Thursday, July 26, 2018

Blessing God with what we've got.

There was once a new priest who when into a parish and preached a wonderful sermon on his first Sunday. The next Sunday he preached the same sermon word for word and people enjoyed it but thought it odd. The third Sunday… well you guess it he preached the same sermon and people began to grow concerned. So when he preached that same sermon for a forth time the congregational leaders called the bishop and asked him to come and meet with them. At the meeting, the question was put to the bishop, “what kind of clergy did you send us? We have a priest who has preached the exact same sermon for the last four weeks. What are you going to do about it?”

In reply, the bishop asked a question to gain clarification, “What was the sermon he preached about?” After conferencing for a moment, the people admitted they could not tell he bishop what the sermon was about. So the bishop suggested to them, “have him preach it one more time and this time, listen to him.”

We look at the same situation this morning but from another angle, through another pair of eyes; eyes that were actually there to be able to write about it. The Gospel this week is John 6.1-21 and is the same story though different lens. In fact, this particular story is told in all four Gospels because it was that important.

So, what do we need to get out of this from Scripture? First, let’s remind ourselves that the Law and the Old Testament shows that we need a Saviour because we are lost and away from God. Because we are lost and way, we are sick and dying and in need of God’s salvation. People will respond to grace and the display of power because they are in need and want that need to be fulfilled. Second, we need to remember that the Old Testament tells us who Jesus is so that we can recognize him for who he truly is. Case and point, there is a story in the Old Testament about the Prophet Elisha who did as Jesus did. 20 loaves of bread were brought to Elisha and he directed for the bread to be given to the village where he was living (2nd Kings 42-44). How would 20 loaves of bread be enough for 100 people to eat? And yet though faith all eat and were satisfied and there was some left over. Which were gathered up and ready to share with those in need.

Jesus takes the Twelve to a desolate place to remind them of their identity as Jews, as the People of God. And when he saw the need of the people he knew what he was going to do but tested one disciple: Phillip. “How are you going to feed the people; where shall we buy the bread?” Phillip understood the cost in human terms – that it would take almost a year’s wages to feed the people that were coming.  He did not protest in spending the money like Judas might but was open to the idea of doing it. Andrew brings a boy who has a basket. In the basket the boy is carrying five loaves and two small fish. What is that? It is not enough to feed them much less the thousands around them.

Jesus takes the food, bless it, breaks it and begins to share it with those who are there in that place. 10,000 – 15,000 people ate and were satisfied. They ate their fill. And there was 12 basket collected of leftovers – a sign of the completeness of the miracle and the ability to feed those who would continue to come.

God did not need a lot of raw material to make things happen and to feed and care for his people. What is required is a willingness of the community of the Church to be open to offering whatever they have – even if it means that we think it is not enough and expect God to do what needs to do – even if we think it impossible. He can do more than we can ask or even being to imagine. What we need to do is dream and imagine how things could be and ask God to accept that within his will. We came. We will do our part and now it is up to God. It is his problem and we put all of it in his hands for him to deal with.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Lord will come and provide

Whether it is recognized or not, Jesus was not on the Love Boat, taking a cruise on a vacation from all that was going on. He was taking his disciples to a place where they could all reconnect with who they were and with God. Not just as individuals but as a community (Mark 6.30-34,53-56). They came back to Jesus in their drips and drabs, telling him all that they had seen and done in their time away. They shared what it was like to be blessed and cared for. They spoke about being rejected and hungry, wet and cold because of the rain. The Twelve chatted with each other, comparing their experiences of ding ministry and how it went. On top of this, as the Twelve are returning, Jesus also learns of the death of John the Proclaimer (Baptist) – a member of the family.

Jesus called the Twelve to get a boat ready and to be prepared to set out on the lake (Sea of Galilee) to go to a desolate place. This is interesting in that it is the kind of place where John would have preached, baptized and proclaimed the call to repentance. Jews would know such a place as a place of prayer for renewal and revival. It is the place where Jews learned who God was and who they were to God. A desolate place would have been where they learned how to deal with temptation and to eat manna. It would be a place where the community would learn how to work into grace and into rest that God has for us in eternity.

People were coming and going in such numbers that no one them had time to eat and rest. That is why the got in the boat and headed out to another place. Unfortunately for them the people on land and those who sailed with them knew the spot to which Jesus was headed. So, whether the boats were slowed by a headwind, or there were some who were fleet of foot – people got to the spot ahead of Jesus and where they're in that place, waiting for him. No chance of a decent meal, or rest or even a break. Jesus looking at these souls, was moved in his guts to come alongside and enter into their suffering with them. He fed them with the bread of his life – his teaching. And he spent the balance of the day doing it.

When it got late, the Twelve encouraged and directed Jesus to send the people into the communities to find their suppers. Jesus retorted and said, “No, you give them something to eat out of what you have yourselves.” I am certain that there was a discussion about the costs and whether or not there was enough in the common purse to make it happen. And they come back with a question, “Are we going to spend eight month’s wages to give everyone a bite?”

They went and discovered that they had 5 loaves and 2 fish in their basket. Barely enough to feed themselves never mind the masses. Jesus took what they had, blessed it, broke it and began passing it out. Every man, woman, and child ate and were satisfied. Who knew that God could or would do that!  

But if you notice, there is something important going on. We do not eat to just survive. We eat to be enabled to serve God and neighbour. It is also a foreshadowing of the Banquet that is to come – the wedding feast of the Lamb. In the meantime, we are fed from the Word and by the Body of Christ to be enabled to serve. The People of God were taught the Law and fed manna in the wilderness to learn how to be the People of God. The Church is taught the Gospel and fed the body of Christ so that we in like manner might serve God.

In all this, we need to remember a couple of simple things: (1) people lead people not organizations and principles; (2) People respond to witness of God’s grace and power and out of a need they cannot fulfil for themselves. Therefore, we can invite people to “mash in” – to come and participate in all that God has to offer so that they can be enabled to be the people God is calling and drawing them to be in the world. The place to do that is within the community of followers – the Church.

Most of all we need to remember that on the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided.