes in our lives along this long and winding path of life.  Some of us have indeed made real and substantial progress too!  But, it is never easy.  Simple, maybe, easy, no!  I tried an experiment with the congregation I was serving up in Middletown New York.  First let me say this was an older, historic church, which was founded when a group of blue-collar workers wanted a new church, away from the white-collar bosses’ church, which was established when the railroad first came to that community.  They picked a spot on the top of a hill overlooking the entire community!  Built it out of volcanic rock that was laying around in people’s back yards.  The building is a one of a kind and historic.  They also had a Three Manual Skinner Organ, with thirty stops, and five thousand pipes, many of which were wooden.  They had this organ imported and installed!  During the fifties and sixties their church flourished and was packed to capacity every Sunday!  By the time I got there in 1997 the average attendance was thirty-three.  Now, the experiment I tried, a few years after I arrived, (and we had built attendance up into the seventies) was to ask people to sit in different pews, taking a different seat on Sunday morning.  Most everyone was willing to get up and move during that one service.  But, by the next week ninety percent had gone back to their previous places!  It is easy to say we are open to new ideas, yet, seldom do we find it easy to change our thinking about that old more ‘comfortable’ way.

The discussion which Paul has presented to us today, is a lot more serious then our unwillingness to sit in a different chair or in a different location within the sanctuary on Sundays.  It is about how we treat others, how we treat each other.  This carries real consequences and can actually cause harm and bad feelings with the relationships of people we interact with in all areas of our lives.  What if we held each other accountable for being untruthful with each other?  What if we started being mindful of how hurtful anger can be in our lives.  Paul tells us it is ok to get angry yet says we ought not to let the sun go down before we do something with it!  He is clearly suggesting that we must do something with our anger.  Gestalt therapy had not been developed at the time of Jesus, so a more personal approach is needed.  Consequently, like Gestalt therapy suggests, we need to take responsibility for our lives.  We must put the here and now of our lives into context.  We need to take a moment and consider why we are angry, what caused it and what part do we as individuals need to take responsibility for.  If someone or something outside of our selves caused this disruption we need to pause and consider why they may have said or done what they did.  There are anger management classes available for people who struggle with getting their anger under control.  Why?  Because it is recognized by modern professionals that anger is an emotion that we need to take responsibility for rather than blame people, places and things for our emotional wellbeing.

Uncontrolled and unresolved anger can and does, lead to a disconnection with God and God’s Spirit.  Paul uses a number of different ways to discuss this.  Bitterness and wrath are kissing cousins to resentments and anger!  All of these emotions lead to pointing a finger at something or someone outside of our control.  In the pointing we are putting blame on someone or something outside of ourselves.  Paul wasn’t buying into this line of thinking.  Apparently, he understood that when we point one finger at anyone or anything, three are pointing back at our self!  Try it!  Point your finger at me… right now!  Now, as you do so, look at your hand.  You will see three fingers pointing back at you!  Stop pointing your fingers at that which is outside you!  You and me, we need to look inside ourselves to resolve our conflicts.  When I slipped on the sidewalk in front of a hotel, it wasn’t so much the fault of the sidewalk or the rain.  It was my rush and carelessness to get to my car that was the cause.  You over react to some constructive feedback about something you are doing.  You take offense and get a resentment which unresolved… leads to anger.  Stop a moment, step back and consider your context.  You skipped lunch, you are feeling light headed and are already regretting doing so and are behind in your tasks at hand.  This is what caused you to wrongly take offense to what was meant to be, simple feedback, to assist your efforts on a project which you are currently working on.  Yes, we always need to review ourselves first… before giving in to these negative emotions.

The simple phrase that Louise has now passed on to all of us, is simple and basic.  Be kind to others, and they will be kind to you.  Jesus said: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” /Ephesians 4: 26/ Kindness begins when we stop assuming the other person is what is causing our present discomfort.  Transference is a common problem which most of us are guilty of now and then and some of us more frequently than not.  This means we blame others for our lack of proper sleep or our poor eating habits.  Kindness is good nourishment for everyone.  This is not just for us Christians.  Yet, as children of God, followers of the teachings of Jesus, it would be well if we followed this ancient, yet simple advice.  Paul was saying these words out of kindness.  The Apostle Paul, transformed and called by Christ, truly believed that Jesus was all about love and kindness.  “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. /Ephesians 5: 1-2/”

Amen.

“The Signs are Everywhere!”

John 6: 24 – 35,  page 867, August 5th, 2018

Sermon by pastor Tim Woodard


 

 

 

“Hear now these words from the gospel according to John, chapter six, verses twenty-four thru thirty-five.”

John 6:24-35

24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.  25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”  26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?  What work are you performing?  31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

“Having heard these words from the teachings of Jesus, passed down to us through the ages, let us now focus on seeking out the signs in our time and ascertaining their meaning to us in our lives today.”

 

“The Signs are Everywhere!”

Last Sunday, we found Jesus sharing in an extraordinary meal with his disciples and five thousand of his followers.  They called it a miracle because so many were filled with so little.  Jesus filled them with his blessings and words of hope.  Yet, after this occurrence, Jesus and the disciples slipped away to Capernaum, where the crowds again found him.  They ask Jesus what he was doing there.  “Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” /John 6: 26/ As Jesus continues this dialogue with his followers it becomes clear they are more focused on the here and now, the physical signs that Jesus can fill their bellies with food and heal the sick.  Yet, Jesus tells them these are not the signs that they need to see.  Rather, he wants his followers to see the bigger picture.  Jesus wants them to understand that the signs are meant to lead them to who Jesus truly is… in the realm of the kingdom of heaven.  He begins to talk about eternal life and bread from heaven, the bread that gives life, eternally!  It would appear from this discussion, that the people were confused about the signs and who Jesus was.  One can only wonder, are we too confused?  Are we still wanting Jesus, to only fix our needs and wants, in this ‘all too real’ and ‘all too material’ world we live in?  Can it be, we identify with the crowds in the scriptures and still hunger and thirst for the spiritual nourishment of which Jesus speaks?  But we have no clue how to see and understand these signs?

One scholar tries to give us some direction.  “Jesus knew that we all have a tendency to put our faith in things that ultimately cannot satisfy the deepest longings of our soul.  The only “bread” that can truly satisfy our hunger is the life that God offers us. “/Alan Brehm/ Many of us struggle in this way.  Many of us talk about faith yet believe that faith is in the seeing and in the partaking of the abundance which is offered to us through the love of God.  This is not the definition of faith.  Yes, faithful people often have abundance and often mystically are helped in the human journeys through life; often-times in physical and material ways.  Yet, those are only fringe benefits and are not meant to be the goals of faithfulness!  Faith, however, is believing without seeing.  I once heard it said: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so!” /Mark Twain/ Years ago, I looked that up and found that this statement is a quote from Mark Twain.

Is every one of us concerned about the here and now?  Sure, of course, we are!  So why can’t we expect a little help from Jesus?  Fact is I am certain you can find a few pastors offering these types of reassurances from their pulpits this very morning.  Trust me, I too want this.  The ‘signs’ are everywhere confirming this point.  We live in a world where the younger we are the more likely we have become programed that things, the good life, excitement, and entertainment… can be had virtually instantly!  Cell phones, the internet, face time, each enhance this feeling of instant connection, instant gratification at many levels.  We go shopping on the internet and we can have clothing, food, furniture, literally everything can be shipped to our homes.  It would be difficult to not be drawn into this belief that happiness can be attained at the snap of the fingers.  That is, if we believe we can fill that void in our lives with things.  Jesus pointed out to the crowds that they were focused on the wrong signs.  Abundant food that only comforts your need to consume fuel for your human bodies, will not lead you to the nourishment we all need for our souls, the essence of our core needs!

The material world is important for our human lives, I am not suggesting to you anything to the contrary.  We do however, need to look for the signs of that which will feed out spirits, our hearts and the very character of our beings!  What we, as followers of Jesus need to spend some quality time doing, on a regular basis, is looking for the signs of God’s grace and love, God’s kindness, compassion and mercy in the midst of our lives.  The crowds that followed Jesus, they were hungering and thirsting for all these things and the basics of human existence.  Many in our society today are in this same quagmire, thus their predicaments complicate their search for God’s saving grace.  This has been true throughout history, before and after the time of Jesus.  Leaving us with the overriding question: How do we connect with these signs which Jesus eludes to?  Can it be as simple as humbly having faith and trusting in the ministry and message of Jesus?  It is an easy statement to make, and most Christian pastors would agree with this, yet many add a few adverbs or adjectives.

Some pastors would agree that: “Simple things can be signs of things too great to even fully understand.” /Rick Morley/ As an example: You are in the supermarket buying one item.  You find it with the help of a store clerk, whom you have wrongly identified as he is just a young man running an errand, like yourself in the same market.  Yet, his kind, unjudgmental, and helpful response helps you locate what you need quickly.  You head toward the checkout counter, bumping into an elderly woman whom is having trouble reaching an item on a high shelf.  As you maneuver around her, you say to yourself, ‘somebody ought to help her reach that’.  You never stop as you head for the checkout counter.  Hum… that was rather rude and thoughtless.  Finally, you get to the checkout line.  The express lines are shut down.  You utter an unkind phrase under your breath, thankfully no one heard you, other than your Creator.  Unfortunately, the manager is racing down row five, where you just left the elderly woman needing assistance.  Seems in her efforts to reach what she needed she slips and falls.  A few minutes later the E.M.T.’s arrive to assist her.  Finally, you pay for the jar of relish which you need for Saturday’s barbecue, after a fatigued mother, with a baby riding in her grocery chart, waves for you to step in front of her in line.  You go home muttering about the challenge your pastor made about looking for signs, which he said were everywhere!

When we read scripture about Jesus, we need to view his words in context with everything else we have learned about him!  Jesus was a compassionate, loving and kind man!  He cared about the needs of the people he interacted with!  He told us parables and stories like that of the Good Samaritan.  You remember the story, it is in the gospel of Luke 10:25-37.  “It is about a traveler who is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road.  First a priest and then a Levite comes by, but both avoid the man.  Finally, a Samaritan happens upon the traveler.” /Wikipedia/ The message is all about having compassion for others, even if they are your enemies!  This is what the Good Samaritan did, he stopped and helped the man.  Used his own money to care for him, while others walked by ignoring the man’s plight!  This story came from the heart of Jesus and his teachings!  If you truly want to be a follower of Jesus, look to how he lived his life, humbling himself for the good of others, people like me and you!

Jesus is telling us today, that we must ‘stop’ concentrating on our own ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.  Subsequently, by doing so, we will be free to focus more on the needs of those around us.  Does this mean we shall need to give everything away to others?  No, not at all.  Yet, there will be situations when we need to be inconvenienced from time to time for the sake of another.  This means that occasionally we need to open our hearts and perhaps put that empty guest bedroom to use, helping a friend or someone in need of it now and then!  These are the kind of things which shall count most when we are looking for entrance into the kingdom of God.  Acts of kindheartedness not acts of getting your personal chores done in a timely manner.  These are the actions that Jesus has worked to instill in our hearts.  The signs are everywhere.  Some people stop to help people in need.  Others walk right by, not willing to share a dime or five minutes to help someone else!

The folks who questioned Jesus in today’s scripture lesson, they wanted to be feed food and only remembered ‘the sign’ when Jesus did just that!  They did not take note of the generosity of the young lad who offered up the five loaves and two fish.  His actions which came from his character, as a loving person, did not parish like yesterday’s food.  No, he went home filled with the knowledge that he was able to help others, he went home with something which brought him closer to God and the essence of true life.  “The challenge here is to see which things perish, and which things endure, and to embed ourselves – to abide in, to focus our living on – the things that endure.  Because only the things that endure truly satisfy, and only the things that endure bring true life.” /David Ewart/

Jesus is our ‘life line!’  If we can connect with who the man Jesus truly was, as described in so many special ways in scripture, then we shall connect with the true signs which shall direct us to eternal life in the kingdom of God.

Amen.

Pastor’s Note August & September 2018

Wow!  August already!  How quickly the summer has progressed!  We have a few more months of summer weather before we need to put away our summer outfits and prepare for Fall.  But, of course, here in Florida that is not a major concern.  What is exciting to begin thinking about is August ushers in the beginning of school for the children in our neighborhoods and the beginning of our Fall season.  The last Sunday of this month we shall formally begin with our Rally Day event to signal that Sunday School has started again.  Also, I will be rekindling our Wednesday 11 am Bible study class in the church office as well.  I am praying that our northern travelers and vacationers are enjoying the season.  We miss you one and all!  Continue to be safe out there and pray for this your church!

This summer has been a time for us “Christians” to pray extra hard.  We prayed for the children in Thailand and that ended in triumph!  Yet, one rescuer gave his life in the effort.  Raging fires are currently taking lives and destroying homes in California.  The volcano in Hawaii continues to pour lava upon the area.  Homes have been destroyed, and the lava shows no sign of slowing up.  Yes, there are lots of things to pray about.  Many migrant children are still separated from their families.  War still rages in Syria.  International tensions continue to escalate, and political turmoil continues to monopolize the front-page news every day.  Yes, there is a lot to pray about.

Pastors always have asked their congregations to pray for others.  I join in the chorus.  I would like, however, to ask us to truly take time to name what we are praying about.  Things like compassion, mercy and kindness are what we Christians need to talk about.  Asking God to intercede on another’s behalf with loving kindness or asking that others would show compassion and understanding for their neighbors.  These are things Christians need to advocate.  There are a multitude of social justice issues we ought to be asking for God’s guidance on.  We might pray for an open heart and an open hand when leaders, judges and government officials make decisions.

Yes, there are many ways to pray!  Prayers do change lives.  This is a fact.  The first life it will change is the person offering the prayer!  I pray every day for guidance in God’s will!  Yet, before the day is over I again ask for forgiveness for the things I forgot to do.  Before I fall off to sleep at night I thank God for all that was accomplished in the day.  I also pray for of others as I fall off to sleep.

May God bless us one and all.  Pastor Tim

 

 

 

 

“Feeding One Another”

John 6:1-14, July 29th, 2018

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


 

 

“Hear now these words from the gospel according to John, chapter six, verses one thru fourteen.”

John 6:1-14

1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.  3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.  4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.  5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”  6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.  7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”  8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.  But what are they among so many people?”  10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”  Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so, they sat down, about five thousand in all.  11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; and the fish was distributed as well, as much as they wanted.  12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”  13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.  14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

“Having heard these words, written about this miraculous event, let us consider its meaning in a world where people go hungry every day.”

 

“Feeding One Another”

Getting together to share a meal can be an exciting and enjoyable event!  Many of us like to cook at home, cheaper that way, and can be a lot of fun.  Some of us are good at it!  Guys like me, we can cook up a good hamburger, hotdogs or steak on the grill.  Sometimes, we fix some vegetables and a good baked potato.  Grilled chicken is always good.  My wife has a much wider range of great meals she can put together at home.  She knows how to prepare a meal for a large family too!  I suspect we have a lot of good cooks within our congregation as well.  Most of us have shared in a pot luck dinner or two over the years.  They are great because we get a wonderful assortment of the many different recipes many of us use.  A lot of those favorite dishes are included in the cook book that was recently put together this last season; I understand we still have a few available for anyone interested in adding it to their collection of favorite recipes!  Yes, there certainly are many ways to enjoy a meal.

Getting out to a good restaurant is also quite enjoyable.  My wife and I do that on a regular basis.  I know many of you do as well.  The best part is someone else does the dishes and everyone gets what they want!  Going to a restaurant is always a good idea when company stops in unexpected!  It is always difficult to plan a meal when this happens.  But usually, a local restaurant can handle the situation for us.  Of course, this is not always the case.  Sometimes, an event or gathering is too large to just put together a quick plan, or too many people are involved to just go to a restaurant without reservations or preplanning!  So, what do we do in these situations?  Or, what if there is not enough food in the house to feed everyone and credit cards are maxed out? Therefore, going to a restaurant is out of the question.  Our scripture this morning is an example of an extraordinary type of a situation multiplied a hundred times over!  Let’s take a closer look.

First, let me say that as I reflect-back, the largest wedding I have ever been to, the count was just over five hundred guests.  There was a huge feast!  Still boggles my mind to think of the extreme expense that was expended for that wedding.  Well, we can assume there were at least, five thousand people gathered that day to see and hear Jesus.  We can surmise that this crowd had gathered over a few days and they had traveled far away from their homes and villages.  Jesus’ question to his disciples about where they could buy enough food to feed this large gathering, was rather rhetorical.  As there were no restaurants or supermarkets anywhere near them.  Quite the contrary!  What we call modern conveniences, back in the time of Jesus, was way sparser then perhaps many of us can imagine.  No supermarkets.  No refrigeration.  No delivery trucks or cell phones or any of these things we, in present time, are accustomed to.  Consequentially, feeding this crowd was going to be much more difficult to accommodate, then that huge elaborate feast I went to, for my nephews wedding, back up in New Jersey!

Some of you have experienced serving meals to the hungry at the Daily Bread in Melbourne.  The folks that gather there, for a meal, are down on their luck.  The free meal, served by volunteers, may not suite every desire but it is hearty nourishment, and seldom does someone go away hungry.  Those whom support these efforts can feel good about the help they are providing.  Yet, the crowd there still does not compare to the crowd that Jesus and his disciples were facing.  We do know, of course, there are crowds larger than the one in our scripture; refugees in various parts of the world whom are struggling to even get fresh water, as well as food, shelter and basic clothing.  Let us keep these hungry ones in mind, praying for yet another miracle which shall feed large hungry crowds.  As we reflect on the miraculous feeding of the five thousand in today’s lesson, let us consider new ways we might help the hungry here in our own community.

A simple google search on the internet tells us there are service organizations like, World Vision, whom publish dramatic statistics about hunger.  “An estimated 8.5 million people go to bed hungry on a regular basis.” /United Nations ‘food agencies’/ “Developing nations account for 791 million or 98 percent of the chronically undernourished in the world.   Mostly from sub-Saharan areas of Africa, the Caribbean and areas of Asia.  World Vision provides food aids helping people get through the worst days.” /World Vision/ I would like to tell you that we, here in the United States of America, are immune to these statistics but that is not the case.  I know most of us recognize that statics are often misleading, yet they give us some hints of what reality may be like for a large group of people.  One agency called, Feeding America, reports that: “One in seven people in Florida, suffer from hunger; 857,150 of which are children.  Charitable programs, such as food stamps, are unable to fully support those struggling with hunger.” /Feeding America/ This past Monday, three of our members helped feed around two hundred and fifty people at the Dailey Bread, here in Melbourne.  Many of them come in for breakfast as well as for lunch.  Hunger is a real problem for a lot of folks.

Let us get back to our scripture lesson.  Have you wondered why the young boy was carrying the five barley loaves and two fish?  What are the odds that he was the only person, out of five thousand, who was carrying food supplies that day?  Surely not everyone had brought food along, yet, we can assume a great many were carrying some type of food and water.  Dried fish and unleavened bread was easy to carry and was a main staple during the time of Jesus, especially in that region of the world.  One can only suspect, that amid such a crowd, people were not waving their small food supplies around, offering it to strangers whom they encountered along the way.  Yet, this one young lad stepped forward and offered up what he had, so that Jesus and the disciples might have something to eat.  Our scripture does not tell us of anyone else having some food supplies with them, but many scholars have written that this seems highly unlikely that others did not also have some type of provisions with them!

Jesus does what any reasonable pastor might do, especially at a pot luck dinner where it seems not much has been gathered in the way of food for those whom are hungry.  He gathers the people together.  The disciples help him get the crowd to sit down.  They let people know that the little bit of food, which has been offered, up will need to feed them all.  Then, Jesus blesses the food, giving thanks to his Father in heaven.  Breaking apart the bread and the fish, Jesus instructs the disciples to pass it among the people letting everyone eat until they had their fill.  After the meal, Jesus has them collect the leftovers, and twelve baskets are filled with them!  A miracle for sure!   Now, we have no details of what occurred other than what is written.  Of course, the event was shared with people for about forty years by word of mouth, before this happening was written down.  Most of us realize that there were no video recordings or audio tapes of this event.  No scribes whom were furiously writing down all the details.  Nor were their reporters interviewing the disciples and getting feedback from the crowds.   All we have is this writing telling us of how Jesus fed five thousand people that day and the only food given for him to bless, were the five barley loafs and two fish.  Most definitely a miracle occurred there that day!

The truth is, we all want to know, what are the details?  What really happened that day?  How do put this event into action in our current time?  Seems there are a lot of hungry people in the world.  How can we use our lesson to help others!  Imagine, you lived at that time.  You heard of Jesus from your neighbors, so you wanted to go hear and see him for yourself.  Clearly, you were hungering and thirsting for more information about this man that many were saying was a prophet, and some even suggested he could be the Messiah.  You realize this is unlikely, but they said Jesus had also healed a few people of some illnesses.  So, you wanted to go see for yourself.  You knew you would be out of the house at least all day; you may not have realized you would be traveling for several days.  But, just in case, you packed some provisions and such before you left.  Of course, there were merchants here and there where you could get food and water, but they may not be where you would find this man Jesus, so you got ready taking with you a reasonable amount of provisions and headed out.  You join with others who are traveling with the same purpose.  Some are your friends and neighbors.  You talk amongst yourselves of what you know of Jesus.  Then you hear he is just ahead, up upon a small hill or knoll.  You are anxious to see and hear him, you have traveled a long way from home; you are grateful you brought some food and water for the journey.

When is the last time you went to a big feasible or event?  Remember what it was like?  Perhaps a few thousand are there as well and you may remember how difficult the basics become in such a crowd.  Try to visualize what a crowd of five thousand might feel like!  This is what the crowd that day was thought to be when Jesus is believed to have feed the people.  See yourself as one of that crowd, now ask “what was it you were truly looking for that day?”  If you had just wanted a meal you could have stayed home.  If you were only hungry for food, you could have dipped into the provisions you were carrying that day.  No, no you wanted more than that!  You wanted to be feed the excitement that others were talking about!  You wanted to hear from this man that was changing peoples lives!  You wanted to see for yourself, praying that you also would be fed these words of hope.  You were looking for a miracle and you were praying for the answer to prayer.

As you sat with the crowd you heard the voice of Jesus as he blessed the food.  Word got to you about how little there was.  You decided to offer what you had to those around you.  Many others did the same.  You each began to feed one another with some of your personal supplies.  The disciples, the men who traveled with Jesus walked amongst you.  Some took some fish and a piece of bread, others slipped a bit of food into the baskets.  After some time, you hear the man Jesus, he is thanking God in heaven for the meal which you and those around you had been enjoying.  Word passed among you that there were baskets of leftover food; perhaps as much as twelve basketfuls.  You feel good about having offered up a bit of what you had.  When the stories of the events of that day are shared, it is expressed how miraculous it was that so many where fed with so little.  When you head home, you also feel filled, for that feeling of hunger has been satisfied having been there with this man Jesus.  You go to bed giving thanks.

Amen.