“Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children." Matthew 14:19b-21.
The Feeding of the 5,000. This is one of the rare miracle stories that appears in each of the 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). It is also a story of abundant grace poured out upon God’s children through God’s only son, Jesus. Abundant grace shown when more than 5,000 men, women and children are not only fed, but fed to the point of satisfaction, through the offering of only 5 loaves of bread and two fish.
Just a couple of weeks ago, it seemed as if Holy Comforter was experiencing its own Feeding of the 5,000 miracle. Throughout the week of September 24th, Holy Comforter families provided holy hospitality and housing for the members of the Watoto Children’s Choir and their chaperones. Grace poured out during this time as cultures and stories were shared, relationships formed and strengthened, and the songs of the children filled our Sanctuary. That same time, Holy Comforter provided another form of holy hospitality when it transformed the Undercroft into living quarters for three families transitioning from homelessness to finding homes for themselves as part of the Growing Home Canopy Program. Volunteers from Holy Comforter and our community churches provided not only meals but also the means for these families to gain a new foothold on life. During this week, stories were again shared, friendships built, and relationships were formed. Christ’s abundant grace flowed through the halls and rooms of Holy Comforter.
And then Sunday night happened – news of yet again, another mass shooting, this one occurring during a Country and Western concert in Las Vegas. 60 people killed, including the gunman, more than 490 people injured. At this same time, news of the devastation suffered by Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria.
In all honesty, grace is often hard to notice when such natural, and unnatural events such as a hurricane or mass shooting occurs. And yet, grace continues to flow. This was evident last Sunday during our first meeting of Got Kids? A group of parents, including parents of infants, toddlers, and youth, gathered together to not only hear about what their kids are doing during Nursery, God’s Play Place, Godly Play, and Youth Group, but to also share stories of what it is like to raise kids in the world today. The question to start us off was, “How do you talk to your kids about God and Jesus?” And blessed be, the clergy did not have to have the answer. Rather, the answer or answers came from the other parents, parents whose kids are asking questions about God, who are stretching the boundaries of faith, who are stuck in a prayer rut, kids who doubt. Grace again flowed through this gathering, as stories were shared, friendships made, and relationships strengthened.
In looking back at the Gospel Miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, what amazed me most is that while Jesus did indeed feed 5,000+ people, he could not have done anything had the people first not gathered, and had the people first not offered their own gifts of bread and fish, to Jesus. This is how God – Christ seems to work. Christ works through us, and through us grace can flow abundantly, if we offer ourselves and our gifts to God.
The grace experienced by the Watoto Children’s choir could not have been felt had we not first opened our church and our homes to these kids and their sponsors. The grace that occurred during our week as a Growing Home host site would never have been felt had we not first said “yes” and given of our time and our church home to the Growing Home families. Similarly, the grace that flowed between our own families during last Sunday’s Got Kids? would never have been felt had parents not first came together and offered their own gifts of time and stories, stories which not only build relationships but also provide the foundation to support each other through the harrowing path of parenthood.
This is my experience of Holy Comforter and its people – people who say “yes” – people who open their hearts and offer themselves up to God so that God/Christ can work through them. And through them, God’s abundant grace is allowed to flow - not only through the halls and rooms of the church, but out into the neighborhood and world which so desperately needs a little grace.
Blessings to you all.