The following is written by Cindy Ehlke of Calvary Presbyterian Church:
Recently, I had the occasion to preach a sermon based upon the feeding of the 5,000. For many of us, this is a familiar story; often people first hear this story in Sunday School. Just whip out a message in no time flat, right? Wrong. As usual, it is I who had the lesson to be learned.
If I had to summarize this in a short phrase it would be, “The Power of Presence.” The presence of Jesus can turn ordinary events into extraordinary ones and can turn seemingly impossible challenges into better-than-average outcomes.
Jesus and his disciples have gone away from the city for some quiet time. Or so they hoped. But Jesus’ reputation has spread throughout the countryside and a large crowd gathered on a hill. The estimate of those gathered there was about 5,000; this did not include the women and children. It was getting late and the disciples wanted to dismiss the crowd so they could get some food and go home. But Jesus said the people were tired and hungry. He said to the disciples, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
Let’s put this into perspective.
You and your family are getting ready to eat dinner. All of a sudden there is a knock at your door. You open it and look out. There is a large gathering of people standing and sitting in your front and back yard. You estimate the number to be in the range of 500 or more people. A spokesperson says to you, we came here because you are known to be kind and compassionate. We are hungry and need food to eat. Won’t you serve us?
Now what are you going to do? I would be completely overwhelmed by this scenario.
I know the likelihood of this happening is close to nil. However, it is what I often feel like when I read the news or see things on TV about the plight of people who struggle with poverty in many parts of the world. It seems the need so far outweighs the resources. In other words, it is like the problem facing the disciples. They tell Jesus that they do not have the money to go to the town to buy food for all of the people. Jesus knows this, but he is trying to teach the disciples a lesson in trusting in God. We are inadequate when we try to rely only on our own resources, but with trust in God, many things can happen.
Jesus takes the food that is available and turns it into enough food to feed everyone with food left over. It starts with a small boy who has five loaves and two fish. He brings the food to Jesus. Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks and the disciples distributed the food to all who were there. There are two ways to look at this miracle. One is that Jesus used his power to increase the food so that all had more than enough. Another possibility is that people saw the unselfishness of the boy’s gift of food and shared what they had brought with them with those around them.
Either way, they were affected by the powerful presence of Jesus as he broke bread with them. What cannot be done alone, can be done trusting in Jesus. There are many examples of the ways that groups of people give from their abundance to help others who have so little. For an example close to home, in 2014 the Enumclaw Kiwanis food bank served 14,000 customers. In a like manner, the Plateau Outreach Ministries reaches people on the Plateau with food, rent help, clothing and assistance with health care.
I still feel overwhelmed by the many needs of people for food, clothes, shelter and health care. Yet, when needs are coupled with people of faith, some pretty amazing things can happen. There is indeed a powerful presence working with us when we turn to Jesus for help.
Faith turns into actions that benefit many.