Please pray with me. Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus, forever and ever. In the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In today’s gospel lesson, we hear two of the most familiar miracles of Jesus: the multiplication of loaves and fishes—alternatively known as the feeding of the 5,000—and Jesus walking on the water and stilling the storm. The first miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle that appears in all four gospel accounts. It actually appears twice in two of the gospels—I guess, in case we missed the message the first time! The walking on the water miracle is in three of the four gospels. So, we know that these stories were incredibly important to the early church. They, too, are important to you and to me.

I invite you to reflect on the gospel account that you just heard. What spoke to you? What pointed out to you that Jesus was no ordinary prophet or rabbi or teacher, that Jesus was clearly different? Something about him was truly divine. I suspect those miracle stories are evidence enough. But I would submit to you that I heard something embedded between the two that assures me that Jesus was not simply human. It came in the 15th verse: “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” [John 6:15]

Now, that may not, on the face of it, look like a miracle to you, but as someone who has spent much of her adult life in Washington, DC, that has an oversized obsession with power: Who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s in? Who’s out? Who’s in charge? Who wants to be in charge? Who gets to vote and how do they get to vote? It’s evidence to me that power dynamics are a big driver in our nation’s capital. Imagine, if you will, anyone with that invitation choosing to say, “No, I think I’ll just go to the mountain by myself and pray.” Jesus was clearly different!

Beloved preacher and teacher at Harvard, Peter Gomes, when preaching on this passage, said that there’s a very important question embedded in the gospel and it’s not, “Is it true? Or even, How can this be? but rather, What does this say?” That’s where I’d like to spend some time exploring with you. What does Jesus say and teach us in this passage?  I think it has a lot to tell us about power, how we use it and how we understand it.

Think of Jesus when he was about to embark on his public ministry. He’d been baptized by John in the River Jordan and driven by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted for 40 days. If you boil it all down, the temptations were all about power: whose power and how to use it. Jesus, of course, passed every test. What he showed us came next. When he left the wilderness period of being tested and getting clear on who he was and whose he was in his ministry, the first thing he did was call disciples to share his power and his ministry. You see, Jesus, wasn’t about, “I alone can save you. I alone can fix this.”  Jesus never said that.  Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Jesus came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Jesus said, “I will be with you to the end of the age—yesterday, today, and forever.”

What he tried to tell the crowd and the disciples was that no matter what we have, if we give it away in love, that is the ultimate power. What seemed incomprehensible and not nearly enough—five loaves and two fish—when given in love, taken by Jesus, blessed, broken, and given away, was more than enough to satisfy everyone. There was food enough left over. That’s the miracle. That’s also the lesson for you and for me.  So often, the needs of this world seem so overwhelming that we think that the little bit that we have to offer is meager and insufficient. But we saw miracles happen over the last year and a half, did we not?

When our Head Stone Mason, Joe Alonso, remembered that the Cathedral, years before, had bought N95 masks, he crawled around in the crypt and found them at a time when health workers and frontline physicians and nurses and EMS desperately needed masks for protection from the virus. We had 5,000 masks to give away to local hospitals—the masking of the 5,000.

That story inspired a seven-year-old, Zohaib Begg, across the river in Ashburn, Virginia, that perhaps there was something he could do—a seven-year-old. He got the idea to ask local hotels. They have masks and maybe if he collected some masks, he could even beat the Cathedral’s number of 5,000. He discovered that not only did hotels have masks, but they also had gloves. They had shower caps. God bless Zohaib, he gave over 6,000 PPEs to hospitals—the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fish.

One of my dearest friends in life, Patty Goodman, again, during the mask season, when we couldn’t find them and everyone was in desperate search of them, decided there was something she could do, too. To my knowledge, she’d never sewed in her life, but she bought a sewing machine, got online, figured out how to make masks, took old sheets and pillowcases, some of her husband’s old shirts, et cetera, and made masks that many of the worship team here at the Cathedral are still wearing a year after the fact. I will tell you that my husband John happens to be in the congregation this morning wearing someone’s old shirt in the form of a mask—five loaves, two fish.

Remember those incredible lines of people at food banks, desperate for food and the stories of farmers across our country having to let their crops rot in the fields because distribution systems broke down? A few enterprising college students got the idea that perhaps they could help in some way. Do you remember this? They formed what became known as FarmLink. Harvesting Hope is the tagline. They started connecting farmers and food banks so that people could be fed and farmers could be paid.  As of today, something like 40 million pounds of food have been distributed—five loaves, two fish.

The needs are still great, my friends. Whatever we have, given in love, will be blessed by God and will more than meet the moment and satisfy the needs of all. That’s the way it works. That’s what Jesus taught us about how to use the power that each one of us has, that nothing is too little when we give it away out of love and faithfulness. Mother Teresa said that “God does not command me to be successful. God commands me to be faithful.” Never forget that God, if we offer our five loaves and two fish, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. We’re only called to be faithful and God and God’s faithfulness will work miracles right in our midst.

One of my favorite old hymns came to mind about faithfulness, when I was thinking and praying about this passage today. It’s Great is Thy Faithfulness. A man by the name of Thomas Chisholm wrote that hymn over the course of his life. His adult life was marked by illness and scarcity and obstacles by any human measure. But, day by day, he saw God’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of the people around him. So, in gratitude, he wrote this hymn. You know the refrain:

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

Our ministry, our mission, our power lies in offering to the glory of God and to the needs of others our five loaves and our two fish. Then watch a miracle happen. Amen.

Download MP3 audio file