“A Two Fish Kind of Day"
The Sanctuary Sermon for
The Sanctuary Sermon for 8/15/21
“A Two Fish Kind of Day” Matthew 14:13-21
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.” That’s what the disciples say when Jesus tells them to, “give them something to eat.”
Five loaves and two fish. I know what that’s like, and I’ll bet you do too. We’ve experienced the unexpected—a phone call at midnight, the sudden loss of a loved one, the proverbial pink slip or Dear John letter, the news from the oncologist. We feel as if we are left with nothing but five loaves and two fish.
Another variant of Covid is spreading, Lorain County is red with a call to return to masks, travel and social restrictions are being imposed on those not vaxed in some states, a nation torn in social and political upheaval feels like another five loaves and two fish day. Inflation continues to rise, the cost of goods and retail prices persist in going up, and people knocking on the church door asking for help reminds me that many people are living a five loaves and two fish life. And I wonder if my five loaves and two fish can do anything to help ease the needs that are writ large around me.
When have you felt like a five loaves and two fish kind of person? What events or circumstances have caused you to say, “Hmmmph. I’ve got nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” What does it feel like? What thoughts run through your head on those days?
In the five loaves and two fish times of my life I can feel overwhelmed, powerless, hopeless. I feel like more is being asked than I can give or handle. I’m in a desolate place, it’s getting dark and just like the disciples, I want to, “send the crowds away” to fend for themselves. It’s not just that I don’t think I have enough, but I begin to believe that I’m not enough. I am not enough to make a difference and I am not enough to handle what’s before me.
Does any of that sound familiar to you? You know what I’m talking about, right?
What are we to do in the five loaves and two fish times of life?
Well, let me begin with what not to do. Let’s not sit around waiting for Jesus to magically give us more bread and fish. That’s probably not going to happen. Besides, the problem isn’t a lack of bread and fish. It’s a lack of vision for our lives, the great crowd, and the future. It’s a lack of imagination for what could be. It’s a lack of compassion for others and ourselves.
We need to learn to see in a new way. We need new eyes and new vision. That’s what Jesus is saying when he tells the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” He’s asking us to change the lens through which we see, gain a new vision, and see with new eyes. He sees and trusts that we already are and have enough to feed the great crowd. Maybe that’s what we need to see and trust about ourselves and each other.
So, I want us to look at this passage a bit differently than we usually do. What if it’s more about eyes than stomachs? What if it’s more about seeing than feeding? What if it’s more about compassion than bread and fish?
Jesus and the disciples saw the same great crowd. But they responded very differently because they see differently. Jesus and the disciples represent two ways of seeing. “Send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy themselves some food,” the disciples tell Jesus. And Jesus tells them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.”
The disciples see the crowd and focus on the resources outside of themselves. They’re scratching their heads trying to figure out how to feed more than 5000 empty stomachs with five loaves of bread and two fish. The math is not on their side. They’re right in saying, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” There is not enough. And there will probably never be enough as long as we’re doing the math.
Jesus, however, focuses on the resources of the Father. He sees the great crowd and has compassion. He experiences their need at a gut level. He feels their hunger as his own. He sees himself as one of them. His inward parts are stirring and turning over. It’s a visceral reaction like when we feel sick to our stomach or break down and weep at the pain, loss, or need of another. Compassion is always the lens through which Jesus sees.
His compassion lets him see the five loaves and two fish not as a limitation but as a possibility. He’s not calculating and doing the math, he’s imagining the possibility of the impossible. He has no need or desire to send the crowd away. Instead, he makes room for them. He’s seeing with the eyes of his heart and not just his physical eyes.
I wonder, what keeps you and me from seeing and living like that? What if we began to see like that? What if we saw with the eyes of our hearts? What if compassion was the lens through which we saw ourselves and one another?
When we see the hunger, pain, or needs of another with eyes of compassion our priorities change, we begin to imagine new possibilities, and resources are multiplied. Compassion calls us to speak up for and to reach out to another. It means saying yes even before we’ve counted our loaves and fish. That’s how I want to live, don’t you?
I want to trust that my five loaves and two fish are enough and that they’ll make a difference. I want to believe that in Christ I am enough and that I will make a difference. I want to see you, the world, and myself through the lens of compassion. And I want to act on that compassion, don’t you?
What is your compassionate vision for our country today? I mean, it’s hard. Politics and the Pravda press has us pitted against one another with the socio-political hot buttons polarizing a nation. We’re back to “Us and Them.” Here’s a hard question this morning. Is The Sanctuary a church without walls? Do we have compassion for the immigrants flooding our boarders? For essential workers, the thin blue line and first responders? For administrators, teachers, parents, and students beginning a new school year? For the elderly who are shut in or about to be quarantined in senior care facilities again? What is your compassionate vision for those who have lost jobs and businesses? For those you love and those you’ll never know? For those who are just like you and those who are polar opposite? For yourself, and your needs?
What is compassion asking of you today? Yet more importantly, how will you act on it? To whom will you reach out and for whom will you speak up? Look with the eyes of your heart and you’ll see who that is. Imagine anew what our lives and our country might become, and you’ll know what to do.
What can you and I do with our five loaves and two fish? We’ll never know until we wade in and start feeding the great crowd. And we might just be surprised at what we’re capable of in Christ. Let’s stop doing the math, set the table and trust that God will supply. There will be more than enough.
Look around. Dinner’s ready to be served.
This is the Word of the Lord for today.