“Many are Hungry”
Matthew 14: 13-21, August 2nd, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the gospel of Matthew, chapter fourteen, verses thirteen thru twenty-one.”
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
“Having listened to the words of this miraculous event where many of the hungry were fed, let us open our hearts as we consider how we also can be a part of this miracle story!”
“Many are Hungry”
How many of us are hungry this morning? Really hungry; hungry enough to hear our own stomach growl? How long ago did you have something to eat? When do you expect to have your next meal or snack? Is the cupboard, the cabinet where you store your non-perishables, well stocked? And your refrigerator, is there plenty of good nourishing foods to supplement your diet? Neither the ice cream, the chocolate bars, nor the cookies, count; only good quality and preferably fresh foods. Now, consider calculating what portion of your income goes to buying your own food supplies during any measurable time-period. Prayerfully, it is a small manageable percentage. Taking this a bit further, just imagine if your income was less then what it will take to keep your food supply solid, with a prudent reserve of those non-perishables.
As we get into our discussion this morning let us keep our own level of abundance in mind. If you are finding you have no abundance or less than necessary to keep enough food at your disposal to maintain your health, you may want to talk with me or another whom can help you supplement your needs. Moving forward, consider how many of your neighbors, our neighbors, are now unable to keep enough food in their homes, if they still have one. It is important to realize that the number of those in need is increasing, to believe otherwise would be naïve. To quote the available statistics is difficult, as there is conflicting available information. However, no one, of any credibility, doubts there is now a large percent of folks out of work who are forced to depend on benefits they may be getting from local agencies, within our social structure at every level. At the same time, in parallel with this reality: the number of those that are getting nothing – is increasing.
“Many are Hungry” was and is an easy statement to make. The question for us today is simple: “What can we do to help others during this growing national, global even, crisis?” Our scripture today focuses on a day when Jesus finds that the crowd, which had gathered to hear his talk and perhaps, they hope, perform another miracle, Jesus finds that the crowd is hungry. Surely, Jesus was praying their hunger and thirst was for the Spiritual nourishment they needed. Yet, Jesus saw their physical hunger as an opportunity to illustrate a lesson which could possibly make a difference in their lives which would last way beyond their need for yet another meal of bread and fish! The crux of this message is that all were fed that evening in the deserted place described in our scripture lesson. What exactly was this lesson the crowd learned on this ‘particular’ day, which our scripture describes? Perhaps, they simply learned that Jesus cared for their wellbeing, and was willing and able to feed them. Or was there more to the story? Those of you whom have heard me preach on this lesson several times in recent years, you know that there are multiple lessons that were perhaps learned or at least passed to us for consideration.
Brian Stoffregen ponders the following regarding today’s reading. “I wonder what might happen if at all our congregational potluck meals we invited the homeless and poor to come and eat – knowing that they couldn’t bring a dish to share.” Clearly, at least it seems clear that Brian wrote this before the COVID-19 crisis. Potluck dinners seem to be a recently discontinued memory from our church history. Many of us, me included, pray that in the future, not too far removed, perhaps as early as late 2021, potluck dinners will make a comeback! Yet, in current time, we shall need to consider the spirit of this social custom from our past and reflect on this from a historical point of view. Historically, when church families gathered for a shared meal, it was called a Potluck dinner. The name comes from the concept that everyone is invited to bring a dish of food to share, yet none will know exactly what someone else might bring. Consequently, it was a Potluck meal, as until you lift the lid or cover of a dish of food – one did not know whether it was a pasta dish, salad or a multitude of other possibilities in the form of a casserole, salad or desert!
Potluck dinners have always been about sharing and being in fellowship together; all of which is good. Yet, can we not go further with this idea? What is our relationship with this growing multitude of hungry folks, far and wide from where we now reside? What can we do about it? A theologian named Christopher Burkett opens for us this conversation surrounding a shared meal. “There comes a stage in a relationship”, says Christopher, when you say, ‘Let’s eat together, come round for a meal.'” What stage of relationship are we in with others outside our fellowship? Over the years our average worship attendance has slowed down, for a multitude of reasons. Yet, our need to be of service to the needs of others has grown tenfold! Having started the struggle to come back together since the eleven long weeks our sanctuary was closed to worshippers, our average attendance is hovering below thirty. Yet, due to the expansion of our ability to broadcast our live service out onto social media and make it available through our website has opened our doors to numerous others. Through this new technology more than one-hundred people stop in or stay for our full service – every week! What a wonderfully exciting potluck dinner we could have – once we have moved beyond this pandemic crisis! And when the day comes, we shall invite everyone who is part of our community – starting with all who drop in to visit and listen and participate in our weekly worship services, via any means available!
Yet, we still need to deal with today’s reality. The ministry of this community cannot wait till easier times! Therefore, we are having our monthly food drive this week to supplement the needs of a local food pantry in our immediate and surrounding community. The need locally has risen dramatically over these recent months. The potential of further increases in these numbers – is very high! Potentially, the needs of others we know and do not yet know – have increased. This includes all of you whom can hear my voice today, we each, perhaps, are aware of someone currently in need! We started, a few weeks ago, to include everyone in our expanding fellowship to be a part of our prayer time. Lift-up the needs of others during prayer and let us know of your prayer needs as well. Go to our website and leave a private message and we will include you on our prayer list. Likewise, if you know someone who is in need, let us know so we can prayerfully get them the help they need. If you are able to help, please know your donations will be used to help this ministry help others. Specify how you want your donation used and we will direct it accordingly.
A respected theologian, David Lose, reminds us of the deep, deep love of God. “God still cares deeply and passionately for those who are most vulnerable – the poor, the immigrant, the hungry – and God continues to use us to care for them.” As a fellowship, we are invited, we are called and compelled to be of service to the children of God; God’s ‘children’ are young or old, rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, and they speak many languages from various parts of the world! Our scripture regarding how Jesus fed the five thousand who had gathered focuses us onto a miracle that clearly begins with the sharing of five loaves and two fish. The bread was surly unleavened, and the fish dried. The young lad that donated the food from his pouch or sack was very generous, as it was possibly, if not probably, all he had; surely all he had with him. How many in the crowd that day, were moved to donate their surplus as the meal progressed, after Jesus had blessed the offering of food, we shall never know for certain. We would do well, however, to acknowledge that a generous movement of sharing must start somewhere – whether it be a charismatic preacher and pastor like Jesus or the simple generosity of one unnamed face in the crowd.
Pastor Edward F. Markquart, Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington proposes a simple question for us to ponder. “In the miracle of the five loaves, two fish and feeding of the five thousand, what part of the story is most meaningful to you and why?” As we consider the possible responses to this question, let us prayerfully reflect on where we want to be in the story. Then from our reflection ask God to give us the willingness and tenacity if needed to act upon following-up with the needed response. We have the concern of the disciples; they make Jesus aware of the issue at hand. The crowd which has come that day are far from home, many perhaps had planned for the day’s journey and packed a sack or pouch with food for the day. An unnamed and generous donor had offered up all which he had brought with him, to share with others, through the hands of Jesus. Where are you, where are we in this story? May God give us the courage, the strength, and the faith to live into our roles in the society we now live.