2021 October 3 “Multiplication”

Scripture   John 6:1-14    After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 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.  When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

Message           ”Multiplication”                     Rev. James Renfrew

Look at all of these people! How can we possibly feed them all?  We don’t have any! I don’t see any grocery stores or restaurants nearby, and even if we could see them, who has the money to pay for all of that food? Think of what it would cost!

And do you see how many people are here this evening? Five thousand! 2 rows of 2500 each. 4 rows of 1250 each 5 rows of 1000 each, 8 rows of 625 each, 10 rows of 500 each, 20 rows of  250, each, 50 rows of 100 each. But no matter how you arrange us, there are too many people and not enough food. Just look up the hill, people, adults and children stretching up the hill as far as you can see. Let’s wave to the people at the very top of the hill; they’re hungry, just like you. How can we feed them all?

Well, here’s Jesus. And he’s got something to say. He doesn’t say that it will be impossible to feed all of these people. No, he doesn’t say that at all. Instead, he asks a simple question, “What have we got, what do we have to start with? Don’t worry about what you don’t have, start with what we do have!”

Phillip decides to help. He’s a DIT, a disciple in training, eager but he often makes mistakes. Do we have any Disciples-in-Training here this morning? So today Phillip is eager. He goes to see what they’ve got. Phillip goes up one row and down another row, up another row, and back down another row, so many rows he loses count, and finally he finds a boy who says he’s got 5 small bran muffins and two dry fish.  Phillip thinks he has failed. He comes back to Jesus, “Sorry, Jesus all I could find is this boy, but he only has a little bit of food.”  “Don’t worry about what we don’t have”, Jesus, says, “let’s start with what we do have.”  And from there God will multiply, 5 muffins, two fish, 5 times 2, times five times two, times five again.  So they start serving the bread and the fish to everyone, up and down each row.  All those Disciples in training started handing out the bread and the fish.  And there was enough to feed everyone!  Everyone is surprised, the disciples in training most of all!

We are all Disciples in training, just like Phillip long ago. You start with what you have and God takes care of the rest.

Start with a little love, a little hope, a little generosity, and God multiplies it. Everyone in the crowd was fed, and notice this, that when they were done cleaning up there were 12 large baskets filled with crumbs!

Can you explain what happened? I can’t tell you how it happened, but I can tell you that everyone there was fed. It’s a miracle beyond our ability to explain, but it happened and all of the people were fed.  We celebrate this day as World Communion Sunday, that what happened on that hillside looking out over the Sea of Galilee is filled with possibilities for those of us gathered around THIS table. But THIS table is not our table, it is God’s table, it is a world table. There is far more happening here than we realize. So as you taste from the bread and the cup, you are tasting along with more people than you count.

Let me tell you who was in that crowd, women, men, children, adults, good folks, bad folks, happy folks, sad folks, people with great faith, people with no faith at all, people with wonderful talents, people with almost no talents, people in the front and people way in the back, people who had been there all day and people who arrived late. But in Jesus the bread was multiplied and everyone was fed. The food that they received was not a reward, it was based on their need, and everyone needs to eat. God’s multiplication meets our needs.

Our church is like that miracle every single day. Everyone of us has something to start with, a smile, a hug, a song, a prayer, beautiful artwork, and each time you offer one of these good things, God multiplies.

Thinking of this story about multiplication, we are now going to share the bread and the cup.  It is an experience of multiplication, where the small things we share, a smile, a hug, a song, become multiplied into friendships, adventures and great joy. Sometimes communion is with beautiful silver plates and cups, sometimes we keep it simple. What matters is not the tableware, but sharing, sharing and sharing. God’s blessings multiplied and multiplied and multiplied some more.

We have had a very difficult time for the last 18 months. Dealing with disease and distancing is difficult, but there has been more than that, division, discouragement and even depression. This meal we share is the encouragement that we need.  In this meal we practice radical hospitality, that whoever you are, wherever you are from, and whatever your story, there is room at this table for you to receive something that you need from Jesus. It might be love, it might be peace, it might be healing, it might be hope, but I know that there is something here for you, something that you need.  Jesus has what you need, and there’s enough for everyone!

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