A lot out of nothing.


Jesus makes much of our little

Sermon:  11th Sunday after Pentecost
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.       

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