On Sunday, July 29, we are observing Loaves and Fishes Sunday. We are asking worshipers to bring items that will be used in the Weekend Snack Sacks for clients of The Community Kitchen or make a contribution that will be used at to purchase the items needed for those weekend meals from River Cities Harvest. We’re doing this because donations of food and funds tend to drop off during the summer vacation season. But hunger never takes a vacation.
Our Gospel reading for Sunday is John's version of the story of the Loaves and Fishes. It is the only miracle of Jesus that is included in all four gospels. All four gospels agree that there were five thousand or more hungry people, that the meal started when Jesus blessed five loaves of bread and two fishes, that everyone had enough to eat, and that there were twelve baskets of leftovers.
What is the significance of this miracle? Firstly, Jesus is revealed as the Ruler of Creation, the One who multiplies food in Nature. In his classic work Miracles, C. S. Lewis shows how many of the miracles take what God normally does slowly in Nature and speeds it up dramatically as a kind of flourished signature, signifying, "the One who always multiplies fish and grain is here."
Secondly, Jesus is also revealed as the Ruler who Provides. And what does he provide here? What promise does he keep? What need does he meet? Is it the need of the hungry or is it the need of the disciples? Or is it both? He has commanded the disciples to feed the people and that elicits their admission that they are not able to do it. Then, to their amazement, he tells them to have the people sit on the grass anyway. The need being met here is not only the people's need for food. The other need that is met is the disciples' need to be able to minister! You and I are in the same position today as Jesus' disciples were on that day.
In their obedience, the disciples learned a lesson about faith, elements of which are present in every mighty work of God: Need seen + desire felt + inadequacy confessed + Christ obeyed = the opportunity for God to work miracles. It is our job to make our inadequate loaves and fishes available. It is God’s job to make them enough. Faith is the determination to obey in spite of our inadequacy, to consider our own inability irrelevant in the light of Gods ability, and to act on that basis. The more we do so, the more we will find our own paltry loaves and fishes multiplied.
In each of the Gospels, this event is a time of transition in the earthly life and ministry of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus now concentrates on preparing himself and his disciples for the Cross. Disciples often learn important lessons during times of transition. By the grace of Jesus Christ, those hungry people were fed by those disciples. And, by the same grace, the hungry people who are standing outside those red doors of Calvary Church are going to be fed by these disciples.