No, you feed them.

Homily 510 – 8 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 7, 2022
Epistle:  (124) 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Gospel:  (58) Matthew 14:14-22

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

In the middle of nowhere, there was a crowd.  We call it the feeding of the 5,000, but that was only the number of men – likely there was over 10,000 there.

In those days, that was a population of a major city.  Even today, here in Iowa, that number of people would have placed 43rd largest of the 500 cities in Iowa.

Some would say that this event wasn’t a miracle at all, but simply shows what happens when people share.  Perhaps that is true – but have 10,000 people ever shared completely?

Besides, there was the observation that none of the people had food with them.  Chances are, none of them expected to follow this man Jesus of Nazareth into the wilderness for that long to require packing food.

Either way, regardless of the “explainability” of the event itself, it was a miracle.

What we might consider today, though, is the source of the miracle – the starting point.  Christ said the people don’t need to go away – you feed them.

The disciples said we have five loaves and two fish.  In that statement they communicated a lot of information.  First, they said they only had enough for themselves.  Literally.

And they could see no way that what they had could answer Christ’s call for them to feed the people.  What the people already had was kinda irrelevant to what Christ told them to do.

He didn’t say “let’s take a quick poll of who has food and perhaps we can find enough to feed everyone.”

He said – “You.  You feed them.”

The disciples had no idea how this would work.  They couldn’t see any reasonable way for them to feed this city of people.

And still they did.  In abundance.  With leftovers – a basket of leftovers for each Apostle.

Now, at least some of the Apostles had seen this kind of miracle before, of a sort.  Peter, James and John, fishing and not catching any fish, were told to put their nets back in and fish again, and reluctantly did so.

It feels very much like that experience was brought to bear here also.  We don’t know this, but perhaps the Apostles would have refused to obey without that prior experience of things seemingly multiplying.

So they did the only thing they could.  They did what Jesus told them to do.

Even though it made no sense to them.  How many of us have been in that situation – we know we are supposed to do something, but we can’t see the reason, nor the way to accomplish it.

The commands of Christ are there – love one another, do not judge anyone, deny yourself, give to those in need.  Yet, like the Apostles, we don’t see the point.

We are outcome focused.

What Christ offers us is the reality that we have no control of the outcome regardless.  He does.  We don’t.

In our inadequacies, Christ can act and multiply what we do offer, and create the outcome He desires – the outcome that is His will.

Many times, we ask ourselves a question – what is God’s will for me?  What am I to do, what is my role?

Looking at this example, God’s will – as we see it – is to feed the masses.  But that isn’t the will of God at all.  God’s will is that we offer what we have.  He will feed the masses with that offering.  He will multiply that gift to accomplish His desire – His will.

In some respects that is the exact same situation we are confronted with here in Ames.  God tells us to feed the city.  To reach out to them, to meet their needs.

And what do we say?  But Lord, we only have five loaves and two fish.

That isn’t what God asks of us.  God asks not how much we have, but rather He asks us to give whatever we have – the five loaves and two fish, the two pitiful coins of the widow, the meal and oil of the widow housing Zechariah the prophet.

And with it, He, not we, will multiply it and meet the needs of the community.

God’s will is not that we, the people of Holy Transfiguration, meet the needs of everyone in Ames.

God’s will is that we, the people of Holy Transfiguration, offer what we have so that He can multiply it and meet the needs of the people in Ames.  And, based on the record in Scripture of the bounty, the needs of the surrounding countryside as well.

We do have a choice.  We can give what we have and let God further the kingdom, or we are free to tell God no – that we cannot offer Him what we have.  In essence, telling Him that our security is tied up in our belongings and our wealth, and not in Him.

After all, the world tells us that we have to take care of ourselves, that no one will take care of us, or even help.

But that perspective isn’t what Christ tells us.  He tells us to not be concerned about tomorrow.  The Lord’s prayer is that we receive our daily bread – our manna in the desert, that will spoil if we collect too much.

St. Isaac of Syria puts it this way:  “Those who hasten onward with hope do not turn their gaze toward the perils of the way, nor do they stop to examine it, but only when they have crossed the sea do they look back upon the treacherous path and give thanks unto God for how He delivered them from gorges, precipices, and the craggy way, while they knew it not. Those, however, who ponder over many deliberations, who strongly desire to be prudent and give themselves over to intricate and quailing thoughts, who are ever making ready and striving to foresee every peril, are (for the most part) always to be found sitting on the doorstep of their houses.” (Homily Six)

God’s will is that we offer everything to Him – our money, our talent, our time.  We offer these things first and foremost by giving to the Church the first part, the first tenth or tithe, for the upkeep of the temple.  And whatever remains – money, talent, time – we give to those around us in need.

In so doing we fulfill the commandment – You feed them.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.