Sermon: You Feed Them

Scripture:  John 6:1-14

Date:  7-23-2017

I don’t know about you but I am becoming increasingly anxious by the world in which we live.   It seems the news is never good.   Global terrorism.   Countries on the verge of economic collapse.   Drought and famine.  Starvation.  Human trafficking.  Climate change (whether man made or not.).  People addicted to all kinds of things.   Political unrest and turmoil across the globe.  I don’t know about you, but I feel so helpless sometimes in the midst of the immense needs of the world. And certainly, our community has not been exempt from difficulty.

So many shootings.   Teenagers being killed.   People on nearly every street corner looking for help.   You know some of them are legitimately in need but how do you separate those from the ones who are simply perpetuating a scam.

Twice a day people line up at God’s Pantry just looking for enough to get them by

for a few more days.  People coming in everyday filling out Alms requests.   And it

seems like so many lately have been experiencing very significant health issues.

Families are strained.   Parents worry about all of the negative influences on

kids these days.   On and on and on.  There are times when I feel so overwhelmed

by it all and I just want to shout at God – Im just one person.   What can I do

in the  face of so much need?”   Do you every feel like that.    I once heard a

preacher talking about a church that he went to serve.   It was a small church

when he went and the  preacher  said from the first day he started praying,  “God

send more people.”    And he said God answered his prayer and more and more

people started coming  to the church, each with different needs.  So many people

that the small church soon reached it’s capacity to meet all the needs.   And they

ran out of space to put all the people. But the people kept  coming.   And so the preacher went back to the altar and  prayed:   “People.

People.   People.     What are we to do with all these  people?  Can’t you send

some of them somewhere else?   We can’t possibly meet  all these needs.”   And

then he fell quiet and in the  quiet stillness he heard God  say, “You take care of

them.”    Well that’s what this interruption is all about.   The Disciples come to

Jesus when He is teaching and touching the multitudes that have

followed them and they say, “Pardon the Interruption Jesus but there are so many

people.   And they are getting hungry.   There are so few of us.  And we have

such limited resources.  We can’t possibly take care of all of these people.    You

have to send them away.”  But Jesus said, “no you take care of them.  You feed

them.”  You see, Jesus was always focused on the need, more than the resources.

And that’s what He wants His Disciples to do also.  But instead they are fixated on

the limited resources in comparison to the immensity of the need.  And that

happens in the church also.  All these people have become an interruption. God

calls us into a ministry, and one of the first questions we ask is can we afford do

that.   Do we have the resources?   Do we have the people?  But, this story tells us

that those are the wrong questions because quite frankly if we start by focusing on

our limited resources, we will end up sending away more than we take care of.

The question we need to ask is whether we as a church or as a disciple  can afford

to not do  what God is calling us to do.   You see, Often times when God  calls

us, we view it as an interruption rather than an opportunity.    But God wants

us to focus on the need rather than what we perceive as the scarcity of  the

resources.   So the Disciples do what we would do.  They check  the treasury and

confirm that as they feared there is not enough money to feed all of these

people and so they do what any church would do.   They pass the offering baskets.

Only instead of money, they are looking for food.   And the basket comes to a little

boy, who is clutching the lunch that his Mom had packed for him before he

went off to listen to the Rabbi.   And when the offering basket came to him, the

little boy looked at the five small loaves and two fish that his mother had packed

and wondered how much of it he should put in the basket, and how much he

should keep for himself.   After all, it was such a small amount and the crowd

was so large.   Meager resources.  Immense need.   What good can I do.  A few

years ago, a third-grade student was faced with the same dilemma.  He had

learned that there were a lot of people living on the streets, no place to call home

and he wanted to do something for them.  And so, the boy, began to save

his small allowance until he had enough to buy a cooked ham to give to a

homeless family.  And he took it to the pastor at his church, and asked him to help

him get it to a homeless family.  And the pastor thought it was such a small offering

in the face of such great need.  But it was all this boy had to give, and so the

pastor shared with the church what the boy had done, and soon others in the

church went and bought a ham, and what was such a small offering became in

Jesus hands more than enough.  And now the ministry which was born from this

little boy’s efforts, now called Hams for the Hungry, raises nearly 40,000 dollars

annually to help feed the homeless of that city.  You feed them, Jesus said.


Or consider this, I once read in an article about the work that Albert Schweitzer

did in Africa in the twentieth century and the partnership he formed with a

thirteen-year-old boy who read about the work that Dr.  Schweitzer was doing in

Africa, and how short he was of medical supplies.  Dr. Schweitzer said that one of

the things he needed the most was common aspirin that could easily be bought off

the shelf in the US but was hard to get in Africa.  So, the boy gathered together

all the money he had and discovered it was enough to buy a few bottles of aspirin.

But he discovered that it would cost more to ship the Aspirin to Africa then he

had paid for them in the first place.  But the boy was not to be deterred, so he

wrote to the Air Force, and asked if they could fly over Dr. Schweitzer’s hospital

and drop the package of aspirin down to him.  Well a local radio station picked

up on the story and broadcast it.  And in a matter of  days, 4 ½ tons of

medical supplies had been collected and enough money to fly the boy and the

supplies to Dr. Schweitzer’s hospital.  Dr. Schweitzer commented, “I

never thought one child could do so much.”  You feed them, Jesus said.


In our world today, more than a billion people live on less than one dollar per day.

Every ten seconds, somewhere in our world, someone dies of starvation,

with children being the most vulnerable.  Currently there are an estimated 70

million refugees worldwide seeking shelter from war and famine and other kinds of

disasters. Hundreds of families in our own community come to God’s Pantry

seeking relief from hunger every year.  Addictions of all kinds are tearing apart

families  and destroying lives every day.  There are so many in need all around us.

Even among us.    And time and again we are confronted with the same question

that the Disciples were  confronted with and ultimately this little boy was confronted

with: what can I, what can we, possibly do in the face of such immense  need with

the limited resources that we have. It can be so overwhelming  that the little bit that

we might be able to do is just a blip on the wave of human misery.  But here’s the

thing, in nearly 38 years of ministry, I can’t recall any ministry that came about

because there was an abundance of resources.   Ministries are born out of

human need.  And in the face of that need, Jesus calls us to do our best.  To give

our all.  The people did not come to Jesus out of their abundance.   They

came out of need.


You feed them, Jesus said.  Dont send them awayYou take care of them.

But Jesus our resources  are so limited.  All we have is five small loaves and two tiny

fish.   What difference can we really make in the lives of all of these hungry

people?   Meanwhile there’s this little boy wondering how much of his lunch he

should give? The Rabbis required 10% but that would just be a half of one of the

small loaves and just a tiny piece of a fish.   Not enough to sustain Him, much less

the thousands of hungry people gathered there.   No, he decided, Jesus needed it

all.  Everything I have to make a miracle happen.   So with his own stomach

rumbling a bit from hunger, the little boy put his whole lunch in the basket.   In his

hands it seemed so little, but in Jesus’ hands it was more than enough. You see too often we find ourselves  adopting the mindset  of the apostles?  The need is too

great,  we can’t help them, no matter  how much we want to, Jesus.  We just don’t

have the resources.  I’ve got my own bills to pay.   The church is running a deficit.

We just can’t do anymore.  Send them away.


But Jesus says:  You feed them.  So what do we learn from this Interruption?

First, I think we need to remember  that we live in a world of abundant

resources.  The church needs to operate from a theology of abundance

rather than one of scarcity.   Not too long ago I overheard a conversation

that a couple of  people were having about the problem  of  starving

children .   And one of the people made the comment that the solution would be “to

teach the people  of  those countries  where this is such a problem to not

have so many kids.”  Decrease the need, and your resources  will go a lot further.

And there is certainly  something to that.  But the problem is not a lack of

resources. It is a problem with the allocation of resources.  There is plenty of food in

the world to feed everyone, but it isn’t getting to everyone.  Back in the 1970’s, my

family would take vacations to Colorado, which inevitably meant driving  across

Kansas.  And I remember seeing bill boards along the interstate that read, “One

Kansas farmer  feeds 100 people and you.”  And every year that  number would

increase.   In 2016, the signs would read 155 people and you. Our world  is rich in

all resources.   God made sure of  that.  To believe  otherwise  it seems to me is to

believe that God doesn’t want some  of His children  to be on this planet.


A reporter once interviewed Mother  Teresa of Calcutta  concerning her outspoken opposition to abortion.  And  the reporter asked, “Mother Teresa,

doesn’t it bother you that so many children come into this world unwanted?”

“Unwanted by whom?”  Mother Teresa asked.  “I feel sure that God wants them,

for why else would He give us so many (to care for)?”


You see, the disciples  looked at the multitude that gathered as a great problem,

but Jesus  saw them  as a great opportunity.  God had given them all these people

to minister to.  Remember what Jesus had told them soon after He had called them to

be His Disciples?   The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  In Jesus heart

and mind, they  couldn’t send them away.  You feed themThe problem is not

inadequate resources.   The problem is getting everyone to share what God has

already provided.  There is more than enough.   No one should go from here

hungry.  You  feed themIn a commentary  on this passage, C.S. Lewis once

wrote that in feeding the 5000,

Jesus simply accelerated  something that happens naturally over a long period of

time. . .  wheat multiplies  in the field and is then made into bread to eat.   Fish

multiply in the sea and become the staple of the diet of many people.   Through the  creative  power of God at work in HimJesus sped up the process by multiplying  the bread and the fish to feed the multitudeEventually they would have all been fed, but if they had sent them away they would not all been ministered  to and they would have wasted Gods great blessings  of a multitude of people hungry  for the word of God.


Too often we look through the eyes of the Disciples, we may  view  the need all

around us as a problem.   We can’t possibly  meet all the needs even here in

Lexington, Kentucky.    But if we view it from Jesus’ eyes, whatever we do, whatever we give is  an investment in the blessings  of God.  As a church,  God  sends us  more and more persons to minister to, and he has blessed us with a great fellowship, and he has blessed us with a great vision for ministry, and wonderful facilities and he has  placed us here in the middle  of a multitude of people who are starving for  His word and so much more.  So many opportunities for worship, and Bible study and service.   So many people on our doorstep.   And  He has blessed us with the resources  to address those needs. He has provided.  We are people of great abundance. Sometimes  it doesn’t feel that way. Sometimes we don’t feel very abundant.  But the truth is that God has blessed us with great abundance.  But the problem is that we too often choose to hold on to those resources and send the people away instead.


I read the other day that within 10 years , one out of every seven people in the U.S

will be a  millionaire.  (Lets see, we average close to six hundred on Sunday, so

that means that about 90 of us will be millionaires. But most of us dont give like we have great abundance to share and so too often the church is forced to operate out of a scarcity mindsetSo ushers lets pass those plates again.).  


This story tells us that we have the resources from which God can make miracles

happen, but we have to be willing to give them.  To give all that we are.  Surely this little boy wasn’t the only one who had resources to share.   There were probably those in that great multitude who had much more to share than the little boy.  But in John’s telling he was the only one willing to give all that he had.  You and I are a people that are abundantly blessed in this life.   We have the resources, whether it be loaves and fishes, or time, or money, to meet whatever needs God places before us, if we are willing to step out and give all that we have, all that we are.  In Jesus’ hands we become the miracle.


Tony Campolo is a well known Christian writer and speaker. He was once invited

to give an address at a Conference of Christian women. While he sat and

listened, the speaker before him challenged the women to give several thousand

dollars for a mission  projectAnd then he asked Campolo to come and

pray for Gods blessing as each person considered  their own response to the

goalCampolo stood, but to the amazement of everyone he graciously declined

to  pray. And then he approached the microphone and said: You already have all the resources necessary to complete this mission project right here in this room. It would be inappropriate to ask for Gods blessings, when in fact God has

already blessed you with the abundance and the means to achieve

this goal. The necessary gifts are in your handsAs soon as we take the

offering and underwrite this mission project, we will thank God for

freeing us to be the generous, responsible. and accountable stewards

that were called to be as Christian disciples.”  And when the offering 

was collected they had underwritten the project.


I believe that when God calls us into a ministry, he has already  blessed us with the means to respond to that call.  We might  not realize it.  We might believe we are inadequate.  That we have so little to give.  We might believe that our five loaves and two fish are in no way enough to meet the great need, and in our hands they aren’t but when we give what we have and are to God,  He  will make the miracle.  We are truly a blessed people.  God blesses us to be a blessing to others.  You feed  them.         And praise God that we can!  A boy who had so little, is the catalyst for so much because he believed what Jesus needed was all that he had to give.


And then finally we need to remember  that we serve an abundant God.  Not only did He meet the needs of the multitude, but He provided  much more than was needed.   Leonard Sweet writes:

Our God is a generous God, a God of great abundance . The measure we

get back is always far greater than the measure we give. It is a divine

law  of  investment.  But weve got to stop thinking, We have nothing to give.

What God provided that day was more than enough. Our faith, which can grow

to abundant proportions, can be strong enough to get us through any

hard  times.


One commentator on this passage writes:


There are ways to explain the feeding of the 5000. Who knows how Christ did

itThe point is that when Jesus is present, miracles happen . They happen

in operating rooms.  They happen in marriages. They happen in all kinds of

settings. When Jesus is present, great things happen! All Jesus needs is a little

to work with, but when He is given something to work with, amazing

things  happen.


“When Jesus is present, miracles happen.”  The church is called to be the 

presence of Christ in the midst of a world that is in such great need. We provide

what  bread and the fish we have,  and trust God to make the miracle.   As a

church, God has blessed us with great opportunities for ministry.


Sometimes I like to go up on the roof of the church and look back on the

neighborhoods behinds us.  From there I can see hundreds of apartments filled

with young families, and children and single adults and retired persons.  And many

of them are spiritually hungry.  And we can, like the Disciples, choose to send

them away.  Or we can pray that God opens up opportunities for ministry and

share  what we have, who we are.   We can be, like this little boy,  all in for Jesus.

We can rejoice in the people that God is blessing  us with, the opportunities for

ministry and give Jesus all we have, no matter how small or large that is,  and trust

Him to make the miracle.   Trust Him to make us the miracle.

When I was District Superintendent, the school at Red Bird Mission, which serves

several of the poorest counties in America,  was struggling to survive, and the

Lexington District began to partner with them.   We collected school supplies and I

took them down there, along with an offering from the churches of the District.   It wasn’t much really but in Jesus’ hands it became a miracle and the school continues to operate today.   And in the midst of all of that, I had a conversation with  one of the teachers at the  school.  And she told me that at Christmas time that year the school  was collecting a shipment of food for the poor people of Appalachia. The children brought their canned goods, and boxed food items and dropped them in the bin. They didnt have much themselves but what they had they sharedWell, one little girl in the fourth grade was upset because she had forgotten to bring her food for the collection and it was the last day of the driveBut after school when the  teachers began to separate and box up the items to be shipped, they found in the midst of the canned goods and other food items, a paper bag. And in it was a peanut butter sandwich, an apple and a cookie. And written in large letters on the side of the bag was ChristyRoom 104″.  She had given her whole lunch to share with the people of Appalachia .


Lord the need is too great.   The multitude  is too large for us.  Send them away.

No, Jesus saidYou feed them And with the help of a little boy who was willing

to give his all for Jesus,  they did.   I wonder what Jesus can accomplish in our

community if all of us are willing to be all in, give our all for Jesus.   Pardon the

interruption.  But don’t be discouraged.  Don’t be overwhelmed.  Give what you

have, what you are, and I will do miracles through you.


Lord, we look at this story and say that the feeding of the thousands

was the miracle.   But the true miracle was what you did in the heart of that little

boy, and those disciples that day.   Make a miracle in our hearts this very day, that

no matter what resources we bring, whether large or small, we are blessed to give

our all, so that you can make miracles happen in our community and in our world



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