“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” (John 6:11 NIV)
I just ran across an article entitled “How to Prepare Yourself to Eat as Much as Humanly Possible.” My first thought was the author must be from Europe. In America we’re born knowing how to eat as much as humanly possible. We are the land of the free and the home of the Golden Corral. We not only invented the airplane, but the buffalo chicken wing, the blooming onion (don’t believe and Australian who tells you differently) and the fried candy bar.
Why we even have the all you can eat salad bar. Because being healthy doesn’t count if you can’t have as much of it as you want. I think I’ll go back for my third salad. and add the meat more croutons, cheese and ranch dressing. But Ok it’s a salad.
Please don’t worry, I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty on the eve of Thanksgiving and the cusp of the Advent season. First I don’t want to appear hypocritical, and I honestly believe a celebration is biblical. We just need to remember so is moderation. So please enjoy all the good things you can and might eat from now through the New Year’s day. I’m going to.
But isn’t it interesting that the way we celebrate Thanksgiving is by having a huge meal. Thanksgiving is that time of year when we stop and think about all the things we have to be thankful in our lives. We count our blessings. You might even have the tradition where everyone at the table goes around and says what they are thankful for. And then we sit down at a table overflowing with blessings and largesse and have even more.
Mind you, as I said I am all for celebrating. There is nothing particularly spiritual about wearing a long face all the time. And good food. I do wonder thought about the subliminal messe that says we are only thankful when we have a lot of something. We are thankful when we have a lot. When your table is overflowing. The more I have, the more thankful I am.
That might be one of the reasons I come back to this particular miracle of Jesus every year about this time. Jesus is completely counterintuitive to how we often live. Take out of you mind, just for a moment, how the story ends. Put yourself in the shoes of the disciples and perhaps the people close to Jesus that day.
There is a huge crowd of people, over five thousand. And they are hungry. The disciples automatically go into problem solving mode and ask Jesus to send them away to eat. But Jesus says to his friends, “No, you find them something to eat.” All they can find is 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. Which means either the people were either ill prepared, or perhaps they were very poor.
So here we are. 5 thousand people. 5 loaves of bread. 2 fish. Math was never my strong suit, but even I know this one doesn’t match up. So what does Jesus do?Send the people away? Send the disciples to find more food? No. The scripture says Jesus looked up and gave thanks.
He gave thanks. At the moment when his resources were low, when he didn’t have anything extra, Jesu looked up to His heavenly father and gave thanks. It’s easy to give thanks when the table is full the family is healthy and the pumpkin pie runneth over. But can you give thanks when the table is bare there are few resources and everyone is tired? How can Jesus give thanks?
Jesus was able to give thanks because his thankful was not dependent on the reasons around Him, but on His relationship with the Heavenly father. He gave thanks because of who God is. Even when there doesn’t seem to be much on hand, He knew God was till in control watching over His people.
How we give thanks comes down to this. Do we focus more on the resources or on the relationship? When we focus on the resources its not always easy to be thankful. We can also find ourselves slipping into idol worship and becoming materialistic and self-centered. When we focus on the relationship we find that we can be thankful no matter what our situations are, because God is still God. He is still good, He still loves us and He is still on the throne. It’s not about burying our head in the sand, so much as it I is being able to see beyond what we have to the reality of goodness that lies beyond and sometimes even in spite of our resources. This is why Paul says “in all things give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:18) Not because of what you have, but because of whose you are.
I hope for most of you this is a season when it’s easy to be thankful and bounty overflows on your tables. But I know its not like that for everyone. This could be a lean year. Maybe its been difficult. You might even wonder if you have anything to be thankful for this year. I pray that like Jesus, you take your eyes off of the table and left them toe the sky and see a God who watches over you in all circumstances and be thankful. If you do, you will find the blessings of God overflow in your life and find in the end God always blesses us with more than we can handle. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><