Emmitsburg Council of Churches


 The Holy Gospel According to St. John 6:1-15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 6:2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 6:3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 6:4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 6:5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" 6:6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 6:7 Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." 6:8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 6:9 "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" 6:10 Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 6:11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 6:12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." 6:13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 6:14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world." 6:15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Christ surprises us by who he chooses to exalt and who he may choose to humble

Dear Friends in Christ and of the Elias Lutheran Congregation,

Praise the Lord! Hope you are well in all ways.

Here at Elias, we are made up of about 400 members, although we worship only about 85-100 per Sunday. Admittedly, we are sometimes lacking in zeal for Christ and sometimes can be counted among the poor in spirit. But the Lord is yet in our midst, we are not forsaken--thanks to his most gracious love and great patience with us. I pray daily that we will have revival in our midst--that we might hunger and thirst for Christ's righteousness and so return to the Lord with pure hearts. Our church is getting ready to celebrate 250 years of service to Christ (next year is the big one!) and we intend to remain faithful to his Word for another 250 years+!

. . . . As the Pastor I feel a great responsibility to pray continually and ask wisdom of the Lord of the Harvest--that he would indeed guide me and teach me his ways . . . that I might lead this flock faithfully to his Glory!!

As I have been considering my ministry here at Elias over the past 3 years, I think that sometimes Christ surprises us by who he chooses to exalt and who he may choose to humble . . . and yet his kingdom does come, regardless of me or anyone . . . God's kingdom continues to manifest in our midst without regard to who we are or where we come from . . . And so, I tend to think that the greatest calling of the Christian is humility and to go to our knees in prayer and thanksgiving, that such a God as ours has chosen us to call us his own people -- not that we Lutherans are unique, but that God chooses to call people throughout the world and throughout all of time to follow him faithfully and participate in the kingdom's unfolding.

This reminds me of this past Sunday's lesson, where Jesus fed the 5000, (John 6:1-21 or Mark 6:35+) and when Jesus challenged his disciples to feed the multitude, they were immediately overwhelmed at the mere thought of feeding such a crowd.

This leaves us to wonder, would we be any different?? Or would we have that "mustard seed of faith" to even suggest, as Andrew does in Sunday's gospel, "Here are 5 loaves of barley bread and 2 dried fish." Would it even cross our minds that such a meager portion could begin to suggest the possibility that this would make a start towards feeding such a crowd?! I think that in our own flesh and in our calculating minds, we would be afraid to even think up such an idea--because we would risk being laughed at or being thought of as purely foolish!

This is the natural tendency of our human nature. We immediately concern ourselves with ourselves . . . we would not wish for anyone to look at us, or listen to us - and think we were "stupid" or "simple-minded." We, like the disciples, do not want to be made to look bad . . . we are always too concerned with our status amidst the crowds, we are always too worried that we will be dismissed as fools or regarded as unworthy of respect.

But this is precisely what Jesus seems to be concerned with regarding us. This is what the lesson of the miraculous feeding aims to address--I mean, Jesus wants for us to take our eyes (and thoughts) off of ourselves and to think only of the possibilities that exist and can be accomplished by Christ--through us! After all, the works Jesus asks us to do can only be accomplished by faith alone!!! Jesus wants for us to utterly dismiss our own human limitations . . . for nothing is impossible with God!! Jesus does not want us to think poorly of ourselves, even though we are poor of spirit and lacking of faith (Lord help thou my unbelief!!) but Jesus wants us to solely focus our gaze and attention upon him -- Jesus wants us to trust only in what God can do through our minuscule level of faith.

And so, as we consider the multitudes of the poorest of the poor all around us--and how can we possibly meet the needs of only a few of them? . . . Jesus encourages us to make a response. Don't become overwhelmed by the numbers and the enormity of the need. Don't allow the terror of wars, the devastation of drought, nor the sadness of death to discourage you from being faithful to Christ. Jesus knows, few of us have the wealth it might take to buy bread for all–although it encourages us to hear the story about Bill Gates giving away millions to help our brothers and sisters in Africa.

Few of us have connections to power, by which we might persuade an army to defend the cause of the poor and the innocent (yet someone reading and listening to this message might have the means or the access to persons of earthly power who could help to work for peace or to stop unchecked aggression by any destructive force) . . . . Jesus asks us to exercise whatever means are at our disposal–like noticing the child standing beside us in the crowds of life who has 5 loaves and 2 fish. Perhaps you know someone or are related to someone who has enormous wealth or large property, or maybe we are living beside someone whose son is in jail and whose husband is an alcoholic . . . yet through the miracle of Christ's grace, even this neighbor has something to give–we need to be faithful to notice them.

"Lord, there is a boy here with 5 loaves and 2 fish." This is all that Jesus asks of us. Look around you . . . what do you see?? (Consider the Prophet Amos' experience with God as God challenges him to look at many naturally occurring phenomena and to contemplate their meaning: see Amos chapter 8) . . . Any one of us could have been Andrew that day, "Lord I see a boy here who has his lunch in a basket -- but what is this little bit of food amidst such a great crowd?" It was not that Andrew felt the boy's lunch could feed the crowd that day, but that Andrew had the imagination and questioning faith . . . that this could some how be the beginning of the miraculous feeding Jesus' intended.

Jesus essentially tells Andrew, "Never mind that it appears that there is so little here. Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see and do greater miracles than I performed while I was with you?" And then Jesus tells Andrew and the disciples to have the people sit down on the green grass, and Jesus takes the loaves and the fish, which apparently the young lad willingly offered up. Jesus takes this (seemingly) ridiculously small offering (in light of the hungry multitude!) and he begins to pray . . . and Jesus blesses those loaves and fish and then Jesus himself (John 6:11) begins to distribute the bread and the fish to the crowd . . . Mark's gospel leads us to believe that the disciples were also helping to take the bread and the fish to the people. And all at once the crowd is being fed -- everyone is able to eat as much as they want and they are all satisfied!

Yet, the miracle does not end even there . . . there are left overs!! And Jesus takes great care to be sure that nothing is wasted of this miracle. The scraps and the crumbs are all very important. There can be nothing wasted when God has come into our midst to bless us with his love and richness. When God throws a party -- every little thing about that party is important . . . and Christ wants us to notice that what God has given us must not be wasted nor squandered. But instead conserved and cared for--because it is a holy thing when God gives us a blessing -- the blessing is given for the good of all and we are called to remember the holiness of the objects, like earth's bounty, and the holiness of the moment -- Christ has walked amongst us and blessed us with his life-giving food.

Finally brothers and sisters. Remember this lesson for yourself and for your family. When Jesus asks you or me to be a part of the miracle -- no matter what that is . . . . do not discount your ability to play a part in that mighty work of God which is about to unfold. Do not be ashamed that you have nothing to offer. But think, by faith, of what you do have!!

"Lord, I know that you are with me always" . . . This is the gift of faith! You are rich!! "Lord, I have only a little bit of beans to feed my family this week, maybe we could have one more person to join us . . . and then we'll be out of food." Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness . . . You are blessed and God will supply all that is needed and give you more. Do not be afraid to offer what little you have -- but do not feel that you must give, and then develop a bad spirit about it either. Give what you can give with joy, let this be your guide.

"Lord I have been schooled in agriculture", or "Lord I understand about computers," or "Lord I have training as a nurse," or Lord I can teach the stories of the Bible to children, -- I can teach!!"

The gifts of knowledge and understanding will bless others beyond measure . . . . Ask Jesus to bless you and those who you may share your learning with and God will supply the increase -- far beyond that which any one of us can imagine. This is the meaning of Jesus' multiplying the loaves and the fishes that day. We have only to offer to Christ what little we might have available. He will supply the blessing and he will make the increase.

So go forth this day with faith dear friends. The Lord is with you and he will bless you and those for whom you intend to bless. . . . Thanks be to God!!!

Pr. Jon

P.S. If you live in the Emmitsburg area, I extend a special invitation to you to come and join our congregation at Elias. We are a church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Our worship is in the liturgical style – just follow the bulletin carefully and you'll keep up, eventually we all grow to love our familiar hymnody, prayers and creeds. As a historic church we have a kind of congregational culture, this also is used of God to create an atmosphere of family. Please come and join us! – P.J.