Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 2014
Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
Aug. 3rd , 2014
Today’s Gospel relates one of the archetypal stories in Christendom: the feeding of the four thousand. It is the second time that Christ fed the people, the first being the mass of “about five thousand men, as well as women and children.” It is the lesser known of the feeding miracles, being related only in Matthew and Mark, whereas the feeding of the five thousand is related in all four gospel accounts.
The real significance of this events is manifold, even if one doesn’t “merely” dwell on the miraculous nature of the feedings themselves. Of course, not to marvel at the wonderful physical multiplication of the loaves and fishes is to do God a grave disservice. The very fact that Our Lord took the bread and the fish, blessed it, broke it and distributed it to his disciples is wonderful beyond words. The word “miracle” doesn’t even do it justice. It had not been done before, and we doubt if it will ever be done again. It was truly a marvelous happening.
Yet, we actually must go beyond the physical marvel into the “how” and “why” beyond the act to begin to truly appreciate the significance of it. Without sounding too pompous, we must enter into the metaphysical realm to see why it is significant to us today.
We believe that the true significance of this act goes beyond Christ’s compassion shown on the multitude. Of course, on the first level of meaning, this is truly marvelous and blessed to behold. Christ had “compassion” on the crowd, because they had been with him three days with nothing to eat. This shows what great power Christ’s words had, as well as the power of his preaching. The crowd was so spiritually hungry that they neglected their bodily needs in order to hear His words of truth. Can you imagine? Christ had such wisdom and eloquence that He
held their attention for three days. Yet, even so, Christ cared about their physical welfare, as well as their spiritual welfare. Thus, Christ “begged the question” as his disciples made the doubtful query, “Where can one find bread in the wilderness, and especially enough to feed so many?”
No doubt Our Lord wanted them to ask the question, so that they could be still and behold the works of God. They needed to see Christ at work, because at this point, there were some among them that still doubted whether or not He was the Christ.
Now, we come to the metaphysical part. This is the area which transcends the mere physical and takes us up in to the mind of God, as much as we are able. Note first that Christ asked how many loaves the disciples had on hand... Whether this came from the crowd, or from the disciples themselves, we not know, because Scripture is silent.
The disciples answer, “Seven.” We also learn that there were a few small fish available as well.
Thus, let us pursue the truth at hand. Our Lord then set the pattern for the four-fold action of the Holy Eucharist, when he took, blessed, broke, and gave to His disciples.
Now, to the crux of the matter….. Please note that Christ did not, shaman-like, create an illusion of abundance. That is, it didn’t just look as if the bread and fishes were multiplied. They actually were increased beyond belief. Also, and just as important, is the fact that Christ didn’t do magic. He did not wave his hand and the fish and bread appeared. Recall that magic is a manipulation of nature, making it do something that is against its own essence. For example, things do not just appear out of nowhere. Something from nothing is not natural. The only time something was created ex nihilo, out of nothing, was the Creation itself. It is this priest’s opinion that God created the atoms, the chemical compounds, and the other building blocks of matter, which he in turn, fashioned into our Earth. In this respect, Science and Religion do not have to be at odds. After all, we know that God is the ultimate Scientist, just as He is the ultimate expression of all that is good.
Instead of something out of nothing, our Lord did something else: He multiplied. He magnified, He amplified. Taking the things already at hand, Jesus multiplied them. Thus, seven loaves became enough to feed thousands.
What lesson can we take from this, both individually and corporately?
Simply this: God takes what we have and grows it. He multiplies anything that is truly given to Him. One simple example is our “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving”, which we each individually offer every Sabbath day during our worship. This priest knows that he always gains something from each experience of holy worship. After all, how can we not, as we seek to draw near to the Holy One, when we approach His Altar with “boldness”, to cite Heb. 10:19. Thus, when we approach God with our gifts, even though they may appear to be meager , God takes and multiplies them. He takes us and sometimes He must first break us, before He can bless and magnify us.
We are the loaves and the fishes. We are that worthy material God uses to spread His Glory to the community. As we continue to give ourselves to Almighty God in faith, in hope, and in love, God will multiply us.
Therefore, let us not be as the incredulous and unbelieving disciples, who asked, “From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” Rather, let us be like the waiting multitude, which was fasting, yet expectant; hungry, yet hopeful.
Beloved, we are the loaves and fishes. We are the faithful remnant. As we remain faithful, we will be magnified.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, AMEN