8/4/02, P11A

“It Took a Miracle”
Matthew 14: 13-21

ome folks find it unfathomable that Jesus could feed five thousand famished followers with just five loaves and two fish. Actually, the story is bigger than that. Because of the Jewish custom of separating the men from the women and children for meals, there were more like twenty thousand men, women and children that were fed that day. But if it were only fifty, or five hundred, it would still be a major miracle.

Some who were fed probably did not believe it either. Even as they ate there were probably whispers going through the crowd that he was pulling these fish sandwiches out of a hidden barrel. Others were no doubt complaining that there was no tartar sauce. You can almost hear some of them asking for another glass of iced tea. Some were probably allergic to fish. Others wanted fried chicken. Some "good old boys" were fussing because they were serving hard wheat bread instead of Sunbeam thin sliced sandwich bread.

Some few folks of faith believed it for the miracle that it was because they had been listening to Jesus preach and had come to understand and embrace that Jesus was the long expected Messiah, and that He could do anything. They knew that this sign of his Sonship was just another bit of evidence of His true identity. After all, He was already talking about establishing a Kingdom that would someday spread all over the world.

Some good hearted church folks still try to rationalize this story. Some scholars say that the people exaggerated, or allowed the fish story to get out of hand because they wanted to believe it so much: mere folklore, a legend. Then they go on to make the entire book out to be a collection of stories made up around first century campfires and are sadly left with very little. They begin with this doubt an miss out on the joy and blessing of this critical even in the life of Christ.

Some of us, hopefully all of at First Church, consider this miracle no more difficult to believe than the miracles that are still occurring in our lives and in our congregation. Indeed, it took a miracle to feed the big crowd with one tiny lunch, but it also has taken a great big miracle to save our souls. Because we have experienced Him in our hearts, and because He has never failed us in our pilgrimage, we can believe that He is capable of anything.

Additionally, we have learned that our experience does not necessarily conflict with our education, or with our creative intelligence. We have had our faith affirmed as we have read broadly and studied the natural order of things. The more we have learned the more we realize that all that surrounds us could not have occurred without some kind of Creator. Sitting on the beach recently I observed a contrail forming in the bright sky. I could not see the high altitude jet plane, but I knew that there must be a plane there creating such a beautiful streak of vapor across God's blue sky. We not only have an experience of God alive in our hearts, we have a peace in our minds as the supernatural has been proven to us over and over again.

To us, the miraculous is simply a temporary interruption in the way that God has set up nature to operate. The Almighty Creator, who flung the stars into space, can step into our little lives and rearrange things. Mother celebrated her 94th Birthday on Thursday in a hospital bed. She may have to undergo gallbladder surgery, which is in itself a miracle of modern medicine; however, that she has lived this long is a precious miracle to us. When I was a teenager she survived breast cancer surgery and cobalt treatments. God was involved in the process then, and He is aware of what is going on now. Before I returned home on Friday my brother, his wife and I gathered around her bed and prayer for her healing again, but most of all we prayed that His will be done.

Note that today's miracle story begins with Jesus' feeling the need to go off someplace apart to grieve over the beheading of his cousin John the Baptist. It heartens us to know that Jesus also felt the need to mourn. When we are hurting we remember that Jesus also wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and mourned over John.

However, Jesus could not escape the crowd even for a brief retreat. Thousands had been following his preaching circuit and they followed him to his vacation spot by the Sea of Galilee. Mark's account says that they "ran after him." (6:33) When Jesus saw them he "felt compassion for them and healed their sick." (14) When it came time to fill the physical need for food our text says that his disciples suggested that they send the crowds to the surrounding towns to eat at McDonalds and Burger King. Jesus said, "…you give them something to eat." We can almost hear the disciples stammering around saying, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." John's account adds that Andrew said, "There is a Lad who has five barley loaves and two fish." (6:9) All four gospel accounts point out that Jesus prayed over the food before the distribution. Matthew says that, "He took the five loaves and two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed to food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds." One can't help noticing the similarity to the distribution we have at the Chancel when we celebrate Holy Communion. Anyway, the people all ate and were filled and there were twelve baskets full of broken pieces that were collected and saved. Some see in this as a prophetic connection to the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Or perhaps, they just had twelve baskets full left over to show how abundant His blessings are in our broken lives.

Each of you could share stories about how God has intervened in times of need. Since we have based our faith on the great miracles of the Incarnation and Resurrection, it is not really that big of a stretch to believe in miracles. Furthermore, as we reflect about how stressful situations have worked out for us in the past we can expect that God's will never fail us in the future. This is our joy and peace.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

8/4/02, P11A