13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. 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. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Before the sermon, we had our children's time where they heard the book Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth (Author) and Cindy Trumbore (Author). Here is the book, read aloud by Mr. Alicea.
Sermon’s Inspiration: Coquita
At the beginning of the week, my mom gave me a surprise. Someone in Puerto Rico came up with the idea that since here in the United States we had the "elf on the shelf", they were going to create something called “a jibarito de la cajita”, something to remind kids in the diaspora about their identity as boricuas (Puerto Ricans). Then they created other members of the family: abuelito, abuelita, a rooster… and a Puerto Rican parrot. Coquita, the name I gave to the parrot, stayed at the Presbyterian Center… but before she decided to stay, she told me what I should talk about today.
A falta de pan, galletas (Make do with what you have)
Let me explain. Jesus feeding of more than five thousand people is a familiar story, so familiar that it is a miracle mentioned in all the Gospels. Clifton Kirkpatrick says that the story is an inspiration for Christians because it teaches us “the very heart of the gospel message” and it is “a deep source of hope and inspiration for Christians who are seeking to be faithful against great odds.”
The story, according to Kirkpatrick has three important lessons:
God is love. Compassion should be the thing that move us every time, in our lives as Christians. Jesus’ actions flow out of compassion. When he sees people in need, he acts in supplying that need.
Being a disciple is an awesome responsibility that God has entrusted to us. He notes that initially Jesus did not feed five the crowd. He tells the disciples to do it. We are to be they body of Christ. And that is something that we need to keep in mind, always.
Remembering that when we need it the most, God will give us the power to work for good in the world… even when facing situations, we were not sure that we could manage. When the disciples worked together, they had more than enough.
While thinking about the sermon and looking at Coquita in my office, I was reminded of the story that you just heard about the parrots. My grandparents were in Puerto Rico when the United States invaded it. My mom and I were in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Hugo hit, and I am very aware of the efforts to save the parrots. I grew up while their cries… iguaca… were growing less and less frequent. But as you heard, it was through the sheer effort of the parrots to survive all these life-ending circumstances and the arduous work of scientists and other people from Puerto Rico that children there can hear the cries of iguaca all over the island. One friend said that she could hear them in Aguadilla, which is far away from El Yunque (Caribbean National Forest), the place they usually live in.
The miraculous thing for me was that when I held Coquita in my hand, and gently pressed on her chest to hear her speak (the toy has a voice box with several recorded phrases), the first phrase she said was: “a falta de pan, galletas” a Puerto Rican phrase that means: make do with what you have… there is always something to survive on… something else to give.
Making Do With What You Have
At some point, it seemed impossible to save the Puerto Rican parrot. At some point, I’m sure that the disciples were incredulous when Jesus invited all the people to eat, and then decided that the disciples are the ones that needed to provide for them. Impossible! “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
But Jesus’ compassion knows no bounds. His compassion turns the “we have nothing here but five loaves and two fish” into “you have five loaves and two fish…and you can do a lot with it.” That works.
This is a lesson that is not new. The compassion and sacrifice of those that don’t have a lot can teach a lot to the 1% of folks in this world that own 46% of it.
Jesus' compassion changes the “I want more” to “I can give more.” It provides a new lens that takes us from looking at what we lack to seeing what we have and share it.
Jesus looks at the crowd. Jesus looks up to heaven. Jesus blesses the loaves. We don’t need to have details about how the miracle happens. The Gospel writer does not care. What he cares about is that people are fed, that God loves them, and that we are tasked with doing the same.
Do This in Remembrance Of Me
As we participate in communion today, we will repeat words that have been repeated for centuries: Do this in remembrance of me. Communion is our monthly o even weekly reminded of the lessons of Jesus’ miracle:
God loves and cares for all creation…even for parrots in a small tropical island.
God calls us to be disciples and to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s son.
And as Kirkpatrick states:
God promises us in the Holy Spirit that the power of the love of God can break through even in the most unlikely places when we join together as faithful disciples seeking God’s good intentions for our world.
If you don’t have bread, give crackers. If you don’t have money, give time. Heck, if you don’t have time, give money! But learn the lesson: Exercise your compassion, because God in Jesus Christ has and will always have compassion for you. Look around at the need that surrounds you. Pray to God, thanking God for God’s presence and depend on God’s strength and imagination to see what you can give… and give it. Do this… in remembrance of the one that gave his life for you. And remember the hope and example that comes with the cry... IGUACA!