Reading: Matthew 14:13-21
Some 500 years ago in Germany, an 11 year old boy was having organ lessons from his music teacher. One of the things you have to learn how to do when you are playing the organ, especially for church, is improvise – that is take a well known hymn tune and, on the spot, embellish it, fancy it up, work it up into a new piece of music. It’s a traditional skill that a lot of organists develop over the years.
But this 11 year old boy was finding it hard. “This is hopeless,” he said. “I’ll never be any good at this. I just have not got it in me. I can’t make up music. I just can’t do it.”
His name was Johann Sebastian Bach.
Perhaps not all that many of you are Bach fans, but I guarantee you, almost everyone of you would know one of Bach’s tunes, which have been played and recorded and pinched by pop musicians for the last 200 years. Today he is considered perhaps the greatest composer to have ever lived.
His music is more than good; it has a spiritual, some would say a heavenly, quality about it. And it is actually no surprise that it does, since Bach’s music was not written to show off his musical brilliance, but as worship to God the Father. Almost all Bach’s music was written for church services – it is sacred music, music for God. You see, Bach knew that his music was not his own to profit from, but was indeed given to him by God himself, as an instrument of praise. He felt so strongly about this that he made it a custom to write on the bottom of every score from his hand three letters: SDG, standing for Soli Deo Gloria, or in English: “To God alone be glory.”
And so those words he spoke during his tantrum at the keyboard at the age of 11 were in one way quite true weren’t they – “I just have not got it in me. I can’t do it.” No, but God could, through him. God it was who gave Bach his extraordinary gifts. To him be the glory.
How often doesn’t God take what we have – what’s small and unimpressive and imperfect – and perform miracles with it in order to nourish others.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus does just this.
In our church today he is doing just this.
In your life he is doing just this.
Let’s look at Matthew 14 – especially verses 15-19:
When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘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 said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. (NRSV)
These verses are often missed when people read this story, and not many people get the point that Jesus makes here.
First of all, contrary to popular belief, Jesus does not feed the crowd. He tells the disciples to feed the crowd. “What?” they say. “Jesus, what do you mean? We can’t do that. We do not have enough. All we have between us is five loaves and two fish.”
No where near enough – it would barely be enough for the disciples let alone a huge crowd like that. And what does Jesus reply? “Bring them here to me.” I will take what you have, meagre and inadequate and tiny as it is, and make it a feast, a banquet to feed the hungry. To God alone be the glory.
What little have you got to offer the world or to offer God? What little do we have in our church to offer? Humanly speaking, you and I have very little to offer, far too little to make any difference anyway. Our faith is imperfect. Our leadership skills are imperfect. Our ability to see others’ needs is often poor. Our compassion is not what it could be.
And just look at our hungry world! Look at the people in our own community who are desperate and lost. Look at the generations of kids in our community who do not know Jesus Christ and have not heard the Gospel!
These needs are huge! We can’t cope with all this. We can’t do it – we don’t have enough – enough time, enough courage, enough money, enough energy, enough love. “It’s no good!” We say, like Bach, “It’s just not in us. We can’t do it.”
But Jesus has always specialised in doing miracles with our “not enough”. Just as he did with the disciples, he tells us today, “Go and feed them. You do it.” and when we protest that we can’t because we have so little, he says to us, “Bring it here to me.” And in his hands it is multiplied. It is made something much greater and much more beautiful and much more effective.
If we will only give our little to Jesus instead of giving up, he will take what we bring and make something from it to feed and nourish the hungry people around us – people who are hungry not just for food, but friendship, compassion, understanding, care and love.
And so we bring our little offerings: Our skills. Our money. Our love. Our work. Our food. Our homes. Our hospitality. Our ears. Our hearts.
Never underestimate what you can do in the church or in the community, when it is offered to Jesus. It might be small but God can do miracles and he will do miracles in the lives of other people, if you are prepared to hand over your little to his grace.
God does not ask us to be miracle workers. He only asks us to be obedient. So do not under rate the packet of noodles you put in the food basket, or the basket of ironing you did for the busy mother next door, or the half hour you spent talking to the visitor over morning tea here at church, or the devotion you gave at that committee meeting, or that Sunday School lesson, or that meal where you hosted others and shared with them, or any other small thing you do for others in Christ’s name. And do not draw back from offering your little because you feel it is not enough or not good enough. Jesus says “Bring them here to me.”
As Luther once said: “In his hands these things are mighty and holy works that set the angels singing and bring glory to Almighty God.”
Jesus can change five loaves and two fish into a feast. What we give and do can, and often does, have results and consequences far beyond what we imagine, because God has worked it into a miracle of his love.
To Him alone be the glory.