Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Next week is our second Consecration Sunday and celebration luncheon. I really hope you plan on attending this great event because it is important to the life of our church and your personal walk with God. It is important because next week you will be answering the important question of “what percentage of my salary is God asking me to give.” Today it is my job to set the stage for you to be praying about your answer to this question and then come prepared to write that down on an estimate of giving card next week. I truly hope you will RSVP for the free lunch at the Woman’s Club and if you cannot make it I hope you will still participate by filling out a card.
When I thought of what to preach today to set the stage I kept coming back to this well known story in the sixth chapter of John. This chapter in John is filled with three breathtaking stories of Jesus. It starts off with this story, the feeding of the 5000. Then it goes to the story of Jesus walking on the water before ending with a long dialogue about the bread of heaven and what it means to be a follower of Christ and eternal life. It is one of the most beautiful chapters of the entire Bible because Jesus is interacting with large crowds and his small band of misfits called disciples. He is profound in this and challenging in his speech and the miracles he performs have been forever remembered.
Let’s look at this story of the feeding of the 5000. Jesus is traveling along and a large crowd keeps following him. They have been impressed with his healings and they wanted to see and experience more of this amazing man that is doing amazing things. Jesus heads up a mountain and looks over the crowd. Then there is verse 4 which seems to be tossed in there just as a date marker for when this happened but there is something more. The Passover is the important Jewish festival that celebrated the 10th plague in Egypt. The angel of death was coming to wipe out all the first born children and the only reason he knew to “pass over” a house was if there was blood of a freshly slaughtered lamb that covered the door frame of the house. After that plague Pharaoh let the Israelites leave Egypt and then God took care of them in the wilderness for 40 years. All of that is wrapped up into that celebration. During the Passover feast each food represents some point in this exodus. There was the passing through the Red Sea, the manna that fell from heaven and allowed them to survive, and the whole notion that God really cares about and will take care of his people.
It is during this time that Jesus looks over the crowd and then asks the disciples “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” A large crowd of God’s people and come together again, outside the city, far away from a McDonalds, one could say in the wilderness almost, and Jesus is concerned about what people are going to eat. Philip speaks up and informs Jesus that the cost of feeding 5000 people is too much. It is a half of year’s wages that would cover the cost of feeding 5000 people. Plus the bread they could by would only give the people an appetizer, not truly fill them up. We do this also don’t we? We look at a task Jesus asks us to do and we give him the cost analysis of why it is impossible. We place the data into an Excel spreadsheet and out pops the fact that what God is asking us to do is too much and would never work. Yet there is one thing we always forget, this is God we are talking about.
I try to picture this scene in my head. There are 5000 people sitting down wondering what will happen. Their bellies are rumbling and now you have Jesus’ disciples going around asking if anyone has any food they could give. There had to be food there. To believe that in the midst of 5000 people there wasn’t a mom carrying six packs of crackers, some gummies, and water for her kids to keep them quiet during Jesus’ sermon is not a far stretch. If we collected all the food present in this place right now, I am sure we could get enough to feed 5000 people. It wasn’t that there wasn’t food out there, I am sure it was. The issue was only there was only one boy who was willing to share what he had.
The boy had five loaves of barley bread and two dried fish. This was the food of the traveling poor. Out of the 5000 people there that day, a boy was willing to give up his food for the sake of the kingdom. It is no wonder that Jesus tells us we should have faith like a child because only a child would stand up and say “here is all I have, take it Jesus.” Us adults know better. Remember the excel spread sheet? This also said that what we have in our bags isn’t enough to do any type of real work feeding all these people. Now if we were sitting on sixth months of wages or a truck load of bread, then we would be willing to help. But in our adult brains we know that Jesus could not use what we have to offer. It is so little when compared to the need.
Last week we passed out the stair step and the percentage charts. It is a tool to see how what we give compares to what God asks us to give. God asks us to start with 10% of our income. The church word for that is “tithe,” or the first 10th. In an ideal world the first check we should write is at least 10% of our take home pay to the church. That is where we should start. That leaves 90% to live on and maybe give more. For my family, that 10% is impossible at the present moment. We are working hard, from what we learned from Financial Peace University, to head to a financial place where we can give our 10% and more. We are planning on taking small steps to get there and I hope you will plan to do as well.
I was at Duke’s Convocation and Pastor’s School this week and it was an awesome experience to see NT Wright, Andy Crouch and Rob Bell in person. I was able to get into the breakout session with Rob Bell and during his talk, as I had this sermon in my head, he mentioned that the Greek root for gift is the same as participation. This got me intrigued and so I dusted off some of my Greek stuff when I got home and started to do some research. Sure enough this word kept popping up [SLIDE]. Koinonia means a lot in the Greek language. Some of you from the Solomon’s Porch Sunday School might recognize this word from our last study. One of the places we hear of this word is fellowship. This word is used to describe the ideal Christian fellowship, a close mutual relationship, a fellowship of sharing. It is also the word for partnership, participation and contribution and gift. The word that means gift also means participation and also means fellowship.
Let’s have a little fun this morning…[have one person start to sign Row, Row, Row your boat. Bring in some other voices, do a round, ask the piano to come in, until the whole congregation is signing and joining in]
What we have just done is all participated in a moment of fellowship. We all had koinonia. We all contributed in this act and gave our voices as a gift, we gave koinonia. One voice didn’t sound like much but as we added layer upon layer each voice added something, something meaningful and enriching to our worship. One voice wasn’t much but when we add one voice to another, to another, to another soon we have a booming choir and song. It was impressive even.
This is what God can do with our gifts. The boy was willing to offer up what he had, five loaves and two fish and God used that. Jesus took it, blessed it, and then passed it out. Everyone took what they wanted and everyone ate until they were full. Afterwards they collected the leftovers and there were 12 baskets full. Jesus was able to transform five loaves and two fish, a poor boys traveling food, and feed 5000 people, that is almost like each one of us eating 50 times, and then had a huge amount of leftovers. From one little gift all that was possible. From that little moment of koinonia 5000 people experienced a great moment of koinonia.
As we head to our consecration Sunday next week I really want you to be praying about how many loaves and fishes God is asking you to give. God knows your situation and God knows what is possible and what isn’t. But if we hold back our five loaves and two fish because we don’t think it can do much, than we don’t have much faith in God. The boy that day had faith that Jesus could use what little he had. Jesus shows us that if we only give what we have, he can take care of the rest. We simply have to be willing to give. When we don’t our voice is left out of the song and something is missing. We cannot truly be a part of the koinonia, that true Christian fellowship. You may only see five loaves and two fish, but with Jesus that can feed thousands.
And all God’s people said…Amen.