Keawala’i Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)
“Ours the Journey”
began talking about our childhood memories and the ways we always seem
to have enough to eat when we sat down at the table for breakfast, lunch
or dinner. “I remember watching my mom pour some cream into a bowl
filled with a half dozen eggs she had just cracked open.”
Someone said, “Yep, that’s how they were able ‘streeeetch ‘em.’ That’s how our families would make certain there was enough for everyone to eat.”
“My auntie would mix in bread a few days old with hamburger if she was making meat loaf for dinner,” someone else said.
“Yep!” replied another. “Stretch ‘em.”
“My uncle would stretch one can of spam with one head of cabbage,” added still another.
“And what’s with all the macaroni salad?” someone asked.
“Easy for stretch the food to make sure get enough” came the reply.
In looking back over the years it is hard not to believe that a bit of a miracle occurred whenever we found ourselves eating scrambled eggs, meat loaf, spam and cabbage, or macaroni salad. There was always enough.
One might conclude that the miracle was due to the way in which mom or auntie or uncle or tūtū was each able “stretch” or increase the volume of food they placed before us. Someone else may insist that it was all due to “portion control.” So instead of two scoops rice and two scoops macaroni salad, grandpa, auntie and uncle provided one scoop of each making it possible to feed twice as many persons.
One day Jesus withdrew from his hometown after he had been rejected by religious leaders in the synagogue. It was during this time that he received word that John the Baptist had been killed by Herod.
There is no doubt that both events troubled Jesus deeply. Yet it is said that when “he saw (the) great crowds” who had followed them, “he had compassion for them and cured their sick.” (Matthew 14:14)
Of all the miracles recorded in the Bible this is the only one that appears in the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. What was it about that day that captured their imagination? Maybe it was the sheer size of the crowd from 4,000 that Mark said was fed to the 5,000 that Matthew said was fed along with women and children.
Maybe it was what happened before and after they were fed. In Matthew’s account the disciples complain that they had “nothing . . . but five loaves and two fish. (Matthew 14:17) In Mark’s telling of the story the disciples had seven loaves and a few small fish. (Mark 8:5, 7)
However many loaves or fish were available to the people, they were left seven to twelve baskets of leftovers. There was more than enough for everyone.
When I think about how my mom, auntie, uncle or tūtū was able to “stretch” our meals, I imagine when Jesus blessed the loaves and fish it included calling upon God to do a bit of “stretching.” I also imagine the disciples were wise enough to make certain that it was never too late to talk about “portion control.”
Throughout the month of July I have shared my concerns about the journey of faith we are all on. The lessons learned have included the promise that “we are not alone” and that “God’s presence will always be with us.” The lessons learned included “patience.”
Today, we are called to be in active ministry that meets human need. On our journey, we are called to be a compassionate people.
Jesus fed the twelve disciples. They in turn fed the 5,000.
Perhaps the greatest miracle that day in Galilee was not about what Jesus did, but about what the disciples did. It was the disciples who fed the people, not Jesus. So it is that we are called to be a feed others, to feed one another and by doing so demonstrate our compassion for others.
Jesus may have been emotionally drained after facing religious leaders who were critical of his presence among them and after hearing the news of John’s death. But he still had compassion.
He may have been physically worn out from his journey – by sea and by land – often traveling by foot. But he still had compassion.
He did not do his ministry alone but with the kōkua of the disciples and others. So it is in our work together as the church. We rely upon one another so however worn down we may become, our compassion remains.
There was a note attached to the email I received the other day that said: “Best email in a long time.” The story goes like this.
older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard. I could tell from
his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home and was well taken care
“He calmly came over to me. I gave him a few pats on his head. He then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the hall, curled up in the corner and fell asleep.”
“An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.”
“The next day he was back, greeted me in my yard, walked inside and resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour. This continued off and on for several weeks.”
“Curious I pinned a note to his collar: ʻI would like to find out who the owner is of this wonderful sweet dog and ask if you are aware that almost every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.’”
“The next day he arrived for his nap with a different note pinned to his collar: ʻHe lives in a home with six children, two are under the age of three. He’s trying to catch up on his sleep.’”
“Can I come with him tomorrow?”
We may grow worn and weary, but our compassion remains. For me, that is the miracle that occurred the disciples were able to feed the five thousand. However worn out they may have been; however tired Jesus may have been, they still had compassion.
There was food enough to eat and compassion enough to touch the lives of so many.
I will see you again on Sunday, November 6th.
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