8th Sunday after Pentecost
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It's intimidating. Imagine if there were no concessions of sale, and half of the fans at Wrigley Field were famished, all at the same time. And all you have are five small loves of bread, and two small fish. You might be looking for a way to sneak out, rather than feed them.
"Hold on," you say. "Wrigley holds a lot more than 5,000." Yes, it does. But our Lord tells us there were 5,000 men in today's text. Women and children were there in addition, and biblical scholars conservatively estimate the multitude to have been around 20,000 -- about half of Wrigley's 41,210 capacity.
So it's intimidating. The disciples are getting nervous about what to do, and Jesus says, "You give them something to eat." "Lord! What are you saying?!" The apostles are struck with fear, overwhelmed. Jesus has just commanded them to feed the people, and they can do nothing to make that happen.
But Jesus can. And He does. Your loving Lord multiplies those loaves and fishes, and gives them to His apostles to give to the people. He had the crowds sit in groups of 50 or 100, just like synagogs, and receive His nourishment that He gave through His ministers.
The Word of the Lord, "You give them something to eat," struck fear in the hearts of the disciples. They doubted anything could be done. They lacked trust that God would provide. They were so overwhelmed by the gigantic size of the crowd when He gave His command, that they did not recognize His promise to provide the gifts needed.
You too. The Word of the Lord can simply strike fear in you. You often doubt God. You look at the budget needs at home and here at church, and lack trust that He will provide. You become overwhelmed by the gigantic size of debts, and salaries, and governmental mandates that drive up insurance costs, that you do not recognize His promise to provide the gifts needed. Your trust in Jesus as your provider falters. You hear the news of disturbed gunmen, and become fearful of something as simple as going to the movies.
Yet the One who is the Bread of Life nourishes you with forgiveness, life, and salvation, in spite of your lack of trust. He feeds you Himself, even when you doubt Him and find the things and people of this world intimidating. He fills you with His flesh and blood, that you may be freed from fear.
Really? How can you be free from fear when some deranged mad man can walk into a theater and unleash violent chaos and dole out death? How can you not be intimidated by lunatics who prey upon unsuspecting civilians? Because God is Sovereign and in control? No. He is, but that is not what can calm and give you peace. Jesus Christ has become Man for you, and suffered and died to take away your sin. That is why you have peace with God, and no matter what befalls you, you know you are forgiven and saved. You have the sure and certain hope of the resurrection that conquers any tragedy that the devil and the world may throw at you.
This morning, you witnessed Christ Jesus delivering the calm and peace that He alone gives. Through the saving waters of Holy Baptism, these children were just rescued from the devil, and all the harm he attempts to inflict in this life. Jesus snatched them from the clutches of Satan, and has assured them of eternal salvation. Each of them, like you, have become God's own child.
And you, baptized children of God, are fed and nourished with Bread from heaven, the Body of Christ. He gives you His very body and blood, filling you with Himself, that you may have life, and have it abundantly. He sits you in green pastures, in His congregation, and tells His pastors all over the world, "You give them something to eat." And He places His Word into their mouths and His Blessed Sacrament in their hands, that they may deliver the Bread of Life to His people. He feeds you. He preserves you. He "keeps your going out and your coming in, from this time forth, and even forevermore." Amen.