July 29, 2012
Pentecost VIII (click to see readings)
Got home last night from Heavenfest at about 12:30, so if I appear a little toasty around the edges this morning, its because I am!
Last night, after all the bands, we had a prayer time based on our adoption as children of God and on the call that God gives all of His children to participate in His government… “in His Kingdom come, and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”
This morning’s readings all point to one thing – the nature of God as the loving supply for all of His creation! Actually more than just our supply, but the God of super-abundance, even in the face of lack!
Is there anyone else here that this speaks to?
Just listen again to some of what we just heard:
“They shall eat and have some left!”
“The Lord is faithful in all His Words and merciful in all His Deeds!
The Lord upholds all those who fall; He lifts up those who are bowed down.
The eyes of all wait upon You, O Lord, and You give them their food in due season.
You open wide Your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and loving in all His works.
The Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him faithfully!”
“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is
The breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ
That surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God!”
Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly
Far more than all we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the church and in
Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
And from our gospel, Jesus asks His disciples, actually to Philip (hmmmmmm?)
“Where are we to by bread for these people to eat?
Philip answered, “Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”
Peter said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”
Tucked away in the midst of this conversation that Jesus is having with the disciples is a little line we only see here in this telling of the story of the feeding of the 5000:
“Jesus asked this to test him, for Jesus already knew what He was going to do!”
In another of the stories that is told in the gospels about this moment, we hear Jesus telling Philip, “You give them something to eat!” Just the command; there was no plan, no offer of help or power or supernaturally abundant supply. None of that was in view in Philip’s mind. His was the calculation:
Let’s see if each one got a fish sandwich. That’s about 2 bucks per … and there are around 5000 families, - that’s about 15,000 hungry mouths – let’s see – that’s $30K for lunch! I only make $60K in a year.
“Lord, six months wages would not buy enough for each one to have even a little!”
And I think that Peter’s offering of the school boy’s lunch (not his own) was just pure observation, not faith!
Once again the disciples are found deficient and fail the faith test. As we so often do as well.
We are all so prone – let me say I here – I am so prone to look at the head count and do the calculations, until I’m convinced of the IM-possibility of the situation. Then I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, just like the disciples that Jesus was testing that day.
Why do you suppose that Jesus used this situation to test them? Because He was about to ask them to do something SO MUCH BIGGER than feeding a few thousand with fish and bread – this time would actually pale by comparison.
Let me go back for a moment, to the editor’s comment in the midst of the text of the Gospel reading. Why do you suppose it was important for John to include that comment here?
If this is the Word of God that He has breathed – His love letter to us … are even the editorial comments inspired. I believe they are. So why? Why is it so important to know that Jesus was testing Philip in His question?
Because Jesus does the same thing with us! He did the same thing in different ways with Peter.
In fact Peter picks up this lesson from his time with Jesus and passes it along in his first letter:
The Holy Bible, New International Version.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! m In his great mercy n he has given us new birth o into a living hope p through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, q 1Pe 1:4 and into an inheritance r that can never perish, spoil or fade s —kept in heaven for you, t 1Pe 1:5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power u until the coming of the salvation v that is ready to be revealed w in the last time. 1Pe 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, x though now for a little while y you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. z 1Pe 1:7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire a —may be proved genuine b and may result in praise, glory and honor c when Jesus Christ is revealed. d 1Pe 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him e and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 1Pe 1:9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. f
Verse 7 is the key here, Peter’s explanation of our trials and suffering, our grief – and I believe that this insight is rooted in Peter’s own experience with Jesus personally on the roads of Judea and Samaria.
“These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
What was the point of Jesus even asking the question of Philip – what was the point of the test? It was a test of faith. Friends, it’s all a test of faith.
I’m sorry, because that application made very generally can seem a little harsh – if we apply it broadly, but Jesus applied it specifically. His question was to Philip, not to Peter or Bartholomew or Andrew. For whatever reason, Philip’s faith was “in the dock” that day. It’s never a pleasant experience when Jesus puts your faith on trial. It involves coming to the end of yourself.
And maybe, just maybe that is the exact point.
Faith, of necessity, will eventually bring us to the end of ourselves. I saw a quote this week. “At the end of your rope, is where God’s starts!”
You see friends, God the Trinity, wants to be our supply, but as long as we are able to supply what we need – we have no need of God. We do this habitually – especially as independent minded, western pioneer born and bred, Americans! It is part of our DNA!
No wonder we are in the place we are in, both as a church and many of us personally, are finding ourselves between a rock and a hard place, over and over and over. What is the answer?
Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for all these people?” The question comes to us in many forms, not the least of which is, where am I going to get the bread to feed my family? Where am I going to come up with the rent money, or the money for heating or cooling, or the money for clothes.
We run from pillar to post, work our rear ends off, without a second glance at these parts of the Word of God. Listen again to these promises: They are astounding:
He opens His Hand and satisfies the needs of every living creature!
How many? EVERY Living Creature.
Does that include you? It does.
Does that include us? It does.
Look at someone and say, “He’s talking about you!”
And I’m talking to me as well.
Our God is a Great Big God.
Our God is the Creator of the Universe. As I said a week or so ago, we of all people should have a concrete grasp of all that that means today! And for me having a grasp of the scientific realities of our universe, doesn’t negate God’s presence, it magnifies it!
I see Him in every flower petal and in every face along the way. I see Him in the Milky Way and in the halting steps of a 1 year old… in a mother’s love and a father’s joy.
Our God is a Great Big God.
Our God is the Sustainer of the Universe. He gives His breath to all living creatures. He is the source of our life, in its biological miracles. Did you all read the story about one of the shooting victims this past week? Petra Anderson, the young lady that Tom and Cara are friends with; her story is all over the internet and has been picked up by some of the bloggers and wire services, but they are not quite sure what to make of it.
In short, she was hit in the face by buckshot from one of the early shotgun blasts. The BB hit her in the nose and went into her brain and lodged at the back of her head. The prognosis by the surgeons and neurological people was grim indeed, prior to surgery. After surgery they had a different view … of God.
You see when they went in they discovered a “birth defect” in Petra’s brain. A kind of tunnel or channel from front to back that simply had fluid in it, no brain matter at all. The BB from the shotgun entered through Petra’s nose, into that channel, all the way through her brain and ended next to her back skull. In dislodging the BB they discovered the “fearful and wonderful way” that God had made Petra.
When Petra was born, God saw to it that the needed channel was supplied – by our reckoning a “birth defect” – serves no purpose, has no ill effects, in fact, was laying there silently waiting for this day. When it would save all that Petra is and loves about her life, a life that she now knows, was given her, from beginning to end, by a loving and powerful, all seeing and all knowing God.
Just like yours.
God, I thank you that you are such a wonderful God. I thank you that you created each one of us here and that you have each one of us written on the palm of your hand. I thank you that you have promised that if we will seek you first – your kingdom and your righteousness – that you will “add all these things” to us.
I confess that you are my supply. I confess that I am NOT my supply! I confess I want to feel in control, but as long as I am, you are not. And so you draw my attention once again to my inadequacy for the task ahead, for the call you have on my life, for the task of even living day to day! Apart from You Lord, I can do nothing! I confess my insufficiency and Your great sufficiency.
I lean on You, Lord. I trust in You, Lord and lean away from my own understanding. I acknowledge You, Lord, in all my ways, and trust You to direct my paths. I trust you to provide for my needs and I raise empty hands to you. I surrender!
I surrender to your goodness, to your righteousness, to your tender mercies.
I surrender to your abundance, your super-abundance promised to us who come by faith.
It’s not our right, it’s your gift.
Let us not hold our gaze on the gifts, but fix our eyes on the Giver.
For you are gracious of Lover of Souls.
All we have is from you, and all we can give is what we have received first.
Thank you Jesus!
Amen and Amen.