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Pocketful of Miracles 
Sunday, August 17, 2008, 07:00 AM - Sermon
Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6.30-44; Luke 9.10-17; John 6.1-14

You all have miracles in your pocket. Whether it stays in your pocket or is released to bless you and others is up to you.

Feeding of the 5,000 is recorded in all four gospels, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible. (Some of this message is based on the accounts in the other gospels.) Yet it almost didn't happen! The disciples counseled Jesus not to try to feed the crowd, for there were too many and they only had five loaves and two fish. The disciples plan sounds like society's counsel: Send away people—each one for him or herself—buy food in the market—we don't have enough to share. Jesus instead resists the counsel and sits the crowd down, gathers them together, thanks God and shares what he has—and 5,000 are fed.

Now many folks have told this event as the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. That is the name of the church at the traditional site of the miracle. Yet, the Bible doesn't say the loaves and fishes multiplied. It does say that starting with two fish and five loaves, a multitude of thousands were fed and there were baskets of leftovers. The miracle was the feeding of thousands, not necessarily the replication of bread and fish. I believe the miracle is much more profound than making a picnic lunch.

From Convenience to Commitment
There is a difference between a place to sit and SRO, standing room only. In my extraChristy devotion his week I write about how sit down makes the place your own, you become a part of the place and you have a place. Strangely it is one of the best things to do when you are lost, to sit down so people can find you. Miracles happen when people expect them and wait for them.

There is a change in a visit when someone accepts the invitation to come in and sit down. From a wavering, casual, ready to leave visitor to a friend or participant. It also commitments the one who invites as having interest and time in a relationship beyond just passing by each other toward his or her own goals.

Folks used to get possessive about their seating in church. I can't point fingers because I sit at the same place every Sunday and get upset if someone is in my seat. Yet, for all the problems in claiming a pew, it is a evidence of commitment to being at worship services.

By sitting the crowd down, Jesus invites them to make a commitment to the gathering and makes a commitment to them. He has something to share with them, time for them, a place for them. To make a miracle, the first is to make the commitment to be where the miracle can occur. Miracles do not come to those who leave, but to those who commit, who accept the Lord's invitation to be part of the miracle.

Several years ago, we needed a new roof. We didn't have the $100,000 cost of the roof. We were able to do half of the roof and start saving for the other half. Good faithful folks stayed and paid to gather the money together for the roof. After years of waiting, a hailstorm came and rained down insurance money on us, some $47,000 to finish the roof replacement. Talk about an Act of God. It is almost as if God, said they have waited long enough, I'm going to finish it off for them and gave us the miracle we have been waiting and working towards for years.

Miracles come to the committed.

From Commerce to Community
The disciples' solution to the hungry crowd was to send them away to buy food for themselves. Individuals going their own way to make sure their own needs were met. In Mark's and Luke's account of the miracle, Jesus directs the crowd not only to sit down but to sit in groups. Rather than leaving and going out as individuals to solve their hunger, Jesus directs them to stay in groups. A turn from relying on commerce to buy solutions to our problems one by one, Jesus urges us to come together in groups.

I'm teaching the Friendship class this month to give Rev. Flower a break. I'm learning it is much more than a lesson. The group sings and prays together, keeping each others joys and needs in common. They also contribute to an offering for mission reaching out to yet more groups. It is the same in any group, The Luke 15 Men's Bible Study to Presbyterian women to youth group. Members do more together than solve the most pressing individual need. Jesus knew that for miracles beyond the immediate, folks have to be together.

I was at a Kiwanis district meeting Monday. The next head of Ohio Kiwanis asked the group, “How many of you can run your business at a deficit?” I was the only one to raise my hand. As a congregation we are more than making an efficient product at a fair price. We trade in community and not commerce. We don't give a list of restaurants to grieving families here for a funeral; the deacons and others bring food and prepare a meal for them. We provide for miracles in community not by commerce. If you want miracles, you cannot buy them at the market, you must find them in community with others.

From Competition to Connection
In Mark's account the disciples looked around and found five loaves and two fish, which they decided were nothing in the face of thousands of hungry people. Jesus didn't stop at looking around, he looked up and thanked God for what was given. For miracles to come, we have to turn from competition over scarcity to thankfulness for God's abundance grace. When we believe there isn't enough for everyone, we compete. When we decide our needs are met, or wants are fulfilled, we thank God. Jesus saw there was no need to compete for the small amount of food, for with a connection to God there was enough to give thanks.

On her last game as a senior at Western Oregon in the a championship game Sara Tucholsky hit her first ever home run, but running past first base, she tore her ACL and had to crawl back to first base. None of her teammates could help her and the umpire said putting someone in would count the home run as a single. So Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace of Central Washington, the opposing team, carried Sara around the bases so she could have her home run count. Where homeruns are usually greeted with cheers and screams, the crowd was moved to tears at youth who went from competition to connection. (there is video on YouTube)

For miracles to happen, we have to look beyond competing with each other to get our fair share to thankfulness for our connections with God and each other.

From Calculation to Congruence
In the NIV version of John gospel, there is a great quote from the disciple, Philip, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" Jesus ignores the calculation and goes ahead and shares the food with the disciples and directs them to continue the sharing. Despite Philip's earnest and accurate calculation, everyone is fed and there are baskets left over.

The cost of raising a child is over a quarter of a million dollars, there is some range, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the basis of studying 5,000 households, says it is above $15,000 a year to raise a child. If calculation was all we depended on, no one would be a parent. Commitment to a quarter of a million dollars! Ridiculous.

But Jesus calls us to miracles that come when we go beyond calculation and act in congruence with what we believe. Couples do that when they believe they should and want to be parents and Jesus did that when he share what he had and directed his disciples to do the same, even though the calculations didn't support the act, acting in congruence of what he believe and taught demanded it.

We did that here this summer, when the calculations told us we only had 5 or 6 kids that could come to Vacation Bible School, we went ahead and held one anyway and welcome up to 50 kids to the church and to the lessons of being God's helper on this earth. A miracle of multiplication that was possible because we did count on what we had, but counted on God.

When we act out our faith, follow where Jesus directs instead being ruled by cold calculations, we can see miracles, the feeding of thousands with a few loaves and fishes or the raising of a child in a loving home.

Conclusion
Technical fixes are easy. I fix computers because it is a puzzle that has an answer, unlike the human drama and challenges I work on as a pastor. Feeding 5,000, effectively using food supply, is a problem of logistics compared to the miracle I think happened that day.

People moved from their own convenience to commitment to people and Jesus' way.
People moved from reliance on commerce to trusting enough to become a community.
People turned from individual competition in scarcity to cooperation and connection with others.
People looked beyond the calculations and brought themselves in congruence with Jesus trusting in the abundance of God.

I believe the food was in the pockets of the people. The miracle, a mighty one, was getting them to trust each other and God enough to take their hands out of the pockets and participate in a miracle where all our fed with plenty left over. We don't have to look for holy baskets or multiplying fish for miracles, for miracles are in our pockets.

Advanced permission is given for non-profit, for-prophet use of the above at no charge as long as it is reproduced unedited with notices and copyright intact. Written copies are provided after they are preached as a courtesy for the personal, private, appreciative use of the congregation of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church, their families and friends to support the ministry of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church and its pastor the Rev. J. Christy Ramsey. Join us Sundays! 8:15 Traditional Worship and 10:15 Blended. Mingle in our Gathering Room between services and take advantage of Christian Education opportunities.

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