The Child’s Gift – June 14, 2020

The Child’s Gift

John 6:1-14

June 14, 2020

Main Idea- Jesus values children.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

On this Church School Sunday, it is a joy to recognize the children and youth of our congregation.  It is a bittersweet moment as we wish that we were physically together for this celebration but it is humbling and gratifying to watch as our young people take this extraordinary season in stride.  Their resilience, their creativity, and their compassion for the world is a great blessing at a time when the world is in great need.  Our young people have a lot to teach us!

The Feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle story that is told in all four gospels. In fact, Matthew and Mark tell the story twice!  It is a foundational story about grace, and hope, and abundance in the midst of scarcity.  We all know the basics of the story.  Jesus has drawn a large crowd who are in need of food.  His disciples are overwhelmed with the burden of caring for them all but Jesus is able to feed all who are hungry and have some food left over.  Each of the four gospels tells the story a bit differently.  John is the only one to mention a child.

In the book of John, Jesus’ miracles are called signs for they point beyond the miracle itself to reveal something about the person and calling of Jesus.  There are seven signs in the Gospel of John; Changing water into wine at Cana (2:1-11) “the first of the signs”, Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum (4:46-54), Healing the paralytic at Bethsaida (5:1-15), Feeding the 5000 (6:5-14), Jesus walking on water  (6:16-24), Healing the man blind from birth  (9:1-7), and The raising of Lazarus (11:1-45). (  The feeding of the 5000 is the 4th sign, the one in the middle, which means that it has special, important, significance. The rest of chapter 6 (71 verses) is about Jesus as the Bread of Life.   Of the seven signs, this one is especially important for it reveals that Jesus guides us and feeds us and sustains us.  And he listens to and accepts the gift of a child.

The story is set on the mountain by the Sea of Galilee.  People from all over had followed Jesus there.  They had heard of his turning water into wine at Cana, bringing joy and abundance.  They had heard of the healing of the royal official’s son, bringing hope and relief. They had heard of the healing of the paralytic at Bethsaida, bringing grace and restoration.   They were in great need.  They wanted whatever it was that Jesus was sharing.  And so, Jesus sat on the mountain with his disciples and looked out on the great crowd of people.  He turned to the disciples and asked “What is your plan for feeding all of these people?”  The disciples are dumbfounded.  Philip says “Six months wages would not be enough to feed each person a crouton.”  Andrew says with a chuckle, “There is a boy here with five small barley loaves and two small fish but that’s not much.”  The disciples cannot see the possibilities that Jesus provides.  They are stuck in their own wisdom and experience.  And so, they throw up their hands and say it can’t be done.  In the other gospels, they actually respond to Jesus by saying that the people in the crowd must fend for themselves.  “Feeding those people is not our problem!”

But the child is not bound by the disciples’ discouragement and disbelief.  He brings his lunch to Jesus and offers all of it as a gift.  “Why not?” he thinks.  Jesus accepts this generous gift, the boy’s whole lunch!, and multiplies it, expands it, so that not only does it feeds everybody but there are twelve baskets of bread left over.   In the other gospels, it is the disciples that give out the bread, but here it is Jesus himself, sharing the child’s gift.  Jesus walks among the people, feeding each one of them, giving each as much bread and fish as they want, so that all are filled and satisfied.   We can imagine the child watching Jesus.  “Look, that’s all from my lunch!  I’m helping Jesus!

These days we are in great need of help.  Some of us are in need of actual bread but all of us are in need of hope and grace and sustenance.  Our world is in terrible need.  And to be honest, much of the world’s suffering are problems of our own creation.  Humanity, we, have created systemic racism, income inequality, violence, and poverty around the world.  There is actually plenty of food in the world but we have set up systems whereby millions starve while food rots, and those who need nothing become richer by the minute.   We have created the millions of refugees that have been forced out of their homes by war and oppression.  We have poisoned our air, water, and soil and brought about massive climate change. Because of our deep divisions, the impact of the Corona virus pandemic is much worse than it could have been. Thousands have died needlessly.   Because of the immensity of the problems that surround us, we are tempted to throw up our hands like the disciples and say “There’s nothing we can do.”  We are paralyzed either by despair or cynical selfishness.

But Jesus and the child do not agree that there is nothing we can do.  Because we have caused these things, we can fix them.  It won’t be easy or quick but we can do it.  And the way we fix them is to listen to our young people.  They have the energy, and the ideas, and the resilience and hope that things can change.  They recognize the urgency for they must live in this world long after we old folks are gone.  We hear Greta Thunberg and the other young climate activists imploring us to save the environment.  We hear Malala Yousafzai challenging us to ensure the education of children, especially girls in places where women are treated as property.  We hear Emma Gonzalez and the other students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School who mobilized us to march for our lives against gun violence in our nation.  We remember Emmet Till, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, children of color who were killed by white supremacy.  The protests for racial justice around the nation are full of young people of every hue demanding that “the way things are” change for the better.  Yesterday, at the Essex High School graduation, the senior class gift was given to the school’s Diversity Club to further the work of Black Lives Matter.  Our young people are leading us and we must not only listen to them but work with them for change.

Jesus listens to young people. “Let’s use that lunch to feed some people!” Jesus works with young people.  He does not expect them to do all the work alone!  In today’s text, it is not the child who serves everybody lunch.  It is Jesus.  We are empowered by Christ to work together, to listen together, to learn together.  These past few months have been deeply challenging and the summer looks to be challenging still.  May we use this time to honor and listen to our young people and to follow their vision and hope for the future.

Let us pray,

Bread of Life, we praise you and we thank you for your unending guidance, sustenance and love. Empower us to see you in the people around us and those we see on the news.  Help us to listen to our young people and to work together for your kingdom.  Amen.