** brief note: This sermon is shorter than usual because the youth that attended the ELCA Youth Gathering spoke during sermon time today**
I think I would have loved to have seen the look on Philip’s face when Jesus said to him “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” because you have to believe in the back of his mind Philip was probably already counting on Jesus to solve this problem of a crowd that was growing in numbers and growing in hunger. Jesus instead turns to Philip. I think it would be a look of confusion, fear, and surprise. It would be the same look you might get if you were preparing for surgery and the doctor hands you the scalpel and says “go ahead and get started.” Now, Jesus was testing Philip. And there are ways that Christ tests us as well. We, well at least I often look around to this hurting world and I almost feel overwhelmed. There is so much to be done. Too many people are hungry (and as we heard in Detroit it’s not because of a lack of food but because of an economic structure that is very broken). Too many people are without homes. Too many people are without clean drinking water. And I want to cry out to God, and sometimes I do, “God, why don’t you do anything?” And as if on cue, God usually responds back “I created you, didn’t I?” Well darn, now I look and feel like Philip.
During our time in Detroit, Chris and I talked a lot about ripples. The idea is that by throwing a small pebble in a pond, it creates ripples. So, even though the pebble is small, it’s force is still felt through the ripples. I think that is what we do as disciples: make ripples. We may only be one person, we may only do (what we perceive to be) small and insignificant tasks but they create big ripples. Sure, there were only 6 of us from here that were in Detroit. But, the 6 of us were small pebbles that created big ripples. We stayed in hotel rooms that might have sat empty; we ate in restaurants that hired extra people to handle our large gathering; we used Uber and gave business to 2 men that might not have gotten it otherwise; it is estimated that thanks to the Gathering millions upon millions of dollars has been pumped into the Detroit economy. Ripples. And it will continue to ripple long after we’ve left town. Our flower pots that were weeded will be replanted with life. Our 5×5 piece of plywood we painted will be used to board up an abandoned house. And the ripples created in our faith will continue to grow and grow.
What I love about this particular telling of the feeding of the 5000 is Jesus’ actions. No where in our reading today does it say that he actually multiplied the loaves or fish. Hear this again “Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.” And when they were done eating, there were enough leftovers from those 5 loaves that they were able to fill 12 baskets. That’s not a ripple, friends, that’s a wave. Jesus always gives us more than we need. Always. So if we believe that it is Christ that calls us into difficult places, to serve with and to a broken and hurting world, why wouldn’t we believe that Christ will provide for us and provide abundantly?
Sin is a very powerful force, brothers and sisters. Sin is the voice that says “you can’t do this” or “you’re just one person, what do you matter?” Worse yet, sin is the voice that says “what difference will it make?” Because sin doesn’t want us out in the world. Evil wants us closed up in our homes, minding our own business, not sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with a hurting world. Satan plants the idea in our head that “someone else will do it” when Jesus is crying, yelling, demanding that we come, follow him, serve him, and he will provide.
Don’t be like Philip, expecting Jesus to have all the answers. God created us and we all are beautifully and wonderfully made. We have the answers already. We know what the world needs to hear. We know what our neighbors and loved ones need to hear. We know what our hands must do and how our feet must move. Taking the first step is the hardest but remember that Jesus always will provide more than we could ever need. It’s kind of like a Lutheran potluck, there’s more than we’ll ever need. What is God calling you to do? What will your ripple be? Don’t wait for me to initiate it. Don’t wait for God to ask you “what should we do about this?” If the desire is in your heart, get moving. Even if you move alone, get moving. Even a single pebble creates a ripple.