Reading: Matthew 14:13-21
Some 500 years agoÂ in Germany,Â an 11 year old boy was having organ lessons from hisÂ music teacher. One of the things you have to learn how to do when you areÂ playing the organ, especially for church, is improvise â€“ that is take a wellÂ known hymn tune and, on the spot, embellish it, fancy it up, work it up into aÂ new piece of music. Itâ€™s a traditional skill that a lot of organists developÂ over the years.
But this 11 yearÂ old boy was finding it hard. â€œThis is hopeless,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ll never be anyÂ good at this. I just have not got it in me. I canâ€™t make up music. I just canâ€™tÂ do it.â€
His name was JohannÂ Sebastian Bach.
Perhaps not allÂ that many of you are Bach fans, but I guarantee you, almost everyoneÂ of you would know one of Bachâ€™s tunes, which have been played and recorded andÂ pinched by pop musicians for the last 200 years. Today he is considered perhapsÂ the greatest composer to have ever lived.
His music is moreÂ than good; it has a spiritual, some would say a heavenly, quality about it. AndÂ it is actually no surprise that it does, since Bachâ€™s music was not written toÂ show off his musical brilliance, butÂ as worship to God the Father. Almost all Bachâ€™s music was written for churchÂ services â€“ it is sacred music, music for God. You see, Bach knew that his musicÂ was not his own to profit from, but was indeed given to him by God himself, asÂ an instrument of praise. He felt so strongly about this that he made it aÂ custom to write on the bottom of every score from his hand three letters: SDG,Â standing for Soli Deo Gloria, or inÂ English: â€œTo God alone be glory.â€
And so those wordsÂ he spoke during his tantrum at the keyboard at the age of 11 were in one way quiteÂ true werenâ€™t they â€“ â€œI just have not got it in me. I canâ€™t do it.â€ No, but GodÂ could, through him. God it was who gave Bach his extraordinary gifts. To him be the glory.
How often doesnâ€™tÂ God take what we have â€“ whatâ€™s small and unimpressive and imperfect â€“ andÂ perform miracles with it in order to nourish others.
In the GospelÂ reading today, Jesus does just this.
In our church todayÂ he is doing just this.
In your life he isÂ doing just this.
Letâ€™s look atÂ Matthew 14 â€“ especially verses 15-19:
WhenÂ it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, â€˜This is a deserted place,Â and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into theÂ villages and buy food for themselves.â€™ Jesus said to them, â€˜They need not goÂ away; you give them something to eat.â€™ They replied, â€˜We have nothing here butÂ five loaves and two fish.â€™ And he said, â€˜Bring them here to me.â€™ Then heÂ ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the twoÂ fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave themÂ to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. (NRSV)
These verses areÂ often missed when people read this story, and not many people get the pointÂ that Jesus makes here.
First of all,Â contrary to popular belief, Jesus does not feed the crowd. He tells the disciples to feed the crowd.Â â€œWhat?â€ they say.Â â€œJesus, what do you mean? We canâ€™t do that. We do not have enough. All we haveÂ between us is five loaves and two fish.â€
No where near enough â€“ it would barely be enoughÂ for the disciples let alone a huge crowd like that. And what does Jesus reply? â€œBringÂ them here to me.â€ I will take what youÂ have, meagre and inadequate and tiny as it is, and make it a feast, a banquetÂ to feed the hungry. To God alone be the glory.
What little haveÂ you got to offer the world or to offer God? What little do we have in ourÂ church to offer? Humanly speaking,Â you and I have very little to offer, far too little to make any differenceÂ anyway. Our faith is imperfect. Our leadership skills are imperfect. OurÂ ability to see othersâ€™ needs is often poor. Our compassion is not what it couldÂ be.
And just look atÂ our hungry world! Look at the people in our own community who are desperate andÂ lost. Look at the generations of kids in our community who do not know JesusÂ Christ and have not heard the Gospel!
These needs areÂ huge! We canâ€™t cope with all this. WeÂ canâ€™t do it â€“ we donâ€™t have enough â€“ enough time, enough courage, enough money,Â enough energy, enough love. â€œItâ€™s no good!â€ We say,Â like Bach, â€œItâ€™s just not in us. We canâ€™t do it.â€
But Jesus hasÂ always specialised in doing miracles with our â€œnot enoughâ€. Just as he did withÂ the disciples, he tells us today, â€œGo and feed them. You do it.â€ and when weÂ protest that we canâ€™t because we have so little, he says to us, â€œBring it hereÂ to me.â€ And in his hands it is multiplied. It is made something much greaterÂ and much more beautiful and much more effective.
If we will onlyÂ give our little to Jesus instead of giving up, he will take what we bring andÂ make something from it to feed and nourish the hungry people around us â€“ peopleÂ who are hungry not just for food, but friendship, compassion, understanding, careÂ and love.
And so we bring ourÂ little offerings: Our skills. Our money. Our love. Our work. Our food. Our homes. Our hospitality. Our ears. Our hearts.
Never underestimateÂ what you can do in the church or in the community, when it is offered to Jesus.Â It might be small but God can do miracles and he will do miracles in the lives of other people, if you are preparedÂ to hand over your little to his grace.
God does not ask us to be miracle workers. He only asksÂ us to be obedient. So do not under rate the packet of noodles you put in theÂ food basket, or the basket of ironing you did for the busy mother next door, orÂ the half hour you spent talking to the visitor over morning tea here at church,Â or the devotion you gave at that committee meeting, or that Sunday SchoolÂ lesson, or that meal where you hosted others and shared with them, or any otherÂ small thing you do for others in Christâ€™s name. And do not draw back fromÂ offering your little because you feel it is not enough or not good enough. JesusÂ says â€œBring them here to me.â€
AsÂ Luther once said: â€œIn his hands these things are mighty and holy works that setÂ the angels singing and bring glory to Almighty God.â€
Jesus can changeÂ five loaves and two fish into a feast. What we give and do can, and often does,Â have results and consequences far beyond what we imagine, because God has workedÂ it into a miracle of his love.
To Him alone be the glory.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â