The Power of God to Multiply
As many of you will remember, it was ten years ago that my family and I were in Zimbabwe. Of course, my wife was born and raised there and, since I met her, I always wanted to go. One of the greatest moments for me occurred just a few days before we left. As we were leaving church, one of the ladies insisted that we take home a leftover tsoureki, a sweet bread. I thanked her but said “no thank you”, we weren’t going home immediately and I made all kinds of excuses not to take. Well, she absolutely insisted and, rather than start a fight, I took the bread reluctantly.
The bishop then drove us out of the city into the bush, as they call it. The bush is just very high grass – about 6’ high - that grows everywhere. After about ½ hour of driving, things opened up and we saw a small building with young people, about 50 of them singing and dancing. It was a Tuesday morning. I asked the bishop why they were there and he said, “to welcome you.” As we approached, we heard the kids singing “Ave, Papa” Hail, Father. Penny and I couldn’t believe it. I asked where they came from and he said that they walked barefoot, some of them for 3 or 4 hours to get there just to see us.
So, to make a very long story a little shorter, after singing for us, we offered them a simple sandwich: two slices of bread with one slice of boloney. I remember the Metropolitan saying that this was probably the only food they would eat all day. They lived in straw huts with no running water, no electricity, and nothing but dirt floors. Each young person came up to us, bowed with gratitude to us and received their sandwich from our hands. About half way through the line, we ran out of bread and asked if there was any more bread available. There was none. Then, Penny remembered the tsoureki that was in the car. I ran to get it, cut the bread into slices and, as God would have it, the last slice of bread was matched with the last slice of boloney for the last child in the group. Amazing!
Today, we heard about the feeding of the 5,000, the only miracle that is in all four gospels. Obviously, something must be special about it. It’s interesting that only one of the gospels actually says where the bread and fish came from. In St. John’s gospel, we learn that it was a boy who brought his lunch to the gathering that day, a young boy who planned to feed only himself but ended up feeding well over 5,000 because, as they say, there were also women and children besides the 5,000 men there.
“How did this happen and how much did each person get?” people ask today. Well, I’m no different but miracles are hard things to explain. How and why do miracles happen? I don’t know. I’ve seen them myself right in front of my eyes and I’m at a loss for words. I often wonder how I’m going to give communion to all those who come forward every week with just a ½ chalice full of bread and wine. It seems to come out of nowhere sometimes. Interestingly, the Church Fathers speak of this story as an image of the Eucharist. People come together to hear the Word, thanks to God is given, and we receive a portion of the meal and hopefully leave satisfied.
What I’d like to focus on though, is not how things happen but the circumstances surrounding the miracle. For example, it was a boy who shared his lunch that made it all possible. So, while we say that the universe began from nothing, the feeding of the 5,000 began with a human offering – a sacrifice of sorts. This is why our stewardship committee has the symbol of the five loaves and two fish as their logo. It’s a constant reminder that if everyone contributes something, the Lord will surely make it grow. I believe that. Generosity begets generosity. You know we have a lot to do here and you’ve been generous and working hard for our upcoming Glendi just so that we can continue to maintain our facilities and pay our bills. Last week, the bills in the office amounted to $13,000 for just one week. It left us with very little in our account but, with your generosity last week, we took in a very good collection and we were able to go another week without taking money from savings to pay the bills. Everyone needs to share, everyone needs to contribute in some way, and when that happens, everyone benefits from our church continuing its ministry.
Lastly, I want to make an observation about the story today. We might think that each person took only a morsel of bread but the Scriptures say that everyone left satisfied. They were filled because of Christ and with Christ.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Do I have everything I need to succeed in life? Do I have what it takes to be a good parent, to really be a good Christian, to contribute to the ministry, to run a baking workshop or to run a webinar among the executives at work? Do I have the knowledge to fix that leaky faucet or what it takes to inspire others to greatness even though I’m far from great myself? The answer may very well be “no” to some or all of these but we have a God who says, “Bring your gifts to me and I’ll take care of it. Trust me; I’ll multiply your efforts. I’ll complete what is lacking in you.” The key is this, brothers and sisters: bring your gifts, give your talents, trust Him with your life and offer yourself to Him and then watch to see what He can do. I can tell you for sure: it’s nothing short of a miracle.