24 June, 2012

posted 22 Jun 2012, 00:09 by C S Paul   [ updated 26 Jun 2012, 00:39 ]

24 June, 2012

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Devotional Thoughts for the fourth Sunday after Pentecost

source - http://www.malankaraworld.com

"You Give Them Something To Eat!"

Sermon Text: Matthew 14:13-21

Matthew 14:14-23 - King James Version (KJV)

14And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

15And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

16But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

17And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

18He said, Bring them hither to me.

19And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

20And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

21And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

22And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.

23And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

"You Give Them Something To Eat!"

by John Jewell, sermonhelp.com

Message

Have you ever been hungry? -- Really hungry!

I don't mean "hungry" as in "It's two O'clock and I haven't had lunch yet." I mean hungry in the sense of stomach cramps, light headedness and fatigue when you have not had anything to eat for more than a day.

Have you ever gone a day, or two or even three without solid food? Most of us have never had that experience -- much less knowing what it is like to do without food for days and even weeks. The last time I went without food was when my doctor ordered a "fasting" blood test and I could not eat anything after 6pm. The test was not until 10:00 o'clock the next morning. When I think about the desperate hunger we regularly see on our television screens day after day -- I am embarrassed to tell you how hungry I was waiting for this blood test to be over with.

As hungry as you and I might ever have been, there is nothing that can compare to the sight of children standing in line at feeding centers when a famine has hit. I can clearly remember the spectacle of children in southern Sudan who were starving to death and Congressman Tony Hall of Ohio warning that a million people were in the grip of a life threatening famine. In the same newscast, Dan Rather and company were reporting another record high on the Dow Jones as the American economy continued its record flight into increasing prosperity.

In the midst of this incongruous clash of famine and fortune in the space of three minutes, these words from today's gospel reading penetrated my soul... "You give them something to eat!"

***

Let's look first at the situation in our reading. Jesus has withdrawn to a place where he can pray and meditate. His cousin, John the Baptist has been brutally executed by Herod and he is in need of renewal -- the refreshment of fellowship with God. But instead of calm, there is a crowd -- instead of the needed refreshment, there is a rush of needy people. The crowd is hungry for help and hope and Jesus reaches out with a heart of compassion. When they become hungry for physical food, he reaches out with the abundance of God.

The issue of food and hunger is a powerful symbol in scripture. It takes us deep into the human spirit. In Mary's Song, God is praised as the One who, "...has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty... [Lk. 1:53 ] In our reading from Isaiah today God calls out to Israel, "Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." [Isaiah 55:1] The prophet Amos warns the people that they will experience a spiritual famine because they have resisted God's invitation. " [Isaiah 55:1] Israel is sustained in the wilderness and learns to depend on God for life itself. The Lord is the One who is ever aware of and available to our needs.

Now Jesus is shaping his disciples into a compassionate corps which will carry the ministry and the message of Christ to a hungry world. When it comes time for the crowd to eat, the disciples want Jesus to send the people away to the nearby villages to buy supplies. Jesus responds with the words I trust will become riveted to your soul today.

"You give them something to eat!"

They were, of course, not equipped -- they didn't have a clue as to how they could possibly feed this crowd. What they had to offer was way too little! The rest of the story contains three powerful lessons about how it is God can use our availability to continue to offer help and hope to a hungry world.

[1] Compassion Draws the Hurting

One of the hallmarks of Jesus' ministry is compassion. Every encounter Jesus has with hurting people in the gospels is characterized by his compassionate touch. It is this compassion that draws the hurting crowds. The letter to the Colossians outlines the qualities that should mark the Christian's life. Remember? "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience..." [Col. 3:12]

Outreach and evangelism, from God's perspective, begins with compassion. I am reminded of the old quip, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

Compassion will open doors that have been slammed shut by criticism and condemnation. It is medicine for a heart that has been broken or a spirit that has been made cynical. Compassion is the glue that binds a church together. John Fawcett's hymn, Blest Be The Tie That Binds, points to the power of compassion. "We share each other's woes, Each other's burdens bear, And often for each other flows, The sympathizing tear."

In a world rife with brokenness and sorrow, compassion is one of the most powerful healing forces the Christian community has. When we encounter those who are hungry for hope and help, if we listen carefully, we will still hear the words, "You give them something to eat!"

[2] We are Agents of God's Compassion

The disciples often waited for Jesus to take the lead in compassion. Members of the church often wait for the pastor to take the lead in compassion. Churches often wait for the denomination to take the lead in compassion. Young folks often wait for the adults to take the lead in compassion. Men often wait for women....

You get the point.

Jesus, on the other hand says, "You _________________" (What? "...give them something to eat." We are appointed -- ("Ambassadors for Christ..." as Paul put it. - 2 Cor. 5:20) -- to become for others what Christ has been for us.

And here's something critically important. Jesus taught his disciples by example and by "on the job training." The streets and alleys, hillside and valleys were his classroom. True enough, he taught them concepts and principles, but most of all he taught by example. "Come and follow me -- Come and see." The followers of Jesus caught his compassion by seeing it. Though he taught them that God is a compassionate God -- seeing compassion in action made it come alive.

It is important for our children to learn about Christ, about the church and about the bible. But it is crucial that they learn compassion. Not just about compassion. But to learn compassion by seeing it in action in the fellowship of faith.

A youth pastor I know, wanted to teach his confirmation class what it means to live as a homeless person. He arranged a well planned, carefully thought out "cardboard village" which was to be built in a village park. The young people would spend a day and night in the village. They would have to go through a "mock" bureaucratic maze to get approved for a box to sleep in, blankets to stay warm and a small ration of food.

Many were excited about the project. But as you might expect, many were not excited about the project. In fact they were vigorous in their opposition. Some of the comments ran along the line of: "The time could be better spent learning their bibles." "I heard they haven't even memorized the Beatitudes yet." "What if it rains? They could get sick." There were more, but the project went ahead -- in spite of the objections and notwithstanding the two parents who would not allow their teens to participate.

The impact on the group was significant. Each year, the church would treat the confirmation class to a "fun day" at a theme park or some similar event. The class decided to take the funds that would have been spent on their fun day and give it to the "Hunger Action" fund of their denomination. "It wasn't all that much," the youth pastor told me, "But every one of those kids has a new sense of compassion for the homeless."

Maybe it wasn't much -- but then again, it is amazing what God can do with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish! And that brings us to the most important lesson of all.

[3] God will Make Us Equal to the Task

It does not matter how much you have!

What matters most of all is what God can do with what you have!

You have likely hear the term compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue happens when we see so much pain and anguish our hearts begin to grow accustomed to the daily sight of misery in newspapers and on television. If we allow it to continue to penetrate our feelings, we would be overwhelmed. Compassion fatigue is a defense mechanism of our inner self to protect us from becoming paralyzed by the horror around us.

So we get used to it. It doesn't strike home as much. And besides....

"I'm just one person. What can I possibly do in the light of such overwhelming need?" Or in terms of our gospel lesson, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish."

If there was ever a time when people felt overwhelmed, it was watching the thousands upon countless thousands who fled Kosovo into neighboring countries. The need was immense. ABC carried a human interest story about a Macedonian baker and his family. This man was personally responsible for taking in and caring for over 700 people. His small bakery ran 24 hours a day to provide bread for the hungry. Refugees helped with the cooking and distribution. A camera crew visited the home of the baker's brother. There was an average sized home with a courtyard. 100 refugees -- men, women and children -- had found refuge in this one home!

The baker, smiling, told the interviewer that he was now running out of flour and supplies and that soon there would be no more bread for any of them. Without consideration of the cost to himself and his family, this man was willing to give everything he had to give hope and help to all he possibly could. I could almost hear the words of the Macedonian man in Paul's dream-vision. "Come over to Macedonia and help us." [Acts 16:9]

One of the central propositions in our reading is that God can take our "not enough" and turn it into "more than enough." Amazing things can happen when we see with eyes of compassion and make ourselves available to God as agents of compassion. And remember -- Jesus Christ never asks us to do anything he is not able to give us strength to do.

Somewhere in your experience this week, you will see a person or situation where compassion is needed. If you are open to it, you will know in your spirit that God needs an agent of compassion. And when you begin to wonder what can be done for this person -- or in this situation -- and the words will come to you:

"You give them something to eat!"


Alternate Lectionary Reading: St. Luke 10 : 1 - 16

by Rev. Fr. Dr. V. C. Varghese

Gospel: St. Luke 10 : 1 - 16

The Seventy Sent Out

After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. 

Then He said to them,“The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 

Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. 

Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. 

But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 

6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. 

And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. 

Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. 

And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

10 But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 

11 ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us[b] we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.’ 

12 But[c] I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.

Woe to the Impenitent Cities

13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 

14 But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 

15 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades. 

16 He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

Message

There are three wonderful scenes in this chapter (10) of St. Luke's gospel narratives, which illustrate the threefold ministry of every Christian believer, and they answer the question "What in the world does a Christian do?".

To begin with, we are the Lord's

(a) Ambassadors, sent to represent Him in this world (10:1-24).

(b) Neighbors, looking for opportunities to show mercy in the name of Christ(10:25-37).

But at the heart of all our ministry is devotion to Christ, so we must be

(c) worshipers who take time to listen to His Word and commune with Him (10:38-42).

Ambassadors:

This event should not be confused with the sending out of the Twelve (Matt. 10:5-15; Luke 9:1-11). There are similarities in the charges given, since the both groups were sent by the same Master. The Twelve Apostles ministered throughout Galilee, but these men were sent to Judea. And these men were not called Apostles but they were anonymous disciples ( The Eastern Orthodox church, Byzantine, remember those 70 on January 4 and their names with references are given in the Orthodox Study Bible, page 818).

Why is this event recorded only by Luke, and why did Jesus select Seventy men instead of some other number? ( Some text says Seventy two - I do not know exactly which manuscript, Peshitho?).

Just as the Twelve were associated in number with the twelve sons of Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel, so the Seventy may be associated with the seventy nations listed in Genesis 10.

Luke's emphasis is on the universality of the Gospel message, so it seem reasonable that he would led by the Holy Spirit to include this event. It was a symbolic way of saying "Jesus wants the message spread to all nations". These men were not called 'Apostles' but they were still "sent with a commission' (apostello) to represent the Lord.

They were truly ambassadors of the King. It was a very difficult calling (Luke 10:2). Harvesting is hard work, even there are many people helping us, but these men were sent into a vast field with very few workers to help them to reap a great harvest. Instead of praying for an easier job, they were to pray for more laborers to join them. We need to pray today the same prayer. Please note that it is laborers, not spectators, who pray for more laborers. Too many of us are praying for somebody else to do a job that we are unwilling to do ourselves especially in the mission fields of our Church.

Their calling was a dangerous one as they invaded in the enemy territory (Luke 10:3,17). But as long as they relied on the Lord, they would win the battle. " Any man who takes Jesus Christ seriously becomes the target of the devil. Most church members do not give Satan enough trouble to arouse his opposition" (Vance Havner). It would require discipline and faith for them to do the job (Luke 10: 4-8). There was an urgency about the work, and the Lord did not want them to be overburdened with extra supplies or elaborate greetings. They had to trust God for their shelter and provisions. After all, they were laboring for the Lord and bringing blessings into the home, and the "laborer is worthy of his hire".

The special power Jesus gave to His Apostles (Luke 9:1) and to the Seventy is not ours to claim today. These two preaching missions were very special ministries and God did not promise to duplicate them in our age.

Lord's commission to us emphasizes the proclamation of the message, not the performance of miracles (Matt. 28:19-20 : Luke 24:46-49). Out Lord named three ancient cities that had been judged by God, Sodom (Gen.19); Tyre and Sidon ( Ezek.26-28; Isa. 23), and used them to warn three cities of His day: Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. These three cities had been given more privileges than the three ancient cities, and therefore they had more responsibility.

As Orthodox Christians, are we live up to the will of our Lord? The judgment is more severe for us if we neglect His Words. We are all Christ's ambassadors and indeed privileged lot. Our highest joy is not found in service or even in our salvation, but in being submitted to the sovereign will of the Heavenly Father, for this is the foundation for both service and salvation. May God bless us all.









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