Matthew 14:14-22 2023/07/30 Osaka Church
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The disciples urged the Lord, “The people haven’t eaten anything. Let’s disperse them now.” Jesus’ answer was surprising. “There is no need for that. Feed by your hands.” The disciples were taken aback and involuntarily raised their voices and said, “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.”
“…this is all that I have.” The thoughts of these disciples are the thoughts of all of us who live in this world. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it forms the basis of our sense of life. “No wonder the world is too poor to meet our needs.” However, Christ overturned what seemed obvious. Five loaves of bread and two fishes fed the hunger of tens of thousands of people, including five thousand men and their families, and twelve baskets full of loaves remained.
Those who believed in Christ, forgot to prepare a lunch box, and followed the Lord directly, Christ blessed the bread among his flock, and those who shared it with others… In this fellowship, the poverty of “this is all I have…” was overthrown into endless abundance. This is the Church. This is the Liturgy which we celebrate in it. The Church is the first fruit of the “Kingdom of God” that will overthrow this world and establish it anew at the end of the world.
In June and July, the parish conference, the national convention, and the lay assembly confered. There, our poverty, “this is all the Orthodox Christians we have …”, “this is all of the clergy we have …”, “this is all of the offerings we have collected”, etc., were highlighted. All of these are important issues that require specific measures. But we must never forget, the Lord never once said that being a large organization, being financially well positioned, having splendid buildings and facilities, and being able to solve social problems efficiently are the signs of God’s blessing. What we need first, and perhaps we must earnestly take back, is gratitude and joy that Christ is always in the midst of the true Church, straight from the apostles who witnessed this miracle of the small amount of food filling the five thousand, and with whom we share his body, his blood, as the bread of eternal life, the tremendous fullness, the infinite overflowing abundance. It is a joy that is full of communion.
Evaluating the church’s current situation and capabilities based on mere worldly quantitative measures, making plans, seeking countermeasures, and taking action based on worldly wisdom… may achieve remarkable success. But first of all, we Christians live with Christ, led by him, and live on his own body and blood, in that tremendous richness of five loaves and two fish that satiates all who gather. If we forget that, we are repeating the mistakes of the disciples. The mistake was that they first asked, “Disperse the crowds, and let each one go to the villages to buy food.” It is to the ‘Lord of Life,’ who stands there in His living body, and to the One who is the overflowing source of abundance, that we humbly seek worldly wisdom and understanding.
“Dispersing the crowds…” is to deny the Church its gatherings, its communion, and to reject God’s grace, surrendering it to worldly schemes.
Regarding what we should do first, the Apostle Paul exhorts us in this way:
“Rejoice always. Pray unceasingly. Give thanks in all things” (Thesalonians 5:16).