HOMILY & IDEAS

2 Kings 4, 42-44; Eph 4, 1-6; John 6:1-15

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas lay underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip -- Where can we buy enough food for them to eat? He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him -- Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him -- There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many? Jesus said -- Have the people recline. Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,"Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.

Whenever I read the story of the multiplication of loaves and fishes I am always drawn to the following action of Jesus which occurs in each of the four accounts:

Matthew: Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.

Mark: Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass.

Luke: Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each.

John: Have the people recline.

Why am I drawn to this? Because if you place yourself in the midst of the chaos as it is unfolding, this action of Jesus appears completely contrary to reason -- it is the last thing that the disciples expect to see or hear from Jesus. In the account in the Gospel of John, this is what leads up this favorite moment of mine:

Jesus: Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?

Philip: Two hundred days wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.

Andrew: There is a boy here who has five barely loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?

The next line the disciples expect to hear?

Jesus: Then let us dismiss them before it grows dark.

Jesus: You look for signs; but you will see none today. Return to your villages.

Jesus: Bring those in need of healing forward; but tell the others to return from where they came.

But instead, as the disciples turn away from Jesus with the expectation of hearing the words which will command some type of dispersment from that place, He says:

Have the people recline.

What a fantastic moment that must have been. Have the people recline.

How long does it take to instruct 5000 men recline? What were the disciples thinking as they followed these instructions? What were they mumbling to one another as they walked into the crowds? What were the crowds thinking as they began to recline? Certainly Jesus and the disciples did not anticipate this gathering of people and therefore have fish and bread ready for 5000.

Have the people recline.

If one thinks of this moment in the right context while conjuring up the apt feeling of intriguing tension, it should elicit nothing less than chills and goose bumps.

This moment tells us something about Jesus, and how we react to it might tell us something about us.

How does this preach?

Jesus is filled with surprises. He is constantly turning expectations upside down. Others see hopelessness, trouble, and the finality of a situation. Jesus sees hope, opportunity, and the occasion to reveal the power and glory of God. Jesus feeds. Jesus nourishes. Jesus surprises.

This might be a good weekend to ask ourselves if we feel the presence of Jesus in our lives or if we have the kind of relationship with Jesus where we pray for, are comfortable with, and even expect the surprising power of God in our lives. Do we believe that Jesus can bring hope in the midst of any darkness? Do we believe that Jesus can bring hope in the midst of hopelessness. Do we trust that Jesus can spiritually nourish us when it looks as though not a morsel of spiritual food can be found anywhere in our lives? Do we long for the words of Jesus in our lives -- RECLINE, RELAX, TRUST, STAY CALM, STICK BY ME, WATCH THIS ONE!

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