Friends, I am posting this a day early as I will be having outpatient surgery on Thursday. I hope to return to help lead worship on Sunday. Thank you for your prayers.
God bless you with joy, peace, and good health!
Love, Pastor Karen
Sarah Swigert and Becky Lerch, liturgists
Alice Hoover, organist
John Addy and Rick Troyer, banjo and guitar duet
Pastor Karen Crawford is isolating at home today in preparation for surgery to remove her appendix this week. She will return to lead worship and preach next Sunday.
Meditation on 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
Pastor Karen Crawford
The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH 43812
August 15, 2021
We are finishing week 2 following Jim’s knee surgery. These past two weeks have been nothing like any of the weeks we have experienced in our 16-year marriage. But I want you to know that Jim is doing better! Thank you for your prayers and cards and words of encouragement! His pain is a little less, and he’s getting around a little more. He has begun physical therapy at Three Rivers with Michelle. Isn’t she awesome? I took him for the first time on Wednesday and asked, “How long is this going to take?” She said, “About 45 minutes.” And I asked, “Could you keep him about 4 hours so I can get my life back?” They said it was OK if I were a little late coming back from shopping at Buehler’s. So I was!
That’s one of the new things in my life with Jim—I am doing all the driving and the shopping, for now. Jim used to do all the shopping—and there was a good reason for this. When I go to the store, I am distracted—and I get so excited, because I never go to the store! I end up buying way more than what’s on my list. Then I get home and I’m wondering, “What should we have for dinner?”
Another thing I am not used to doing is cooking for the family. There’s a reason for that. It takes me forever!!! Jim plans ahead, shops for the ingredients, and knows how to throw everything together quickly and have dinner ready on time. And tasting delicious!
He also manages to wash all the dishes and have the kitchen clean every night. I often end up having pots soaking overnight and washing in the morning while I am unloading the dishwasher.
These last few weeks, we have had many decisions to make—about Jim’s care, his rehab, and PT and how we would set him up at home. I didn’t know we would need to rent a hospital bed. I had never done that before. Thank God for Betty Jo at Free’s Medical Supply!
We ended up moving our bedroom and my office downstairs in the basement so we could kind of live on one level of our split-level house. Jim would be able to use his walker and get to the only handicapped accessible bathroom. Theoretically, I wouldn’t have to run up and down the stairs too much. The reality is that I am running up and down the stairs all day long. My friend, Sis, a retired gym teacher in her 90s, comforted me by saying, “At least you are getting good exercise.”
“That’s true,” I laughed. Now if only I could get more consistent sleep!
I had a terrible dream a couple of nights ago. I woke up in a panic! Has that happened to you? I dreamed that I came to church and discovered it was Sunday morning. I was in my pajamas! And I didn’t have anything prepared for the service! Now you know a pastor’s nightmare!
That’s when I realized that my prayer needed to be more than, “Lord, help us and Lord, heal Jim.” It also needs to be, “Lord give us wisdom for all these decisions. Guide us in your will every moment of every day. Help us to be faithful to walk in your ways.”
Solomon is our example of the one king of Israel who knew his limitations—and how much he needed the Lord to be able to live out his calling from God. He had a dream encounter with God when he was worshiping him, offering sacrifices in the high place at Gibeon, at the beginning of his reign. When God asked him what he should give him, young Solomon answered humbly and eloquently, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.”
Solomon is all of 15 when his father dies or “slept with his ancestors,” as the Hebrew Bible so poetically describes death. He knew he had BIG shoes to fill. His father, David, was 30 when he was anointed king.
Acts 13:22 says that God testified “concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” David led his army to conquer Jerusalem; he made it the capital and, having the Ark of the Covenant brought there, he made it the center of worship for the Israelites. David was a musician and is considered the author of many of the songs in ancient Israel’s hymnal—the book of Psalms.
Though David was a sinful man, committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband, Uriah, killed, to cover up his sin and be with her, he would become the most beloved king in Israel’s history. He reigned 40 years over a united monarchy of Israel and Judah.
His son, Solomon, would go on to do great things, reigning from 970 to 931 BCE. Beginning in the 4th year of his reign, he used some of the enormous wealth that he and his father accumulated to build the First Temple in Jerusalem.
Solomon is traditionally considered the author of several biblical books: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon or Song of Songs.
But that day, when Solomon was offering sacrifices to the Lord on behalf of his people and worrying about how on earth he would ever be king of Israel, he had only one request of the Lord—wisdom.
“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people,” Solomon says, “able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
God is pleased with Solomon’s request—as God would be pleased if we asked for the same. The Lord blesses him with more than he has requested. Solomon will have great wealth and long life.
What Solomon is best known for is his wisdom— the gift of a wise and discerning mind to lead God’s people. One famous example of Solomon’s wisdom is when two women came to him claiming to be mother of the same child. Solomon resolves the dispute by commanding the child be cut in two. One woman quickly renounces her claim, proving that she would rather give the child up than see it killed. Solomon declares the woman who showed compassion to be the true mother, entitled to the whole child.
Our readings in 1 Kings and in Ephesians remind us that now is the time to live as wise people, not foolishly wasting these days God has given us. Let us prepare for our Lord’s return by seeking the source of all wisdom. Here is the promise in James 1:5,
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
But what is wisdom? It’s not being smart or knowing the answers to every Jeopardy question. Wisdom isn’t the same thing as trivia or knowledge, which “puffs up.” And the wisdom of this world isn’t the same as the wisdom of the Lord. Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:19-20: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”
The wisest thing that young Solomon ever did was admit to God that he didn’t have a clue!! And that his calling to rule over Israel was something he couldn’t do on his own. He certainly hadn’t earned this calling from his own merit or good works. Just as we don’t earn our callings through good works.
The starting place for wisdom, then, is knowing, loving, and TRUSTING the Lord AND knowing ourselves and being honest with ourselves. There is a wisdom in knowing our limits. There is a wisdom in knowing our potential—because nothing is impossible with God! And we are God’s beloved!!!
Most of all, there is a wisdom in knowing God is with us, we are with each other, and we are not alone. With the gift of wisdom comes responsibility for FAITHFULNESS. Do you want to be pleasing to God? Seek to DO God’s will every day. Be faithful!
When you leave this place today, go, walking in the wisdom of the God who lights the path before us. Go blessed by the God who journeys with us. The God who wants us to ask of him, like Solomon, “Give me a wise and discerning mind.”
Let us pray.
Dear Lord, sometimes we don’t know how to pray. We don’t know what to ask for. We feel overwhelmed in some of the seasons of our lives. But we always know that we need you, we love you, we trust you. We want to be pleasing to you, like Solomon was. Lord, give us a wise and discerning mind. Grant us wisdom for the many decisions that we are facing as individuals and as your Church, the Body of Christ. Heal the sick, bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted. Provide for those in need—body, mind, and spirit. And guide us in your will every moment of every day. Help us to be faithful to walk in your ways. In our Triune God we pray. Amen.
Meditation on 1 Kings 19:4-8
The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH 43812
Pastor Karen Crawford
Aug. 8, 2021
Link to our Livestreamed Worship on Facebook:
The week was off to a great start with VBS on Monday night! This year’s theme was Beach Party, with our programs mostly outside on the church lawn. Storytime and snacks were served up on beach blankets under some shade trees. Children listened to Bible stories on the theme of water and fish, such as Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry land; Jesus walking on water and calming the storm; Jonah and the Whale, told from the perspective of the whale; Jesus calling the disciples to be fishers of people; and, another miraculous picnic: Jesus feeding more than 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish.
Jeff and other volunteers sent me photos from the nights that I couldn’t attend. Thursday, the last day, was water day. Janice filled wading pools with 600 water balloons. Some experiences that you don’t get from the photos, Jeff said, are the heat of the August night; the anticipation, “I’m so gonna get you!!” Then, splat!! The water balloon hits you in the back, and the water is COLD. And all the laughter!! And shrieks! Until all the balloons were thrown and everyone was SOAKED.
Jeff saw drivers slowing down as they passed the church, hearing the shrieks and laughter; grinning, then driving by slowly…. Jeff was still laughing on Friday when he shared the photos by text message and told me about the last evening.
Isn’t it wonderful that our VBS was a blessing to the children and families and volunteers AND a witness to the love, joy, and peace of those who happened to be driving by the church???? That’s what we have been praying for!!
Though too brief, Monday night was a feast that strengthened me through a long, dry, wilderness week—when Jim had his knee surgery, and we struggled with his care at home after two days and one night in the hospital.
While I was sad to have missed so much of VBS, the Lord spoke to me in the quiet at home through happy memories from Monday of this powerful outreach to children and families in our church and community. Whenever I was discouraged and weary, the Lord brought to mind the joy of all who participated in VBS—and all the seeds that were sown for the sake of the Kingdom. God was saying to me with these nourishing, uplifting reminders of his faithfulness in my life and in the life of our church, “Get up and eat.”
Elijah the Tishbite, the great prophet of Israel, is running for his life in our reading in 1 Kings today. Queen Jezebel, wife of King Ahab of Israel, has vowed to kill him.
Jezebel is a Phoenician princess in the 9th century who marries Ahab, the prince of Israel. Have you heard of Jezebel? Phoenicia is located in what is now Lebanon. While Israel is struggling with internal tribal differences and susceptible to frequent invasions, it still follows the beliefs of Yahweh, the “one true” God. Phoenicia is a large, cosmopolitan, religiously diverse area. Jezebel had grown up in a wealthy family and was well educated by tutors. Her family worshiped many gods.
When Ahab and Jezebel rule as king and queen of Israel, Jezebel continues worship of the nature god Baal and begins killing off the prophets of the Lord.
You wouldn’t know it by his despair, but Elijah has just had a great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. After Baal fails to respond to its followers sacrifice and their shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” from morning to noon, Elijah builds an altar and prepares a sacrifice to the Lord, pouring water over and around it. Then he prays to God and immediately fire falls from heaven and consumes everything. When the Israelites see it, they fall on their faces and shout, “The Lord alone is God. The Lord alone is God.” (I Kings 18:39). The prophets of Baal are seized and killed by sword.
Elijah’s fear and despair are triggered by a note from Jezebel’s messenger saying that he will be killed by the next day. He runs to Beersheba in Judah. Leaving his servant there, he goes a day’s journey into the wilderness. Under the broom tree, he finds shade and a place to pray. But instead of asking God to deliver him from the queen, he asks the Lord to end his life.
He has had enough.
Even a great prophet of the Lord can become weary of body, mind and spirit. In more modern-day terms, we could say that he has PTSD. He is a prophet and a soldier for God. The fear and tiredness are talking when he says, “I am no better than my ancestors.”
Elijah, who prays for death, is one of only a few in the Bible who will not die. When his ministry draws to a close on earth and his assistant, Elisha, is prepared to take his place, Elijah will be taken up in a whirlwind and a fiery chariot will ride the sky.
God’s answer to Elijah’s prayer is sleep!!! He falls asleep under the desert broom tree!
This passage really brings home to me how the Lord cares for us– body, mind, and soul. We are not always good about taking care of ourselves! Especially caregivers! We can become so focused on our loved one that we don’t take the time for self-care. But God our maker knows how precious we are. He tenderly feeds us, when we don’t have the strength to carry on.
An angel awakens Elijah with, “Get up and eat.” He doesn’t let the prophet oversleep!
Throughout this passage, we encounter phrases that connect Elijah’s story with the great story of God and God’s people in the Old Testament and New—and with our own story. Through God’s loving action, Elijah experiences redemption!
The broom tree and wilderness remind us of the Israelites’ time in the desert with Moses, when they camp at a place known for broom trees in Numbers 33:18-19. The cake baked on hot stones reminds us of God’s provision of manna from heaven, tasting sweet like honey, when they were hungry. Water in the stone jar reminds us of water provided by God from a rock when the Israelites are thirsty. And when Jesus turns water into wine and offers living water to the Samaritan woman at the well in John.
The rest and nourishment prepare Elijah for his 40-day and 40-night wilderness journey to Mt Horeb, the Mountain of God. This is a spiritual journey that brings to mind Moses spending 40 days and nights atop Sinai in Exodus 24:18;
memories of the rain falling on Noah’s ark;
and in the New Testament, when Jesus is tempted in the wilderness to prepare for his ministry —and, in his time of need and weakness, at the end of 40 days and nights, is ministered to by angels.
God will speak to Elijah on Horeb. He will surprise him as he passes by, not in the great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks. Not in the earthquake that follows, nor the fire. God’s voice will be heard as a soft murmur in the silence.
How does the Elijah story connect with your story today? Are you or a loved one weary in your journey of faith? Is life getting you down? Are you having trouble hearing from God in the noise of your life?
The Lord is teaching me to rely on Him for EVERYTHING—and that means learning to ask for help—from God and from others, when I need it. And that some days, the best thing we can say is that we made it through the day—and tomorrow will be better!! And that food and rest are necessary for mental and spiritual health.
And that worry is a waste of time and energy. As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew, today really does have enough worries of its own. So don’t worry about tomorrow!! God is still using angels to help us in our time of need! Only the angels are YOU and Me! Sometimes, God will use a complete stranger to minister to you or a loved one in need.
Do you know that God is with you, right now? And that his voice can be heard if you just stop running and giving into fear and despair? The Lord is speaking to us, offering nourishment for those who are weary in body, mind and soul:
“Get up and eat.”
Let us pray.
Holy one, thank you for your love, for calling each of us your precious child and for having a plan for our lives. Thank you for our VBS and the many children and families our congregation was able to serve. Bless all our volunteers for their acts of kindness, sewing seeds of faith for your sake, sharing your love and grace. Reassure us, Lord, when we are weary and discouraged, in spite of how you have used us for your ministry. We still get tired! Keep us from obsessing over failures and weakness and to look to you for our strength. Remind us to take time to care for ourselves—to find nourishment for body, mind, and soul. And that you desire us to rest and eat, care for our physical bodies—and leave the worrying to you. Help us to know when to ask for help from you and others—and to recognize the angels in our midst. Use us, Lord, as your ministering angels, helping and encouraging others who are in need. We pray these things in the name of the Triune God—Father, Son and Spirit. Amen.
Meditation on Ephesians 4:1-8, 11-16 and John 6:24-35
The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH
Pastor Karen Crawford
Aug. 1, 2021
Link to Aug. 1, 2021 live-streamed worship service, including this message:
Last Tuesday, our Session gathered at the home of our clerk, Sarah Swigert, for a picnic. Once a year, with the exception of 2020, instead of a regular Session meeting in July, we meet for a potluck dinner and cookout with our spouses. We enjoyed an abundance of home-cooked food and the company of Christian friends who have become a family of God. Unfortunately, two of our members and their spouses were not able to make it. We missed them!
Our Session is a group of gifted, faithful people who have hung together and labored long and hard for the sake of the Lord and His Church—through difficult, anxious times, as well as times of joy and laughter. Last Tuesday was fun!
Near the end of the gathering, Debbie Clark made an interesting observation. It was just like a Session meeting, she said, only with food! What I think she meant was that this relaxed, comfortable way we are with each other at a fellowship gathering is the same way we are when we are together—virtually or in person—doing the important work of leading the church.
We love each other and respect and value each other’s differences. For each of us not only possess gifts to develop and share for the Lord; each of us ARE gifts from the Lord to His Church and the world.
All believers are connected by a common calling—the call of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It moves us to give of ourselves, build up those around us, and grow the Kingdom. Like the crowd of more than 5,000 hungry people who were nourished by a few loaves and fish—blessed, broken and given by the Bread of Life—we feast on Christ’s Word and Spirit so that we may be equipped to be Bread for the World.
This common gospel calling is what Paul is talking about in the 4th chapter of Ephesians. This letter is meant for the Church, encouragement for those who are trying to be faithful. But it’s also for those on different places on their faith journey, as well as those from different walks of life, backgrounds, knowledge, and experience, including Gentile and Jewish Christians.
Paul provides some basic rules of living the new life in Christ together in this chapter—for the good of the community. He tells believers to put away all falsehood, ”for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” He emphasizes the importance of our words and their effect on others. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths,” he says, “but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:29)
Our passage begins a new section of the letter, where everything that came before chapter 4 is leading to Paul’s main point: “I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called…” It’s not enough to say you are a Christian. The Lord wants us to let our lives, demeanor, behavior, and attitude show it. Christ has given gifts to the Church so that some would be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Their shared purpose is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”
Serving in the Church requires a different mindset than working in the world or serving as a volunteer with a secular organization. It’s the reason we do we what do—and for whom! We serve the Church because we love the Lord and the people God so loves.
For some people, it’s hard not to see Christianity as just “Jesus and me.” The vision of Paul’s beloved Spirit-filled community is that we are a new family of God and not just solitary believers, working alone. The church’s life and mission are shaped and given to us by Jesus Christ. We are forever connected to him and to one another and are known as his disciples by our love. Paul says a life worthy of the calling is lived: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience” “bearing with one another in love.”
“Bearing with one another” is something that shows up in other Pauline letters and is connected with forgiveness in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Bearing with one another in love may also be holding one another up and keeping each other from falling, helping to carry one another’s burdens. This is something that I often see happening in our church family, and it’s such a blessing to me!
Unity and peace are recurring themes in Paul’s letters. Here in Ephesians, Paul acknowledges that achieving unity in the Church is not something the Holy Spirit does alone. We have to work at it and keep on working at it: “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3) Unity doesn’t mean uniformity. As Paul says in verse 7, “But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” We have to expect differences of opinion with our different gifts and perspectives, and not be afraid of respectful disagreements, which may be the path to Spirit-led transformation.
On the other hand, Paul has no tolerance for false teachers who try to lead Christians astray. He urges believers to not be like spiritual children: “tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.”
Going along with unity is peace. This is the bond or glue that holds everything together! Peace requires effort and commitment, as well. As Paul says in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
My favorite part of this passage are verses 4-6, some of which we read at baptisms. ‘ONE’ is repeated 7 times to reinforce what is common to every believer. These are reasons to rejoice and give God our thanks and praise! “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism,one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
Dear friends, each of you possesses gifts that God wants you to use to help grow the church. But I want you to know that each of YOU are also GIFTS to the Church! I treasure you and appreciate all that you do, many of you quietly, behind the scenes, where nobody else can see. Thank you for your faithfulness and for all your prayerful efforts at maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in our church family. Just coming to worship every Lord’s Day is a wonderful witness to our unity!
This week, kind volunteers—youth and adults—will be seeking to grow the Church by serving the children of our community through Vacation Bible School. It’s been 2 years since our last VBS! Our volunteers need our encouragement and prayers. I plan to be there whenever I can to assist them, helping to welcome our children and families, lead prayer, share Bible stories, and do whatever is needed. We will also do crafts, play games, have snacks, and just enjoy our time together. Most of all, we hope to show the love and grace of Christ through caring words and ways that children will understand. Please pray that hearts and lives will be changed—including ours!
You know, we can’t do any of our ministries without God’s help and without seeking to grow ourselves and become more spiritually mature. Like the Israelites who ate of the manna from heaven each day in the desert wilderness, we must nourish ourselves on the Bread of Life so that, serving together, we may be Bread for the World.
Let us pray. Holy One, we thank you for your love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We pray for unity and peace in our faith community and community at large. Help us always to be gentle, patient, and kind, bearing with one another in love. Let us urge each other to spiritual maturity, growing up into our head, who is Jesus Christ. We pray for the children of our church and community. Bless them, Lord, watch over them and keep them safe. Draw them nearer and deeper into the fold and help us to joyfully and creatively minister to them and they to us. Send down your manna every day to strengthen us to do your will and live lives that are worthy of the calling to which we have been called. Feed us with the Bread of Life so that we may be Bread for the World. Amen.
Link to live-streamed service:
A Child’s Gift
Meditation on John 6:1-21
The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4 St., Coshocton
Pastor Karen Crawford
July 25, 2021
It’s finally here-after being postponed for a year! The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo have begun! Anyone watching the Olympics? The International Olympic Committee says that this is the first gender-balanced Olympics, with almost as many women as men competing! We do seem to be hearing more of the women’s voices speaking up about issues specific to female athletes.
More than a dozen mothers are competing at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics for Team USA (Today). The list includes gold-medal sprinter Allyson Felix and her talented teammate Quanara Hayes , marathoners Sally Kipyego and Aliphine Tuliamuk , soccer player Alex Morgan, Team USA basketball star Skylar Diggins-Smith, long jumper Brittney Reese , softball pitcher Cat Osterman, fencer Mariel Zagunis, and others.
Quanara Hayes said of returning to track after giving birth, “Coming back, it was tough. It was like I had to learn how to run all over again. I couldn’t come out of [the blocks], my stride was different.” Mariel Zagunis said that training was frustrating after giving birth. But with four Olympic medals under her belt, her 3-year-old daughter, Sunday, gave her a new sense of purpose as she prepared to compete in Tokyo. “Now I have a new motivation—doing this for my daughter and trying to make that work…I’m really excited to go to my next Olympics with her to show that anything is possible. If you put your mind to it, you can make your dreams come true.” (Today)
“Long jumper Brittney Reese won Olympic gold in 2012 and will be making her fourth Olympic appearance at the Tokyo Games, her second as a mom. Reese adopted her godson, Alex, before the 2016 Rio Games, when a friend was no longer able to raise him. … ‘He’s a good motivator,’ she said. ‘He’s at the end of the runway saying, ‘Let’s go, Brittney!’” (Today)
Alex Morgan, a U.S. women’s soccer star, “gave birth to a baby girl, Charlie, in 2020, just months before the originally scheduled Tokyo Olympics. She says that her daughter is one of the reasons she’s fighting for equal pay for women athletes. ‘I never want to become someone who puts down a dream whether it’s realistic or not,” she told Prevention magazine. ‘I had a dream when I was 7 years old of playing professional soccer, and there were absolutely no avenues to do that at the time. (My mother) encouraged me to live out my dream, so that’s what I want to pass along to Charlie.’”
What stood out to me in the account of the feeding of the multitude in John this week was that the inspiration for the miracle was provided by none other than the gift of a child! A child! How can this be?! Women and children were practically invisible in Bible times. We often encounter unnamed women and children in the Bible who rarely play important roles. This child is nearly invisible, but not quite. The passage speaks only of the 5,000 men in attendance—and nothing of the women and children—not until the unnamed boy is singled out for his generous gift! Scholars think that had John counted men, women, and children there may have been 10,000 people gathered for the meal of loaves and fish!
The crowd has followed Jesus because of the “signs”—how he is healing the sick. They follow him because of their need and Christ’s unusual compassion, not shown by earthly rulers. No wonder they want to make him their king, and he has to flee to a mountain for safety! They are hungry and have no food to eat or, presumably, the means to buy enough food so that they are full.
In teaching mode and posture—seated on a mountain with his disciples—Jesus asks Philip when he sees the crowd approach, “Where will we get enough food to feed all these people?” He says this to “test Philipsince he already knew what he was going to do.” Notice the assumption—that Jesus and the disciples have a responsibility to respond to the needs that they see.
Do you wonder why Jesus chooses Philip for this test? Raymond Brown says it was logical to ask Philip because he was from Bethsaida, and the scene probably took place in Bethsaida. Resident expert! But then, Andrew and Peter were from Bethsaida—and he didn’t ask them. I think he asked Philip because of his personality; he already knew what Philip was going to say –that he would be the voice of reason and logic. He would tell it just like it is. Do you know anybody like that? They are that one person who will quickly analyze the situation and, without declaring it impossible, will let the facts speak for themselves.
What he actually says to Jesus is, “Not even with 200 denarii could we buy enough loaves to give each of them a little.” Ordinary workers made one denarii a day; therefore, 200 denarii is the wage for 200 days of labor. Obviously, Jesus and the disciples didn’t have that much money on them, for they were ordinary themselves.
Philip, a fisherman with a Greek (Gentile) name, had answered the call to follow Jesus without hesitation. He didn’t need extra coaxing when he found Jesus in John 1:43, who said, “Follow me.” Next thing we know, Philip is reaching out to his friend Nathanael and saying to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
His remark now about how even 200 denarii—if they could ever scrape together that much money—wouldn’t be enough to feed the crowd moves Andrew to find his voice. Andrew was the first disciple to be called in the gospel of John; he had been a follower of John the Baptist when John says about Jesus, “Look, here is the Lamb of God.” Andrew follows Jesus to where he is staying and remains with him the entire day before bringing his brother, Simon, to Jesus, saying, “We have found the Messiah.”
Now, responding to Jesus’ question and Philip’s unbelieving answer, Andrew, also a fisherman with a Greek (Gentile) name, turns the conversation to a little boy he has met. The unnamed boy must have overheard Jesus’ question and approached Andrew. He is ready to give away all the food he has brought with him to eat because he trusts in Jesus. He is anticipating a miracle. The boy’s gift grows Andrew’s faith. He says, “There is a boy here who has five small loaves of barley bread and two fish. But what good is that with all these people?”
Barley bread was less common than wheat bread, if you are wondering. “Barley loaves were cheaper and served for the poor.” (Raymond Brown) Luke 11:5-6 confirms that these three small loaves are the normal portion for one person: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’”
Jesus takes the bread into his hands, gives thanks to God, passes it to the people—and then does the same with the fish. And for perhaps the first time in their lives, everyone has plenty to eat!
And there’s still more, revealing a glimpse of the abundance of God’s Kingdom of which Mary sang in her song in Luke 1:52-53:
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things….”
This year, while I always look forward to the Olympics, the stories of young mothers on the USA Olympic Team have especially touched my heart. May they inspire us to never give up on our hopes and dreams for ourselves, our families, the church and for a more just and peaceful world, no matter how impossible that may seem. A world where no one goes hungry, and there is PLENTY for all.
That child who gave up his entire lunch wasn’t thinking he was going to starve! With his barley loaves, he was definitely someone who came from a low socio-economic background, but wasn’t thinking he was “poor.” He wasn’t counting the money that was needed, that he didn’t have, like Philip, for everyone to have just a mouthful. He was investing in the Kingdom with all that he had—because he had seen the signs—and knew Jesus was and is the Messiah for the world.
I leave you now with some questions to consider.
What would you do for our Lord—the One who walked on water and fed 10,000 people with a couple of loaves and fish —right now, if you believed in ABUNDANCE, rather than scarcity? If you had NO fear? What would you do for Jesus if you allowed yourself to be moved by the faith and generosity of a child to invest in the Kingdom, anticipating the wondrous works of God?
Let us pray. Holy One, we are inspired by the boy who offered all the food that he had brought with him to Your Son, so that a multitude could be fed! Father, give us the faith of that child. You know his name, Lord. Help us to listen to children, see them, and learn from them, encouraging them in the good things that they do. Strengthen us to let go of the things of this world that have their hold on us so that we might share with others so desperately in need—and all may be fed. Lead us to works of generosity and compassion so that we may truly live lives as witnesses to the Messiah and the abundance of the Kingdom Your Son ushered in. In the name of our Triune God we pray. Amen.
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