Our focus is Jesus. Always, yes of course, but particularly in this series we are looking at Jesus and then looking at us. Not so much so we can emulate Jesus, but so that we can find motivation for what it is that we do. God’s how is our why, remember?
In our Gospel text for this week, Jesus feeds the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. Never mind the how, let’s talk about the why. (Check the preaching notes for more details on the shift from how to why.) The motivation for this miracle is compassion. Matthew identifies that in the second verse of the passage. Despite Jesus wanting to spend some time alone, he recognizes the needs of those around him and wants to meet those needs.
So, this series begins with an opportunity to celebrate the serving ministries of the church. How are you seeing all the people in your community? How are you meeting needs of folks within and outside of the church? Remember it isn’t about amounts, though we do like to keep track of what we give and the number of hours we serve. But God can take a little and make a huge difference in the lives of those around us.
This is also an opportunity to celebrate the abundance of God’s grace. How has a little word, a small gesture, a seemingly insignificant moment made a great impact on us? What testimony can we give about the abundance of God’s grace in our own lives, or in the lives of those with whom we care? Now is the time to hear the stories of transformed lives because hungers were met and brokenness healed.
Some of those who engage in serving ministries of the church may be reluctant to speak; that isn’t their gift, they might say. But someone should tell their stories and relate the impact they are making. Find seven people, five loaves and two fish, whose stories can inspire the rest of the congregation to give thanks for the abundance of God’s grace in the midst of the congregation.
Fill the space with images of being fed, of caring, preferably by people in your congregation. Who reached out during the quarantine and made sure that hungry bellies were filled? Who had compassion on their neighbors and gave them something? And who is still doing it? Remember, the church never closed; it was deployed! In that sense, we can celebrate those who continued to be the church, even while not meeting face to face. Even if we are still apart, we are still the church.
Let there be images of abundance, a reminder that there should be enough for everyone to have what they need. Here in the summer heat, we rejoice in the produce of the farmers and gardeners of the church. Give thanks for growing things, for farm workers, for truckers and shippers, for grocers and roadside stands. Give thanks for the food that is available, even as we search for ways to resolve our distributions problems. Let’s admit that there are food deserts and hungry people, even in this great nation of abundance. Let us resolve to be a part of the change in our community and our world. Let us be those who see the hungry in our midst and seek to give them something.
Our color is still the green of growing things, supplemented with all the wonder and beauty of creation in this summer of discontent. But let our discontent be about inequality and lack for those who are hungry. Our songs are songs of praise to the Creator of all good things, the Provider of all we need. Let us also sing of the rallying call to mission and service, to right the wrongs of injustice and inequality. The offering could include canned goods, or produce from gardens that would then be taken, with proper precautions, to food banks or feeding stations. Let God’s how become our why as we recall that Jesus said, “You give them something.”
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.