Der Vasken’s Sermon on July 17, 2022

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“I could not believe my eyes.”

Last week my family and I were visiting the beautiful city of London on a little family vacation—a city whose rich history dates back literally hundreds and hundreds of years. It is the land of castles and palaces, of thrones and crowns. It is the land of the Big Ben and cathedrals that reach up into the sky. It’s a remarkable city.

On the second day of our visit, as we were sightseeing, we saw a crowd gathering near the Parliament buildings in what appeared to be a very important moment. So we made our way over to the crowd to see what was going on and found ourselves a little spot right in the front not knowing what we were doing there. We found ourselves standing in front of the gates of 10 Downing Street and unbeknownst to us, history unfolded a mere 100 feet in front of us as Boris Johnson was preparing to announce his resignation as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time.

As this was all happening, we were standing among a mixed crowd of people. Some were shouting for him to resign immediately and they were loud. There were some people shouting for him to stay on and not give up and they were just as loud. These people were shouting about all they thought he did right and all they thought he did wrong and whoever’s voice was louder, thought they were winning the argument.

In his remarks Boris Johnson explained that he did much over the years to meet the needs of the people and he was proud of that, but the people wanted more. They felt unsatisfied. They felt unheard and they were hungry for more.

On our flight home, I thought about those moments. I could still hear the noise of the crowd in my ears. Half were satisfied and half were not. I thought about how difficult public service is—that no matter what you do, some people will be grateful for everything and others will be always wanting more.

This morning’s Bible reading is all about public service in a biblical sense. It is one of the most well-known stories of the Bible. People in biblical days were intrigued by what Jess said but time after time the Bible tells us they asked for proof that He was truly the Son of God—that He was truly who He said He was. So on occasion, He offered them the proof they sought, but the miracle mentioned in today’s Bible story is more than just proof. This miracle shows us the heart and the values and the compassion of God.

Let’s take a minute to look at this story. Jesus had just spent a full day with the largest crowd of people ever to gather around Him. They came to hear Him and see Him and maybe even have the chance to touch Him or be touched by Him. He “had compassion on them and He healed their sick,” it says. When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, this is an isolated place and it’s getting late and the sun is starting to set. Send these people away so they can go into the nearby villages and buy food for themselves because they have a long trek back to their homes.”

But Jesus apparently didn’t like what His disciples were suggesting and His response back to them was very clear. “No one should go away hungry from here; they need not go away to some other place to find the “food” they need. You do something about their hunger. You give them something to eat. You nourish their needs,” He said. But the disciples clearly didn’t understand Him. They thought He was talking about physical food and so they replied back that they “only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.” So Jesus said to them, “Bring to me those pieces of bread and 2 fish.” They did that. They did exactly what He said and as they handed Him the fish and bread, they said, “Lord, it’s simply not enough. It’s not possible to feed this large crowd with the meager amount of food that we have with us.”

But on that day, Jesus teaches one of the most important lessons of the Bible. He teaches about faith. He taught them that with God’s blessing, 5 pieces of bread and 2 fish were enough to fulfill the needs of everyone and there were even 12 baskets full of leftovers. That’s the miracle written about in today’s Bible lesson.

So in hearing this timeless message of the Bible, ask yourself: “How does God feed us today?”
I think that He feeds us with much more than just bread and fish. He feeds us with compassion and love and acceptance. He feeds us with understanding and well-being. He feeds those who feel lost with a way back and a way that leads to brighter days. He feeds those of us who grieve with the promise of eternal life where we will all be together again one day. He feeds those who seek a second chance with the ability to lean on Him and start over.

Life is much more complicated today than it was 2,000 years ago and although we will always need the bread and fish, God knows exactly what our needs are and He feeds us accordingly.

On the day that Boris Johnson resigned, there were people shouting at each other. They wanted more. They wanted help. They wanted the government to provide them with everything that was missing from their lives. On our flight home, I remembered the words of a man standing in the back of the crowd shouting as loudly as he could for the Prime Minister not to resign. His words were filled with passion and conviction as he repeatedly shouted these words: “Boris Johnson, in the name of Jesus Christ, do not resign. The people need you.” He was screaming as loud as he could and all the TV cameras and photographers went running over to him just to take his picture because his face, not just his words, was speaking a man of faith. “Boris Johnson, do not resign. The people need you.”

It dawned on me that what the people needed wasn’t to be found on the grounds of their government buildings. What the people needed could be found 300 feet away in a magnificent cathedral called Westminster Abbey built their ancestors long ago for reasons like this, for times like this, but there were no crowds over there.

Something for us to think about. What the people needed wasn’t to be found on the grounds of their government buildings. What the people needed could be found 300 feet away in a magnificent cathedral built by their ancestors for the reasons that they gathered on that day—for the help and for the hope they were looking for. But instead of putting it in their faith, in their God, they put it in man. The crowds were enormous in front of 10 Downing Street, but you couldn’t find a crowd in front of Westminster Abbey.

I think there is a message in here for all of us. That we from time to time need to turn to our faith for the answers we seek in life. Yes, government has its place. Yes, government has its purpose. Absolutely. But God is where we turn to first. The Cathedrals in England reach up into the sky so that people look up from time to time.

Today, when you go home, look up and talk to your God and ask Him for what you need in life and see how He feeds your needs. Having faith means you turn to the One in Heaven first.

Amen.

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