Sunday, August 2, 2020 – Pentecost 9

August 3, 2020  

Pentecost 9 2020

Matthew 14:13-21

Our Savior’s La Crosse

Have you ever stuck your fingers in a calf’s mouth when the calf is hungry? I have. It felt like the calf was going to suck my fingers right off of my hand. Or pull my arm down its throat.

Have you ever fed a hungry calf a bottle of milk? I have. I remember holding the bottle out for the calf, and the calf latching onto that bottle with laser-like focus, sucking on the bottle like an industrial strength shop vac. That calf was HUNGRY. Hungry as in “I need something to eat! Right now! Now! Feed ME!!!!”

Those are funny stories but… hunger is no joke.

Real hunger, not the kind of hunger where, I want something to eat and so I stand in front of the open refrigerator thinking, “there’s nothing good to eat” even though the refrigerator is full of food.

According to “more than 30 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including more than 11 million children.”[1] Real hunger is just that: real. It is no joke.

Which makes it interesting to me that, in our gospel reading today, Matthew’s version of the “feeding of the five thousand” nobody said they were hungry.

Seriously. Look at the story. No one asked for food, no one asked that supper be provided, no one hollered out to the disciples “I’m hungry! What’s for supper?”

It was the disciples who told Jesus to send the crowds away to get something to eat.

Here’s what the disciples knew: it was getting late in the day. The disciples and Jesus were in the wilderness with 5,000+ people who were going to start wanting supper. Perhaps pre-emptively, the disciples told Jesus “It’s getting late. Send these people away so they can get into town and feed themselves.”

Even more interesting to me than the fact that nobody said they were hungry is, when the disciples told Jesus to send the people away so they could get something to eat, Jesus said: “you give them something to eat.” Jesus did not say “O.K., let’s feed them.” Jesus did not say “O.K., I will feed them.” Jesus said “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

Who does the cooking in your house? Has the cook (or cooks) in your house ever had to feed 5,000+ people? Can you imagine? I’m trying to imagine what would happen at my house if one of us said “over 5,000 people are coming over for supper tonight.” 5,000+ people who haven’t even said they are hungry have been oh so generously invited over for supper!

If I’m the cook I’m screaming! I’m saying “Are you kidding? We don’t have enough food to feed 5,000+ people!!! What were you thinking?”

Which is pretty much what the disciples did when they replied to Jesus “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” Their words aren’t all in capital letters and there is no exclamation point; I guess maybe they weren’t shouting. I would have been!

Here’s the thing: Matthew’s “take” on the story of the feeding of over 5,000 people is not about over 5,000 people needing to find a place to go find supper. If that were the case the disciples would have told Jesus the people needed to go get supper and Jesus would have said “O.k., where do you want to go?” And the disciples would have said “I don’t know, where do you want to go?”

Again, I’m joking. And I know hunger is real. And I know we have been told to feed the hungry. And we do.

One scholar I read this past week suggested that Matthew’s story of the feeding of over 5,000 people was hinting at the Last Supper Jesus would have with his disciples. The scholar made a graph comparing the language Matthew used in his telling of the two stories; the graph shows that basic elements of the two stories are identical:

It was evening.

They sat down or, he took his place.

Jesus took bread.

Jesus blessed the bread.

Jesus broke the bread and gave it to his disciples.

They ate. [2]

There is a real possibility that some of us watching or listening to this service are, truly, physically hungry. If that is true for you, let one of us know. We will help you.

There is a real possibility that many of us are spiritually hungry. In our hunger, we go looking for Jesus, hoping to hear words that will feed our souls. We yearn for food that will fill our hearts, satisfying our spirits. We need the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal life.

Which is why Jesus feeds us.

When he gathered with his disciples the night of his arrest, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it, saying “this is my body, given for you.”

Jesus took the cup, blessed it and said “this cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people.”

For me, as a pastor, the most difficult consequence of the pandemic is: we can’t all gather in our worship spaces and share Jesus’ Holy Supper. That’s one of the reasons we gather, to share his body and blood. We eat bread and drink wine or juice, hearing the words Jesus spoke when he promised us all the forgiveness of our sins.

I know, if we choose we can share communion virtually, each in our own homes. We can share communion in a parking lot or in someone’s driveway or front yard. None of this is the same as what we have been accustomed to doing for decades. None of this is the same as what our tradition has done for centuries.

The question is: What do we do in this “mean” time?

“Mean” is an interesting word.

The word “Mean” means several different things.

First, as an adverb the word “mean” means having the intention to convey something. Which is what I just did when I told you what mean means. I’m conveying information.

Second, as an adjective the word “mean” describes someone who is unkind or is cruel.

Third, as a noun the word “mean” means the place in the middle between two extremes.[3]

All three definitions work for this “meantime” we find ourselves in.

The pandemic is cruel. Covid 19 is hitting every population of people in destructive, mean ways, most particularly people of color.

This pandemic time is a middle time- leaving us in the place between before and after. We long for before, uncertain of what comes after.

But, as an adverb, what does this “mean time” convey? What is this pandemic telling us? Can it tell us something about hope? Where do we find our hope?

As Christians we always, always point our thoughts, our actions, and our selves toward Jesus. Does Jesus bring hope to these moments?

As the Bread of Life Jesus comes to us, bringing us hope. Jesus comes to us when we hear his Word and follow. Jesus comes to us when we receive his Word and share. Jesus comes to us in our homes, Jesus comes to us in our places of work, Jesus comes to us where we are, bringing us hope. Our hope us in him.

Jesus is here, wherever here is for you right now, sharing himself with you, strengthening you and loving you. Always and forever. I am not alone. You are not alone. My hungry soul IS being fed. Your hungry soul IS being fed. The presence of Jesus feeds us. His presence sustains us, forever.



[1] “Facts About Hunger and Poverty in America” at accessed July 28, 2020.

[2] M. Eugene Boring in “Matthew 14:13-21 Commentary” in The New Interpreter’s Bible” volume 8, p. 324

[3] All definitions from accessed July 28, 2020