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Feeding Five Thousand and Walking on Water
February 24, 2019, 12:00 AM

Grace and peace to you from the triune God. May the words on my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

Our Gospel starts with Jesus unsuccessfully running away. Jesus has just heard about the beheading of his cousin John and presumably needs a moment to think and to mourn. Jesus sets out in a boat to a desolate place but that only leads the crowds following him and showing up at this new place. Jesus is good about it and fulfills their request. Jesus spends the day healing the sick when we see the disciples come to him and suggest that the people be release to go home and find some supper. Jesus decides that instead he is going to use this moment.

Jesus tells the disciples that instead of sending these folk off to find something to eat that they are going to have the very first potluck? No but he does say that the people should have a seat and the disciples will feed them. This is one of those funny moments in the bible when you aren't quite sure if this is the new Moses telling the people about what God is doing or if Jesus is having a moment when he is helping people to know that he is actually one of the manifestations of God in the world. Much like the Israelites in the desert, who got manna, five loaves of bread and two fish are turned into a veritable feast for the masses. And so we read, “all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” So if we assume for a moment that the women equal the men in numbers and that each couple should have children this quickly balloons to somewhere between twelve thousand and twenty thousand people.

In the “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” which by the way in the titling and writing of the story speaks to how society valued its members. When you only count the men then they are everyone who counts. But I digress. It is a miracle that this great hoard of people were all fed and that is wonderful and speaks to the divinity of Jesus, which is important to our next bit of scripture.

We read that immediately after they had eaten, Jesus put the disciples in a boat and sent them off and then Jesus dismissed the crowds and went off to a quite place to have a moment. Presumably this is the moment he was working for earlier and so has a moment to deal with the loss of his cousin John the Baptist. Remember, Mary went to spend time with the pregnant Elizabeth and so there is a high likelihood that Jesus and John while cousins were also close and spent a fair bit of time together. And so Jesus gets this moment away and proves his humanity and that these things which hurt us a humans are also hurtful for God. As we all know ministry does not wait and so Jesus after having taken a moment follows the disciples.

Jesus we read goes for a little walk about and ends up at the boat out in the middle of the lake. There had apparently been some pretty bad waves and the wind was all wrong and the disciples were fighting this all when early in the morning we read who should come walking up in the middle of the lake but Jesus. Now this alone speaks to the divinity of Jesus because biblically and at that time water was also the representation of chaos and the only person that could control the chaos was God. Remember back in Genesis when God separated the waters from the waters and put the earth in that space. It could also read that God controlled the chaos. Let us keep our eyes on the prize however.

When the disciples saw Jesus coming toward them walking on the sea they assumed it was a ghost. This terrified them, here they are fighting the sea, the chaos and up walks this ghost, certainly that was a bad omen. And we read, “But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’” Jesus recognized their fear and spoke to their fear. And that is when,  “Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’”  To my thinking this is Peter saying, “Give me some proof that you are Jesus and not a Ghost.” and Jesus obliges Peter saying, “Come.” Jesus calls Peter's bluff if you will or decides if you prefer to answer the thoughts of those in the boat with a sign.

Thus we read, “Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” and thus we once again in this text see the Divinity in Jesus answer the human needs question. Today we had the divinity in Jesus answer the need for physical and spiritual healing, the divinity in Jesus answer the need for food and now the divinity speaks of faith being that which will save us from the chaos.

I want to go back for just a moment though to the scene Peter walking on the water out to Jesus. In this time as long as Peter is focused on Jesus and not the situation they are in, Peter can do incredible things. As soon as Peter started looking at the mess that was happening around him he began to sink. However, as soon as he focused on Jesus again he was saved. I think this is a wonderful metaphor for our time. We can look at all the things, the chaos if you will, that is happening around us and loose that focus on God, We can loose that focus on Jesus , We can loose that faith connection, which will save us. Consider our situation as a church, we can focus on the things that don't by our earthly standards seem to be working, or we can look at the inspiration and provision that God has sent us, which allows us to continue ministering in this community with a Lutheran witness and presence. We have pulled off the nearly miraculous feat of a basically balanced budget. Thank you for your faithful and generous support, which has made that possible and thanks be to God for the other pieces that came together to make it possible. It is not any one thing that balance the budget. We have a family that cares deeply about our ministry, we have a successful learning center, we nest another church in our midst, in addition to the little bits here and there which add up over the course of a year.

When we leave worship in just a little bit, after being fed at the table, having had the gift of forgiveness renewed in our lives, having been hopefully renewed in our faith and focus on God we will be entering a time to consider the finances of the church. As we enter that time, remember that the budget is a guiding document, with flexibility to change as we see new and different opportunities to witness and/or receive God's provision. I hope as we enter this time, which helps guide the directions of the church we can remember the witness of Peter and the reality that if we keep our focus on God and Jesus the chaos around us will not sink us. As we enter this time of business and considering where the money comes from and goes to I pray that we can remember the witness of the feeding of five thousand that reminds us of where the provision truly lies. As we leave this space of worship to spend time on the business of the church and return to the world I pray that your faith has been renewed this day that you might be focused on  that which brings us salvation, God.