You can feed 5000 (or more)

This is the sermon that I delivered at York Salvation Army on Sunday 7 August, 2011. The Bible passage it is based on is Matthew 14:13-21.

Preaching seated

I apologise that I’m preaching seated down. I hope you can all see me. Just over a year ago, I was playing basketball in my E division Salvos comp team, the aptly named Team Victory, because we never win. I was making a drive in towards the left, and my knee collapsed from under me. At the time, it was suspected that it was just a dislocated patella, but after I reinjured my knee earlier this year while making a coffee, it became apparent that my Anterior Cruciate Ligament had actually been ruptured, with the only fix being Surgery. I had that almost two weeks ago, and as such, standing isn’t great, so I’m going to have to be seated for this sermon.

However, you’ll know that Jesus taught many sermons seated. These are mostly in the Gospel of Matthew, as this gospel was written for a Jewish audience, who understood that respected teachers taught while seated. So I thought I’d look at those to see if that was what God was wanting me to talk about today. But they didn’t grab my attention so much, however, the Feeding of the Five Thousand sparked something that I thought was where God was leading me today.

“You Feed Them”

The disciples come to Jesus saying, “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.” Jesus responds by saying “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

This was something that really stood out to me. Jesus instructs his followers to perform the miracle of feeding all these people. However, the disciples can’t see past the physical need of food, when Jesus is actually telling the disciples that they are able to feed these people spiritually. However, they lack the faith at this time to see past the physical, to see what Jesus is talking about, and to see the possibilities.

Lack of Faith stories

The Feeding of the 5000 is the only story that appears in all four gospels, and in three of the gospels, they are accompanied by other stories where the disciples showed a lack of Faith.

In the feeding of the five thousand, the disciples didn’t have the faith that they were able to feed the people, even though Jesus knew that they were able.

Following this story in Matthew, Mark and John is the story of Jesus walking on the water, where Peter steps out from the boat, then lacks faith and begins to sink.

Finally, in John 6:30, the crowd says to Jesus “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?” This crowd is the very same crowd that was at the feeding of the five thousand – the same crowd that made Jesus withdraw himself from the crowds because (as John 6:15 puts it) “they were about to come and take him by force to make him king.” Yet they lacked the faith to trust him a day later, and asked him to perform another sign.

Has there been a time in your life where you’ve lacked faith? I’m sure at certain points there has been times where we’ve all questioned whether God exists, or whether God is able to help in this or that situation. These times aren’t to be shunned, you shouldn’t feel bad about them. Because I believe that they are healthy, as it is through questioning that we become stronger in our belief.

Likewise, in each of these occasions where the Disciples or the crowd showed a lack of faith, Jesus provided the food for them to restore that faith. Jesus provided Food for the five thousand, pulled Peter out of the water, and calmed the seas, and spiritually fed the crowd by saying he was the bread of life.

Feed them through Jesus

In the feeding of the five thousand, it was only through Jesus that the disciples were able to feed those that were there. The disciples brought what they had, five loaves and two fish – basic Galilean rations. Jesus blessed it, gave it to the disciples and they distributed it.

The important thing here is that the disciples brought what they had to Jesus, and once Jesus had blessed it, they were able to feed the crowds with what they had. Jesus enabled their small blessing to feed thousands.

What this means to us is that no matter how small our gift is, when we give it to Jesus, he is able to multiply it to give blessing to a multitude of people.

An example. I studied Music at university, and as part of that I developed skills in arranging. One afternoon this year, I got home from work, and sat down and worked on an arrangement of Rueben Morgan’s song, Let the Weak say I am strong, for our Songsters at Floreat. I was completed by dinner. It was very little work for me. However, I presented it to our Songster Leader, and he distributed parts for our Songsters and we rehearsed it. Last Sunday, we performed it, and while I wasn’t able to join in thanks to my knee, I was up the back recording it on my phone. That has been uploaded onto YouTube, where that small effort of mine has continued to bless people who I may never know or meet. When I give my gifts to Jesus – no matter how small they may be, Jesus is able to use them to allow me to give blessing to others.

Disciples able to feed others

A couple of months ago, we celebrated Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came down and empowered the believers. At this time, Peter, the apostle who ran away from Jesus when he was questioned during the crucifixion, the apostle who blurted out at the transfiguration not understanding what he was saying, the apostle who stepped out of the boat and lacked the faith and began to sink, delivered this incredible sermon.

Now, Peter was a fisherman, unschooled, unlearned, having not studied the Torah. Yet, in the sermon that is recorded in Acts 2, about 40% of the sermon is quotations from scripture. There’s a large passage from the prophet Joel, and two passages of David. This is quite an amazing feat for someone who is uneducated, yet through the Holy Spirit, Peter’s small amount was magnified, and there were 3,000 new converts that day.

I’ve been reading Bill Hybel’s book, Just Walk across the room, where he encourages us to walk across the room and make relationships with people. He suggests that when we’re open to the guidance of the holy spirit, we are then able to be aware of opportunities to talk about faith with friends, to be open to opportunities to invite them to church. When we offer up our everyday life, such a little, mundane, thing, and allow the holy spirit to bless it, then we open ourselves up to the possibility of feeding 5,000.

5000 (and women and children)

In conclusion, a short note about the last verse: “five thousand men, besides women and children.” This was the norm for how numbers were recorded. For example, in Exodus 12:37, it is recorded that six hundred thousand men, besides children journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. The reason Matthew included this is to show that there was no exclusion to who received the blessings of God. No group was to be excluded from the glory of God, and likewise no group should be excluded from your ministry.

So if you’re to take only one thing from today, let it be this: Take what you have, give it to Jesus to bless, allow the Holy spirit to magnify it, and let it bless anyone and everyone that you know.

Advertisements

My refuge and my shield

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”

Psalm 119:114
This Psalm of David is the longest of all of the Psalms, and the longest chapter in the whole Bible. Here, David is saying to the Lord that he finds his refuge and safety in the Lord. When Saul was searching for David, it was the Lord that told him where to Hide, to help protect him physically, and spiritually.

Likewise, we should find our refuge in the Lord. When we are being trialed and tested, we should look towards the Lord, we should put our hope in his word. We should trust in the Lord to hide us, to give us refuge, from the temptations of the world, and to shield our mind and soul from the harmful things that we often come across.

Let your light shine

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14,16
This passage from the Sermon on the mount is rather famous. It is part of a number of instructions to how his disciples should behave. Here, he is calling his disciples to be examples to the rest of the world, that their good deeds may encourage others to glorify God. In the Tyndale commentary, he writes,

But the disciples of Christ must not, through fear of being an unworthy influence, remain silent about their religion. They can, and they must, bear witness to the faith that is in them through personal example. This is the truth underlying the metaphor used by Jesus when He tells them they are the light of the world.

So the disciples must not hide themselves, but live and work in places where their influence may be felt, and the light that is in them be most fully manifested to others – not for their own glorification, but that others may see that the light of real Christian goodness, finding expression in practical acts of loving-kindness and service, is a light not of this world but coming from God, and may in consequence be led to give honour and praise to its Giver

The Gospel According to St Matthew, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (General Editor Prof. R.V.G. Tasker), 1979 printing page 64.

I’ve heard this manifested in many different ways. People, like Major Brendan Nottle who runs the Melbourne 614 corps, working with the homeless, the poor and needy. I’ve heard it in suggestions to Christians that they should start each day with a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, meaning that they need to not only be in touch with God, but also in touch with the world. I’ve heard of it being manifested in people who are known as “the Christian” at work, who anyone can turn to when they’re going through a rough time.

What sort of things do you do to let your light shine?

The right to become children of God

Incipit Page of the Gospel of John.
The incipit page from the Gospel of John (Image by peterjr1961 via Flickr)

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

John 1:12-13
This is a beautiful passage from the beginning of John’s gospel, that says that all who believe in Jesus, all who accept him and trust in him, have the right to become a child of God, and accept all the inheritance that comes with that, to receive God’s care and protection.

This NIV translation has some interesting changes in verse 13. The NRSV translation of verse 13 reads “who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” They both use the plural, “who were” or “children” as opposed to the singular “who was” which some old translations have. The singular implies that it is only Jesus that this passage is talking about, where as the plural implies that it is talking about everyone that accepts and believes in Jesus. But the next part, skipping the “not of blood” with the NIV translating that as being “not of natural descent” is a nicer translation, if not entirely correct, but it does reduce the chance of confusion. E.C. Hoskyns in his book The Fourth Gospel writes “The Evangelist cannot write that the Christians were not born of blood (singular), because their birth does in fact depend upon a death which later he describes as involving the outpouring of blood.” This depends on whether you believe that salvation comes through the death of Christ, or as this verse seems to imply only through belief in his name. Note that one does not discredit the other, it is all in which way your beliefs take you.

There are many who would say that belief that doesn’t include salvation through the cross makes you not a “real” Christian. To them, I would give this verse, “to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Personally, I believe that Christ died to forgive our sins as an amazing act of grace. He did this for all the children of God, all those who believe in his name.

Disciples of the Cross

Official crest of The Salvation Army.
Image via Wikipedia

It is with great pleasure that I can announce the Liesl and I have been accepted for training at the Salvation Army Training College as part of the Disciples of the Cross session.

For those outside of the Salvation Army, this means that Liesl and I have been accepted for training to become Salvation Army Officers (Ministers), and will see us move to Melbourne at the start of next year for two years of study at the Salvation Army Training College.

My journey starts a few years ago. When I was in year 11, I went on a “Priesthood Vocation Camp” that was being run by the Anglican Church in Perth. The Anglican Church identified a few young people who might be interested in ministry, and give them a weekend to explore the ministry. It didn’t really work out well for the Anglican Church. Of the five participants on the weekend, one is now in the Church of Christ, one’s moved to the Baptist church, one doesn’t really have a church, one floats between Baptist, Anglican and Salvos, and the one person who is entering the ministry is entering for the Salvos.

However, at the time, I wasn’t really interested in the priesthood, I wasn’t interested in Ministry. My Dad had been a priest (Both Church of Christ minister and currently an Anglican Priest), his dad had been a minister (Church of Christ), and my mum is an Anglican Deacon (having previously been a Church of Christ minister). I felt that God had our family, and didn’t need me. Well, he had other ideas.

When I started dating Liesl, I decided to check out the Salvos, because I had never really known what their service was like. Then one evening service, while I can’t really remember the message, I clearly remember my call. God said to me, “You’re going to college, and you’re going with her (Liesl)” and that was it. I talked to the officer that night, and started the journey to becoming a soldier, and eventually becoming accepted for college.

The application process for college is quite in-depth. It starts off with an A1 form, which is a general overview of you and your calling. Then if that gets accepted, then you get your pre-college assignments, and then your full set of papers.

The Pre-college assignments are some short assignments and readings that help you explore your calling, and leadership principles. There’s also some practical exercises, such as leading a service, and preaching.

The full set of papers give the Candidates Boards an in-depth view of you and your calling. There’s a family history, full set of medical and dental reports, a budget, and more. It really is quite in-depth.

Once your full set of papers is handed in, you will have your interview with the Divisional Candidates Board. Here they ask you some more questions, some which may have arisen from answers in your full set of papers. You also get asked to explain a bible passage, and to explain a doctrine.

From here, your application gets passed to the Territorial Candidates board, where they make the final decision on whether you are accepted for college or not.

From here, Liesl and I start making the final preparations. We need to finish our Pre-College assignments, we will need to do some fundraising, and then there will be the packing and moving. There will probably be a whole heap more as well as we prepare ourselves for lives as officers.

Once we have completed our training, we will be commissioned, and appointed to a Salvation Army Corps or Social placement somewhere within the Southern Territory in Australia. That’s basically anywhere in Australia, except the ACT, NSW and QLD (which are part of the Australian Eastern Territory). We will have no real idea of where we will be heading, but for me that’s part of the exciting part as we will be sent where the Army thinks we will best be able to serve that community.

Liesl and I are very excited about the future, particularly the next six months and the next 2 years of study, and can’t wait to be serving God wherever he needs us.

A Star Trek Devotional: Encounter at Farpoint

John de Lancie as Q in WWIII/Post-Atomic Horro...
Q as an officer from the Mid-21st Century Wars, from Encounter at Farpoint. (Image via Flickr)

I wanted to try my hand at writing a devotional based on episodes of Star Trek. I am a Trekkie, and I feel there is a lot that we can learn from the various episodes. That I’ll have to watch more Star Trek in preparation for these devotionals is just a happy coincidence. My first devotional is based on the first episode (double episode) of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Encounter at Farpoint.

Continue reading “A Star Trek Devotional: Encounter at Farpoint”

Knee Surgery recovery part 2

A look at my knee one week post surgery

Well, I’m now a week past knee surgery, and things seem to be going well. I’m now walking around the house with the brace, and have ditched the crutches for the most part. The knee still feels weak (sometimes more than others), but most of the time it feels good.

I haven’t felt the need to have a lot of pain medication, and it’s only in the last couple of days that I’ve actually felt any discomfort, which has been taken care of with some paracetamol. On Sunday, I was at Church, and we had a long day, in having a corps lunch and then an afternoon meeting. By the time I got home, I was desperate to get the brace off, and my leg was incredibly tired.

I went to the surgeon on Monday for my post-op check. He was very pleased with how the wounds were healing, and said that the wounds and the swelling were progressing above average. Good news! I mentioned that I expected to be in more pain than I had been in. He responded saying that most knee surgeries come out with the patient being pleasantly surprised, and most shoulder surgeries going the other way. I wonder why that is?

image

Anyway, I keep going on with my exercises. I’m slowly rebuilding my strength and flexibility. I have the exercises to take me up to 6 weeks without a physio, however I’ll probably go see one anyway just to keep me motivated and ensure I’m heading down the right track.

Let the weak say, I am Strong

I went to Church yesterday, and halfway through, Liesl comes up to me and says “I think they’re doing your song for the songsters message.” Indeed they were, the Songsters message was my arrangement of “Let the weak say, I am strong” by Rueben Morgan. Thanks to not being able to sing (would be too tough for me to get up there with my knee) I instead headed up to the sound desk at the back to record it on my phone.

This wasn’t exactly a complete performance, as there is actually a violin part at the beginning. However, I did write it so that if a corps didn’t have a violin player (which, to be honest, there would be more corps without any musicians than corps who have a violin player), it could still be performed and have the same effect.

I’m really pleased with this arrangement. I think that within it all, every part has beautiful lines that are just a pleasure to sing. Of course, the sopranos have most of the melody. But the lines that I’ve written, particularly the Tenor and Basses are just beautiful. It’s a bit hard to hear in the recording, but the Basses have this great line in the chorus which provides a fantastic grounding to the chorus, while the Tenors get this lovely moving part. I’m also really impressed by the dynamic change in the final couple of lines, which I think provides a real lift to that final line, “Jesus died, and rose again.”

Hope you enjoyed it, and I’ll hope to get a few more out soon.

The joys of the internet

I love the internet. It has truly made a positive benefit to our lives.

For example, this weekend I was supposed to go to see James Morrison perform a tribute to Louis Armstrong with WASO. However, thanks to my knee surgery, there was no way I would be able to fit into my seat.

So my seat went to my sister, and then the next night I was able to watch the webcast thanks to iiNet. So I still got to listen to the concert (and have better vision than if I was there live).

The other thing I’ve really enjoyed doing on the internet has been streaming the live feed of the Formula 1 races. I enjoy watching these, while Liesl gets bored by them, so I can plug my earphones in and watch on my laptop, while liesl can watch whatever she wants.

TV on the internet has certainly come a long way, and there is now the possibility to watch anything from anywhere at a time that suits you.

Why does God allow evil in his world?

This topic suggestion, Why is there evil in the world?, is from The Daily Post as part of the Post-a-day writing challenge.

Student: Sir, you are working on the Premise of Duality. You argue there is Life and then there is Death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.

That quote is part of a longer story about an atheist Philosophy lecturer and a student having an argument in class, where the student ends up declaring to his classmates that the lecturer has no brain, because no one in the class has seen, felt, tasted, smelt or heard it. You can read it in full here.

You see, there is evil in this world when people are far away from God. God allows it because he has given us free will. We can choose which way we go. I have this image of God, and all his angels, looking on from above, cheering each of us on to choose the right way, and consoling us when we make a mistake.

Postaday2011 links