ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN
It’s the only miracle story recorded in all four gospels. The Feeding of the Five Thousand appears in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Apparently, the gospel writers found this particular miracle very significant.
A boy offered his lunch: five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus took the loaves and the fish, blessed them, and gave them to 5,000 hungry people. Plenty of food was left over. Twelve baskets were filled. Now that’s impressive.
I wonder: where did this boy get that bread and those fish? I’ll bet his mama baked the bread. I’ll bet she baked it that morning. But what about the fish? Did that boy catch those two fish? Was that boy already a dedicated fisherman? Did he travel to the Sea of Galilee to hear Jesus preach or just to go fishing?
After Jesus, the main character in this story is the boy. Think about it. Everything hinged on that boy. The boy brought the bread and the fish, and he gave them to Jesus. He didn’t have to do that. He could have kept his food for himself, and rightfully so. After all, it belonged to him. Whether his mama baked the bread or not; whether he caught the fish himself or not: the bread and the fish belonged to the boy. He had every right to sit down all by himself and eat every single bite.
The boy planned ahead. The others did not. Too bad for them.
But that’s not what happened. You know what happened. The boy offered his food to Jesus. Jesus took his simple offering, blessed it, and fed 5,000 people (not to mention the twelve baskets that were left over).
Philip Yancey writes about Jesus the Reluctant Miracle Worker. In his research for a forthcoming book, Yancey realized that Jesus refused to perform miracles on demand. He refused to prove himself by performing miracles. He certainly could have, but he didn’t. Think of his refusal to perform miracles when tempted by Satan in the wilderness.
In the gospels, miracles generally happen as a result of faith. When people profess faith or act in faith (as the boy did this morning), miracles can happen. When we take risks in faith (faith is always a risk), we invite God to act. When we make a faith investment (as the boy did this morning) miraculous things can happen.
In other words, no offering, no miracle.
With just five loaves and two fish, Jesus did a lot. What has Jesus done with your gifts? What has Jesus done with our gifts at St. Augustine’s?
I can speak to that. I was once asked by a bishop, “What are you most proud of about St. Augustine’s?”
I responded without hesitation. I heard myself say this: Two things. First of all, we’re still here. There were times when it looked like we might not survive. We have survived. In many ways we’ve thrived. Secondly, we’ve changed. In 1994 we were, for the most part, a white parish. We were an island of white faces surrounded by a sea of mostly non-white people. Today St. Augustine’s reflects the larger community. Today we are known for our diversity. It helps define us.
And how did that happen?
For the most part, we just tried to be faithful and generous and open to God’s leading. And sometimes we stumbled. Sometimes we fell flat on our faces. But ultimately that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because what has happened to St. Augustine’s is God’s doing. This is God’s miracle, and I consider myself blessed to have been here and see it happen.
Like the boy in today’s gospel, we gave what we had to offer, and God performed a miracle.
That’s how it worked in the past, and that’s how it will work in the future.
Like I said before: no offering, no miracle
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