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.

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.

Random Acts of Kindness

The cover of Daena's 365 days of kindness… journal.

Today I’m putting the focus on my friend’s blog, 365 Days of Kindness. Daena is an incredible young lady, and one of my close friends. Last year, she started Project 25, encouraging people to do random acts of kindness.

This year, she decided to expand, and challenge herself to do a random good deed every day for a year. She’s writing them down in a journal, and slowly uploading them to her blog. She’s a bit behind (having only recently uploaded the ones for January), however it is a fantastic project, and a wonderful challenge.

We find this mentioned in the gospels of Jesus.

“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (MSG)

The second commandment that Jesus lists here – love others as you love yourself – is just what Daena is practicing here, Loving others, whoever they may be, as she loves herself. Wouldn’t the world be an amazing place if we all followed Daena’s lead and looked for ways to show love to others?

Divine intervention and free will

This topic suggestion, They say “everything happens for a reason” – do you think this is true?, is from The Daily Post as part of the Post-a-day writing challenge.

I was asked by a friend on Facebook recently what my thoughts were on whether everything was planned or whether there was the possibility of coincidence.
I believe that God is omnipotent, knowing everything that has happened, is happening and will happen. He has a plan for our lives: “for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.” However, God also have us Free will. He gave us the ability to choose for ourselves. My picture then is of God watching a sporting match. While he knows the result, he’s there, surrounded by all his angels cheering us on, rejoicing when we choose the right path, and consoling us when we make a mistake.
Does that leave any room for coincidences? I think so. I’ve heard the phrase “god-incidence” used to describe those situations where it could only have been influenced by God. I truly believe these happen.

So does everything happen for a reason? For has a plan for our lives – it’s up to us whether we follow that plan.

Postaday2011 links

Christian Music Sucks! (well, some of it)

The logo at the Christian Music Wiki
Image via Wikipedia

I was thinking the other day. Liesl tells me that it’s never a good idea. But I was thinking that there’s a lot of really bad music out there, and a lot of it is Christian music. Take this video for an example:

Take a real good listen to those lyrics. “He is like a Mounty, he always gets his man, and he’ll zap you anyway he can. Zap!” I’m sorry Sonseed, but you really can’t get much more cheesy than that.

See, that’s the problem with bad Christian music – they try to write a “Christian” song, and it ends up being cheesy, kitschy and just plain wrong. However, there is hope. There is a multitude of musicians out there, who are Christians, who write fantastic music that is up there with “secular” music.

Take for example this little band. They’ve got some great songs, and are really deep in faith.

U2 are fairly well-known as being a very spiritual group, with Bono having a deep Christian faith, but also an understanding that to get his message out to the world, it can’t be shoved down people’s throats, but coming through every facet of their music and lives.

Naturally 7, if you’re not aware, are a band that only use their voice. Liesl and I saw them opening for Michael Bublé, and were amazed. Their version of Can you feel it in the Air tonight is amazing.

And they write their own songs too, like Bless this House.

And remember, every sound they make is made with the human voice. And they’re Christian too – they’re headlining at Easterfest 2011, a massive Christian festival being held in Toowomba.

For something a bit heavier, why not try Underoath? This Christian metal band have played at the big heavy rock/metal festivals such as Soundwave, and are not shy in hiding their faith at those events either.

One of my favourite bands at the moment is New Empire. They’re currently touring with Good Charlotte, opening for them. It’s very much a pop-rock sound, but if you didn’t know they were Christian, it would sound very much like any other band out there.

And there’s heaps more out there too. Everything from Metal to A capella. Ska to Soulful, it’s all there, and it’s all brilliant. All you need to do is go searching for it.

Let your light shine

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

Have you been to the country recently? Just recently, I headed down to Margaret River for a weekend away. We were driving, and there were no lights anywhere. We looked up and saw the stars. Having escaped the light pollution that cities normally give, we could see all these stars lighting up the sky. It was really amazing. Continue reading “Let your light shine”