The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men. *******************************
We have been following Jesus and the disciples in the gospel of Mark. We have Jesus' following grow every week- the crowds were so large in one scene that Jesus actually had to get on a boat and teach from the sea. Then he and the disciples got back in the boat (and what does boat stand for? Church) And then cross over the sea to the other side (out of Jewish territory- they had to minister beyond where they had been before) and they watched Jesus calm a storm on the way there, and calm some spirits while they were there, and when they got back to Jewish territory they watched him heal both a woman on the margins and a daughter of the temple-and then last week we watched as Jesus and the disciples went back to him hometown- what happened there? But on the heels of that, he sends the disciples out for the first time on their own- two by two- to preach and teach and heal.
We don't know how much time passed between these events- and it's not really important- but it is important to note that the first things that happens when they get back is come and tell Jesus everything that happened to them on the road. And I imagine that scene to look kind of like how it is downstairs before worship- my favorite time in this church on Sunday mornings is walking through the lobby- everyone is buzzing around- talking about what we've done through the week- some people chatting on the sofa, some people reading their Bibles, some folks setting up-but the energy you feel in that room is filled with anticipation. We love sharing the events of the week with one another when we come back to the boat after a long week. And that's as it should be.
So when the disciples come back together- the stories are flying- Andrew telling how cool it was when Philip healed this little blind boy- James and John talking about how they couldn't believe how people were listening to them- they never had before! And Peter and Nathaniel arguing over who really had given the better sermon... in short-everyone is talking at once and laughing and celebrating begin back together-just like church.
And Jesus says to them-look- we've been going nonstop- No one has even eaten and frankly, we need to take a break. Let's get in the boat- go away by ourselves to someplace quiet so we can rest. And they get in the boat...
I love this. Sometimes we don't think of getting back in the boat- translation, coming to church- as rest. I hear it all the time- Pastor, I would have made it to church, but I was too tired. I used to have a pastor who would say, "If you're too tired to come to church, you're missing the point." In other words, after a full week of being on the mission field, (or at the office, or at school, or wherever your ministry area is right now) we return here, to our "deserted place" to be by ourselves so we can rest, worship, be with one another and rejuvenate in order to go back out there.
But that's another sermon- SO the disciples, tired hungry and desperately in need of a recharge, get to their deserted place, but in their sanctuary are throngs of people! The crowd again! They were watching from the shore and actually walked around the lake to meet the boat before it got there. Can you imagine? That because of the ministry that we may be doing out there- we come to church some Sunday morning and the place (our place) is packed- and you come in to the sanctuary and this room is filled with needy people- and one of them is even sitting in your seat! And they aren't church people either... noisy... rowdy... they don't know when to stand up and sit down, and some of them smell bad, and some of them reek of last night's party, and you know most of them aren't going to put one dime in that offering plate. UGH! We can barely support ourselves and now all these people with their hands out- and on Sunday morning too!
But go back to the text- "Jesus has compassion for them- they are like sheep without a shepherd-and he began to teach them many things..."
OK disciples- what do you think this little group of ministers were feeling when their space was taken over by riff raff, and they knew their own needs were going to have to wait for whenever, if ever Jesus would get around to- and the sermon is going on forever and it's passed 11 o clock and doesn't he know it's coffee time?
So after some grumbling and accros the room, over the glasses looks (demonstrate) one of the disciples go up to Jesus and say, "This is a deserted place, and its really late... and folks are hungry... and can you wrap it up now so people can go home and get something to eat!"
37ButJesus says, "Hey! Food! Great idea! “You give them something to eat.”
Now I want you to try to put yourselves in the disciples place. Not that they didn't really feel the need to help the people- don't get me wrong- I'm not disciple bashing- but the crowd aside, they were hungry too. And they know that while they may have had enough for themselves- maybe- depends on if anyone signed up for coffee hour-there sure as heck wasn't going to be enough for the rest of this crowd!
And "They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” Are we supposed to go next store to Passiarellos and get everyone lunch? we didn't plan for that- it will cost a fortune- (And one of the famous wet blanket statements from last week-) "we don't have enough money!"
And truly- hear me- I want you to know that what the disciples were saying was valid. It was as true for them as it would be for us that money is a concern. And besides, they had never done it that way... But Jesus looks past their fear...
38And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.”
You see- before we start thinking about way in which we can't do something, Jesus says "check first to see what resources we do have." And the disciples go and double check downstairs at what's already set up in the lobby and, When they had found out, they said, “Five loaves, and two fish.”
And that's it then. I told ya... we told you Jesus, we don't have enough... we checked our resources- we took an inventory, even checked the kitchen in the basement for an extra bag of cookies... and that's all we have- done!
Why is it, that when Jesus asks something of us, that we try to show him all the ways we can't do it? Like we are trying to prove our unworthiness... put our shortcomings on display as an argument... "Look Lord, I'd like to help you out, but I only have five loaves...
or in the words of Abraham, "Not me Lord, I'm too old"
or Jeremiah "I would Lord, but I'm too young!"
or Moses, "I, I, I, I, I, stutter"
or Gideon "Woooo noooooo I have low self esteem"
to Elijah saying "I can't do it, I'm burned out!"
You understand... we are not alone... from the beginning of scripture we have examples of people trying to prove that what they have is not enough to do ministry- what they have is not enough to be used by God to feed anyone...
But Jesus, praise God, lets the disciples get away with none of that crazy talk, and he says-
"Give it here" and he begins to divide up the fish and the bread and sure as I'm standing here, there's enough to feed everyone, and not only that, there is food left over... a miracle? Perhaps... but isn't that true of every time God tells us to do something? That despite how it looks to us, or what we feel about ourselves or what others have convinced us that we have... ahh that's a big one isn't it? Anyone ever convince you that you are ill equipped to do something? That no matter how hard you try you will fail? We humans are great at telling each other what they are capable of... And truly, that is powerful and so difficult to overcome, especially if it comes from abuse.
Yet, in some sense, as Christians, whether we've suffered that kind of treatment or not, we all come to a place where we do straddle a fence- trying to think of ourselves as higher than we ought, yet seeing ourselves as capable of doing miracles as Jesus taught us... And so when we stand there, face to face with Jesus, and he smiles at us and says "you do it..." our first reaction is to run and get our five loaves and two fish and hold them up like trophies... just in case he didn't know... this is all we got!
Yet today, we witnessed two women of faith who decided that, despite what they thought about themselves, or may have been told about themselves, despite what they saw when they checked their resources, that they were going to believe that God was more powerful than what they saw in their hands- by stepping into the waters of grace this morning with just their loaves and fishes, they did not only feed themselves did they? Everyone in this room was fed, and I would wager that the stories of today that are retold in the years to come will continue to feed hungry souls.
Many of us can think back to our own baptism- remembering the powerful impact it had on our lives... when we came before God with everything we are, feeling worthy or not, feeling equipped or not... but believing, even if it was just for that moment, that God could do something with what we little we had to offer... that the God of miracles who was calling us to follow Christ in baptism, could use even me, to change the world.
I want us to take some time to remember that moment. To remember how it felt to have God first say, "You do it!" and the loaves you held out in resistance and the smile Jesus held out in return... to remember the prayers you said leading up to that decision, and then how it felt to walk into the waters of grace... And if you have never made that decision, then I invite you to think about it this morning as we remember together. whether God has called you fifty years ago or is calling you for the first time this moment... God's desire for you to follow and Christ's love for you is just as powerful.
Before us is a clear glass bowl, and its filled with water... and you may not be able to see it from where you are sitting, but under the water are clear glass stones. As we remember the way God reached through the water, choosing us individually out of the multitude to walk with Christ in new life, I invite each of you, if you are willing, to come forward to reach into the water and take a stone... carry them with you, reminder of not just your own baptism, that moment when God said "You do it!" and you believed that you could because you were being led by the almighty all powerful God of abundance...