9th Sunday after Pentecost
August 6, 2017
“All I Need Is A Miracle”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is the well-known narrative that is today’s Gospel lesson from Matthew 14 – the feeding of the 5000.
My dear friends,
Okay…pop quiz time! Here’s your first question. What is an Earworm? Is it (A) a cartoon character on “Ren and Stimpy”, (B) a tune stuck in your head, or (C) a condition that small dogs and cats frequently get? Question #2: Who sang the song “All I Need Is A Miracle?” Was it (A) Culture Club, (B) Mike and the Mechanics, or (C) Cheap Trick? And finally, Question #3: Of all Pastor’s previous occupations, which one was his least favorite? (A) Customer Complaint Investigator, (B) Radio DJ, or (C) Quality Assurance Auditor? Okay, if you answered (B) to all three, you got 100%. An Earworm is a song stuck in your head, and “All I Need Is A Miracle” by Mike and the Mechanics can do that to you, and that’s a song I played a lot on the radio at KGHS, my least favorite job.
“All I Need Is A Miracle” made it all the way to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986. It is a catchy, upbeat song that easily gets stuck in your head and will stay there all day; a classic Earworm if there ever was! “All I need is a miracle, all I need is you.”
Today’s Gospel lesson from Matthew 14 is a very recognizable miracle event from Jesus’ ministry. The Feeding of the 5000 is recorded by all of the Gospel writers; the only miracle from Jesus’ earthly ministry that all 4 record. Sometimes what gets overlooked is that Jesus feeding the 5000 is a reaction to the death of John the Baptist. When Jesus heard that John had been executed by Herod, He withdrew by boat off to a private place (14:13) probably in order to prepare Himself for what was to come and to grieve. His solace was short-lived, though. The crowds were waiting for Him to return to shore, and when He did, Jesus did what Jesus does He had compassion on them and healed the sick among them.
By now, evening approached and it started to get late. The open-air market would be closed or soon closing; the merchants would need to re-stock to prepare for the next day’s opening. The disciples assumed that the crowds wouldn’t leave anyway unless Jesus told them to. “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves” (14:15). Even if they did go, that crowd would have overwhelmed the local village. Jesus’ response? “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” We’ll come back to that.
If the disciples were concerned before, they are down-right worried now. They are on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee near Bethsaida or the northwest shore outside of Capernaum depending on which source you believe. Either way, it’s a remote area. What few markets might exist will certainly not accommodate the crowds, PLUS the people don’t have enough food for themselves, PLUS Jesus wants the disciples to feed the masses! Cannot be done; “We have only five loaves here and two fish” (14:17). The rest, they say, is history. Jesus gave thanks for what they had and the disciples then distributed enough food to feed everyone until they were full (v. 20), plus there were 12 baskets full of leftovers.
All the disciples and the crowd needed was a miracle. They needed to eat and there wasn’t enough food. Only a miracle would be sufficient. And that’s what they got. Is that what you want? Is that what you need? A miracle? Your life would be SO much better if God would just take away my pain or heal my body. Life would be easier if I had more money or less stress. If things were better at home or at work or with my neighbor, then my life would be better, but that’s going to take a miracle. Is that what you’re waiting on? Jesus fed the 5000; why wouldn’t He also step in and fix your issue or resolve your crisis or heal your body?
But here’s the thing. Did God ever promise to do that? Did Jesus come to be a miracle caterer who will personalize the menu depending on your particular tastes/needs? Do you really expect Jesus to snap His fingers and make your life “all better?” No…no…and no. what Jesus DOES promise to do He already did. Died on a cross. Rose again from the dead. Promises you new life and hope and forgiveness and salvation. His part is complete. In the meantime, as He prepares to return, He continues to watch over you and hear your prayers and love you and forgive you because of your faith in Him.
God’s never ending, never failing, gracious compassion may well be the primary miracle in Mathew 14:13-21, but I would suggest that the second is that Jesus used the disciples to carry out this wonder. He used His disciples to feed His people. “You give them something to eat.” That was Jesus’ initial command to the disciples. Jesus showed His compassion to the people time and time again. Now…it’s the disciples turn. When they would rather tend to themselves than this hungry mass of men, women and children, Jesus calls on them to get over their self-concern and get busy feeding the people.
That encouragement remains for us today. Waiting for God to fix all our problems and cure all our ills is not the answer. Christians must never be so wrapped up in their own problems or concerns that they retreat into the safety and comfort of Church, withdraw from the world, and refuse to provide help and support when others are in need. We can easily think like the disciples and say: “Send them away…the poor and homeless and orphaned and widowed are not our concern.” But this is not an attitude our Lord will accept. He calls us to be generous and share.
All you need is a miracle? Nah…you don’t need a miracle. Don’t look for a miracle…BE the miracle. Be the miracle every time you drop change into that Mite box. Be the miracle each time you put food in the All-Faiths Food Bank barrel or drop off items for our Health Kits for the homeless in Sarasota. Be the miracle every time you give of your time and your treasures and your talents. Have and show compassion and love for your neighbor. Be less concerned about how “bad” your situation is and focus instead on others whose situations are FAR WORSE than yours. Jesus did that much for us; we can do as much for others.
Too often we see the size of the need and the smallness of human resources available and lose hope. Jesus looks at things differently. He recognizes the size of the need and the even greater size of God’s grace and then calls you to be the miracle for someone else and when you do that you will find that the leftovers are just as good if not better than what you started with. Don’t know what that means? Be the miracle for someone else, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.