Church Sermon Sunday
Dreghorn and Springside Parish Church: Sunday 2nd August 2020
Bible Reading: Jesus Feeds Five Thousand (GNB)
13 When Jesus heard the news about John, he left there in a boat and went to a lonely place by himself. The people heard about it, and so they left their towns and followed him by land. 14 Jesus got out of the boat, and when he saw the large crowd, his heart was filled with pity for them, and he healed their sick.
15 That evening his disciples came to him and said, “It is already very late, and this is a lonely place. Send the people away and let them go to the villages to buy food for themselves.”
16 “They don't have to leave,” answered Jesus. “You yourselves give them something to eat!”
17 “All we have here are five loaves and two fish,” they replied.
18 “Then bring them here to me,” Jesus said. 19 He ordered the people to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, and gave thanks to God. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 Everyone ate and had enough. Then the disciples took up twelve baskets full of what was left over. 21 The number of men who ate was about five thousand, not counting the women and children.
Sermon: Our some becomes AWESOME with God
Broken Chains is a congregation that meets in Kilmarnock. It is church for a group of people who have alcohol and drug problems, housing and mental health issues. I used to be involved, and remember one Sunday when it was just coming up to the summer and getting quieter, so we scaled back and prepared a bit less food, and then it happened, we were totally inundated; we just didn’t have enough food to go around.
But then... volunteers went into their bags and brought out tins of ham, another gave access to the Guild cupboard and food appeared, some folks shared the extra food on our plates. It seemed that from all over, food arrived and everyone was fed. We even ended up with so much left over - that some even went away with pockets stuffed with rolls! When we wiped our brows, someone commented, ‘that was just like the story of the five loaves and two fish’. And in many ways, it was.
But is that all that happened when Jesus fed 5000 men, not counting hungry women and children? Was what happened then just like what happened at Broken Chains? Was it just a case of one sharing and then others gradually opening up their packed lunches? Really just a story of community sharing? Good, and wholesome as that is... or is this story maybe about something even more remarkable?
The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand plus appears in all the Gospels, it is a very important story. In Matthew’s retelling, he places it just after another great feast; Herod’s Birthday party, and the difference between the two could not be more pronounced.
Herod’s party had been a terrible banquet culminating in the death of John the Baptist. And here, we find Jesus on the brink of exactly the opposite type of banquet, a banquet that fills people, that gives sustenance and life and hope, a foretaste of the abundant heavenly banquet.
In today’s Bible reading the multitude are desperate, desperate for more of Jesus, for more of his teaching, for more of his healing, but they are also very hungry, and they are isolated. Their bellies rumbling, the disciples couldn’t cope with feeding so many - and so they decide ‘the shows over’. They urge Jesus to, ‘send them off to the nearest village, they need to eat’. But Jesus has other ideas; he says, ‘No need. You give them something’.
Now I reckon what followed would have been an awkward silence, and then the disciples would turn out their pockets and stare at bits of fluff and generally look exasperated at this non-sense that Jesus was speaking.
Eventually they would lift their eyes, they would survey the local scene and there they would spy five loaves and two fish. They’d gather them up and hold them out as a rather shoddy offering to Jesus. Five loaves and two fish to feed the multitude. The maths just does not work.
We too can feel impoverished, the ongoing movement away from Christianity in the West together with the rise of the Corona virus and the challenges to faith sharing, community, worship and finance that this all presents. We too are overwhelmed by the momentous task at hand. I suppose we feel in many ways like those first disciples. We look to the multitude of problems that we are facing, we turn out our pockets, we show Jesus our efforts, our depleted resources and we say, ‘this is it, this is all we’ve got’.
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish that the disciples bought him, he looked to heave and gave thanks, broke it and gave it to the disciples. The disciples handed food around and everyone ate. And there was so much left over, as Rob Lacey in the Street Bible puts it, ‘the team kept the countryside code and collected up the leftovers, filling twelve huge baskets’.
The big idea in this Bible story is that the source of feeding is God. But the resources, inadequate as they always are, are ours. The work of the disciples ‘the bread of our human effort’, is honoured, is used, and is magnified by Jesus. Our some becomes awesome with God.
A couple of years ago, when it was still OK to visit Barcelona, Joanne and I visited am amazing Church, the Sagrada Familia. Its gothic/art nouveau design comes from the Spanish architect Gaudi.
In 1882 work began and over the year’s there have been many challenges on the way. It is expected that by 2026, the anniversary of Gaudi’s death it can be completed.
Now I want you to imagine that you are a stone mason working on the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi had the plan in mind, and he passed on instructions to the creative team to get on with it. One stonemason is tasked will shape stones for the Passion entrance; another will carve the delicate patterns that make up the Nativity Facade; another will work on the columns that support the incredible vaulted ceiling, and you... you are set to work on one of the eighteen spires that lift our eyes heavenwards.
You are aware that there are others in your team getting on with their own tasks and that that there are many others busy going about their work. And when you have finished with your stone you will hand it over, without necessarily knowing very much about where, in the eventual building, your work will find its home.
And it might be too that you too, like Gaudi will not even live to see the completed building, with your work at last where it belongs.
Now you are not, yourself, building that Sagrada Familia; but you are building for it, and when it is finished your work will be enhanced, ennobled, it will mean much more than it could ever have meant as you were shaping it down in the dust and grime of the stonemasons' yard.
Now take that story and put it into place, each one of us here has a task to do. Like feeding the multitude, like building the Sagrada Familia, the task is vast; we are truly up against all the odds, we feel we do not have the knowhow or the resources to do it.
But God does, God has a plan; he reminds us in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’. He has plans for prosperity, each one of us has a part in his plan; to build something wonderful, to build towards His Kingdom.
We may face many challenges today with the Corona virus and the move away from Christianity in the West. But that does not deter us from bringing to God what we have, bringing him the skills we have, the bread of our human effort, then he will use, he will magnify, and he will honour. He will build something amazing with us. We do not see it yet, we cannot possibly do it on our own, but we can press on, for our offering, ‘our some becomes awesome with God’. Amen.
2nd August 2020