July 31, 2011


The Best Remedy for Tough Times

By The Reverend Donna Frischknecht-Jackson

First United Presbyterian

Salem, NY

Matthew 14:13-21


Oh no. Not the feeding of the five thousand story—again?

That was my reaction when I saw the scripture reading for today. Not this story. Not again. How many times do I have to preach the miracle of God’s abundance? How many times do you have to listen to me preach the miracle of God’s abundance?

Oh no. Not again…

I prayed. I thought. I read. And then I prayed some more. What in heaven’s name was God trying to say to us through this well-known miracle story? At first glance it is the perfect example of what is considered your standard ancient miracle story. You see such stories had three parts:

FIRST. The problem is recognized and presented. Here, Jesus is faced with a great crowd that wants to hear him preach, but we are told the hour is late and they are hungry. The disciples want to send them away. Let them go get something to eat back in the village. Jesus, though, says, “No, don’t send them away. The disciples are puzzled for how will all these people be fed?

SECOND. Action is taken that produces extraordinary results. The disciples, still perplexed by how to feed the crowd, are told by Jesus to bring him the five loaves of bread and the two fish that they have. He looks up to heaven, blesses and breaks the loaves, and hands them to the disciples to pass around to the crowd.

THIRD. Confirmation of the miracle is presented. All five thousand, men, women and children, are fed—and praise God, there are twelve baskets full of the leftovers.

The feeding of the five thousand—a wonderful story of God’s abundance, of God’s provision and the perfect example of your typical ancient miracle story, complete with the three important parts needed for such a story.

Admittedly, I can see the beauty in the timing of this story coming to us on this Sunday, July 31, 2011, a day before the national debt deadline, a day in which many of you are probably having a hard time listening to me because you have a long list of worries.

The beauty of Jesus taking what little was available, blessing it and God multiplying it, should ease our worries and should quiet our fears. The abundance that came out of very little should be for us the much-needed reminder that we, too, God’s children, will be okay even if when we are looking at a pile of unpaid bills, lists of thing the children need and all the other expenses that are coming down the pike. For if we say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” then why not go for it and believe it?

The problem with going for it and believing in God’s provision is that when we are holding only two fish in our hands and looking at only five loaves of bread on our table, our attitudes begin to change from positive to negative. We begin to let fear overtake faith. We start sinking into a pit of despair. Depression takes hold and paralyzes us and more often than not, when faced with scarcity, we retreat into ourselves. We focus on our problems and we tend to focus only on our own needs.

My friends, retreating into ourselves and letting our fears and worries and problems disconnect us from the fears and worries and problems of our friends and neighbors, leaves no room for God to come in and work a miracle. When we shut the doors on others, we shut the door on God.

My “Oh no. Not the feeding of the five thousand story again” has become an, “OH YES! The feeding of the five thousand! Bring it on Lord. Bring it on!”

For you see what is often overlooked in this miracle is the circumstance that led up to. Jesus wasn’t having a good day. He wasn’t on top of his game. Jesus was grieving. He just learned that his cousin, John the Baptist, whom baptized him in the Jordan, was beheaded, his severed head served on a platter at party King Herod was having. Jesus is suffering loss and we are told when he heard of John’s death he wanted to be alone. He withdrew from everyone and got into a boat and sailed away. That didn’t stop the crowds from following the boat from the shore and when the boat docked, Jesus, who just wanted to be alone with his grief, saw a great crowd of people. It wasn’t a happy crowd, cheering him on and wanting to kick back and have a party. He looked out and saw a crowd which was hurting just like him. Some were grieving loss, some were very sick, some were probably carrying around empty wallets not knowing how they were going to buy food and some were probably just sick with the problems of the world. Jesus was hurting, too. He wanted to be alone, but he knew better. He knew that by retreating into his own pain would mean that these hurting people would not witness the greatness of God’s ways. They would miss out on the beauty of being blessed by his hands, hands that would never break bread again with his cousin John, but hands that could still break bread with others.

Jesus retreated and he probably wanted to be alone with his grief a bit longer, but he had compassion on others who were hurting and so he went to them. And by doing so the miracle of feeding of the five thousand happened—and it happened in the midst of brokenness.

I don’t know about you, but I know I really need to see a miracle in our world. I need to see our two measly fish and our five meager loaves bread, blessed and broken and shared with all. I need to see a miracle in our world where too many are going without and too many are living in fear of not having enough. I need to see the miracle of having 12 baskets full of leftovers all because we finally trusted God with what little we do have and instead of holding on to it and retreating into ourselves, we, too had compassion and reached out in our own brokenness.

I know I need to see a miracle. I also know I need to do my part. For if God needed Jesus’ hands to break the bread that was passed to the crowd then God needs our hands as well. Don’t give God the excuse that you aren’t ready to be his hands in this world because your life is falling apart or you don’t have anything to give or you are not feeling very happy or positive these days.

Remember, before the miracle Jesus was grieving.

You know, I never appreciated hearing people tell me when I was in a dark place, in a funk, feeling sad or worrying about my life, that the best remedy was to get out of yourself and do something for others. Newsflash. It’s about ME!

Newsflash. It’s not about me. It’s about all of us being connected to one another. It’s about how God asks us in tough times to be his hands, his eyes, his feet in this world. It’s about God using our brokenness to do something amazing.

            It’s about what someone once called, “the journey of the hands.” Our hands. Hands that clench tissues to wipe away tears become hands clenched in an angry fist as the heart cries out, “Why?” Clenched fists then become hands wringing with despair which then become hands reaching out for something to drown the pain—drugs, alcohol…these hands then become very busy doing things to distract from the worries. Hopefully, the journey of our hands come together in prayer, which then leads to hands that are opened to God’s blessings and then hands that can finally be part of the miracles God wants to work through us. Where are your hands right now? Wiping tears? Clenched in angry fists? Wringing with worry? Picking up a can of beer? Smoking a cigarette? Folded in prayer? Reaching out to others?

            The best remedy for tough times? Jesus showed us. Step out of your own problems, see that others are hurting too, then with your hands take what little you have and lift it up towards heaven for God to bless.

Praise God…the feeding of the five thousand story again.













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