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Sermon and Liturgy For Ordinary 17 - Proper 12 - Year B
II Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145; John 6:1-15
"From Small Beginnings"


READING:  II Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145; John 6:1-15
SERMON :  "From Small Beginnings"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or17su.y-b 890 

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   
   Sources: Elements of the prayer of approach are also from John
   Maynard (maynard@sympac.com.au) "Prayers and Litanies For Ordinary
   17, July 30, 2000; as sent to the PRCL-List, July 25, 2000.  


GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* WORDS OF WELCOME AND CALL TO WORSHIP
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, 
   for God judges the peoples with equity 
   and guides the nations upon the earth.
P  Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you!
L  Praise the Lord, for he provides for those who are in need 
   and answers all those who call upon his name.
P  Give thanks to God, for he is good, 
   his steadfast love endures forever.  
L  God guides his people in the way of righteousness.
P  God blesses us that we might bless one another 
   and bring glory to his name.


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Holy and loving God, we give you thanks today for calling us together in this
time of worship to hear your word and celebrate your righteousness, your
truth, and your mercy.  You are the one from whom every family in heaven and
earth takes its name.  We pray that according to the riches of your grace you
will grant that we may be strengthened in our inner being with power through 
the Spirit and that Christ may dwell in our hearts and show forth his care to
the world through all that we do say and do, both in this hour and in all the
hours to come.  We ask it in his name.  Amen


* HYMN:  "Praise To The Lord, The Almighty"                        - VU 220


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries:
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


ST. ANDREW'S THIS WEEK 
- as needed


* HYMN:  "Jesus, Teacher, Brave and Bold"                          - VU 605


A READING FROM II KINGS 4:42-44
   (NIV)  A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty
   loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some
   heads of new grain.  "Give it to the people to eat," Elisha said. {43}
   "How can I set this before a hundred men?" his servant asked.  But Elisha
   answered, "Give it to the people to eat.  For this is what the LORD says:
   'They will eat and have some left over.'" {44} Then he set it before them,
   and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.


RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 145 (Voices United 866 without refrain) 


A READING FROM JOHN 6:1-15
   (NIV)  Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of
   Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), {2} and a great crowd of people
   followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the
   sick. {3} Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his
   disciples. {4} The Jewish Passover Feast was near. {5} When Jesus looked
   up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where
   shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" {6} He asked this only to
   test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. {7} Philip
   answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one
   to have a bite!" {8} Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's
   brother, spoke up, {9} "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and
   two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" {10} Jesus said,
   "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and
   the men sat down, about five thousand of them. {11} Jesus then took the
   loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as
   they wanted. He did the same with the fish. {12} When they had all had
   enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left
   over. Let nothing be wasted." {13} So they gathered them and filled twelve
   baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who
   had eaten. {14} After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did,
   they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the
   world." {15} Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king
   by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


* HYMN:  "Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God"                        - VU 356


SERMON: "From Small Beginnings" 

   Let us Pray - O God, light of the minds that know you, life of the
   souls that love you, and strength of the thoughts that seek you -
   bless the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts.  Breath
   your life into us that we may live in the manner you have appointed
   unto us and better love and serve you and one another.  Amen

Today's readings present us with the story of two different miracles:
- the story of Elisha, who in the midst of a famine feeds a hundred men with
20 loaves of barley bread
- and the story of Jesus, who when faced with a great crowd of hungry people,
over 5000 men, women, and children according to the other gospel accounts of
this story, feeds them with five loaves and two fish.

Both stories share certain things in common.

Elisha's servant, on being told to feed the men with the offering brought by
the man who came from Baal Shalishah, does not think it possible and
complains to the prophet saying: "How can I set this before a hundred men?"

And with Jesus too, as with Elisha, there is a servant, a disciple, who does
not think it is possible to feed the people with what is available - the five
loaves and two fish offered by the child that Peter's brother, Andrew, had
found in the crowd.

And in both stories - despite these small beginnings, the hungry are fed,
and there are leftovers - indeed in the story involving Jesus there is an
abundance of leftovers - there is more than when the feast first began.

The feeding of the great crowd, as John calls it, is the only miracle that
Jesus did that is described in all four gospels.  For this reason, if no
other, we need to pay close attention to it.  We need to ask ourselves - why 
is this so?  What is it about this miracle - unlike all the other miracles
performed by Jesus - that so catches the attention of the gospel writers.

I think it has to do with at least three separate things.

The first is the fact that this story tells us that Jesus is used of God -
that like Elisha he has God's favour and is able to feed the hungry - much as
the people of Israel were fed by God in the wilderness with Manna.

In fact John goes on after the telling of this story to speak of Jesus as the
bread of heaven come down to earth - the one who is not only able to satisfy
the physical hunger of his people - but their spiritual hunger as well.

Jesus has, and is able to use, the power of God to feed the hungry.

The second thing is that the story shows us not only God's power at work in
Jesus, but also God's care.  God reaches out through Jesus to meet the needs
of those who are following him - much as God reached out through Elisha to
meet the needs of the men who had followed him into the wilderness.

Jesus cares for those who seek him out.  He wants to meet their needs, and he
wants to see their needs met.

The third thing is that the story shows us is that Jesus is able to take what
is offered to him and to multiply it - so that where there first seemed not
enough ends up being more than enough.

It is this latter point that I want to focus on for the remainder of the
sermon.

It has been talked about a lot, this miracle of feeding the great crowd of 
people, and perhaps more than any other miracle, people have tried to figure
out how Jesus did it.

Most people more readily accept the healing stories,
they understand that the mind has a strong effect on health,
that faith can in fact bring about healing.

But multiplying loaves and fish?
this seems more incredible,
more difficult,
and so theories have arisen to explain how it was done.

The most notable theory is that when the boy who had the loaves and fish
shared them with others his example inspired others to bring out what they
had brought with them and share as well.

I can't say how it the loaves and the fish multiplied
nor do I want to try.

But I do want to stress to you the fact that they do,
much as does the offering made to Elisha by the man from Baal Shalishah.

I think that we really need to meditate on that fact.
We really need to consider how too little becomes more than enough
when it is offered to God.

Recall once again the context of the stories we heard this morning.

Think of the story about Elisha.

A man comes to bring the prophet an offering during a famine in Gilgal - some
bread made from the first ripe grain of the season.  It was a faith offering,
the type recommended by Moses in the Torah.

And Elisha, after receiving the offering, says to his servant
"give it to the people to eat".
give it to the hungry ones here with me,
eed them, for they need it.

And what does he get in return - what is said to him?

He is told that it is not possible,
that there will not be enough to go around.

Let us not doubt that assertion.
There was not enough to go round.
   
In the four gospel stories about the feeding of the great crowd we hear
something similar.

Jesus is teaching on a hillside - there are over 5000 people there,
and when evening approaches the disciples become concerned,
they fear that the crowd will go hungry,
and their solution is to ask Jesus to send the crowd away.

But Jesus says to them - you feed them,
and he asks Philip - who was from the region in which the story takes place,
"where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?"

Philip replies   "eight months wages would not buy enough bread to for each
                 one to have a single bite"

Immediately afterwards Andrew, who has found a boy with 5 loaves and two fish
among the crowd, pipes up about his discovery - and then adds - "BUT how far
will they go among so many."

How far indeed.

The scene is set then for us and for our meditation upon it.
There is a great need.  And there are not enough resources to meet that need.

It all sounds so familiar doesn't it?
   
You can hear words like this just about anytime, especially when there are
social or political problems that require an infusion of resources.

- How can we help with what little we have?  We don't even know how we will
we make do ourselves.
- How can we feed so many?  How can we fund so many.  We have so little and
the need is so great.
- What we can do is only a drop in a bucket.  We don't have enough money to
help out.  We don't have what it takes.

And we can also hear the same tune about our emotional and spiritual
resources when confronted with problems of caring for those who are lost and
alone, those caught up in guilt and despair, in doubt and confusion.  The
chorus goes something like this, doesn't it?

We don't have enough time. 
We don't have enough energy.
We aren't smart enough.
We aren't wise enough.
We haven't the training we require.
We aren't professionals.
There aren't enough of us to make a real difference,
there aren't enough of us to get the job done.

But Jesus, like Elisha, didn't listen to this from his disciples, 
rather, like the prophet, he took that which was offered to him in faith,
blessed it, and handed it back to his disciples so that they might distribute
it.

Just as Elisha commanded his servant to give the twenty loaves of bread that
he had received to the people anyway, saying, "They will eat and have some
left over", so Jesus, after giving thanks to God, divided the five loaves and
the two fish, and begins to feed the crowd.

And there was enough to go around.
And there were leftovers - 
so many that there was more than there was to start with.

What voice do we listen to in these stories?

The voices of the disciples - the servants - who say, when told to feed the
crowd - there is not enough - it is impossible.

Or the voice of the one who tells us "feed the people"
and who takes what we have to offer and makes it enough?

Mark, Matthew, and Luke all begin their account of the feeding of the great
crowd by saying when Jesus saw the crowd he had compassion for them, that he
cared for them.

Jesus aks us to do the same - he asks us to care, to have compassion,
and to go out into the world, and teach, and heal, and feed the people.

That is part of the great commissioning found at the end of the gospel of
Matthew - that portion we so often quote in our baptismal services which says
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all that I have commanded you", and that is part of the commissioning 
Jesus imparts to Peter just before his ascension saying   "Do you love me
Peter?" and when Peter says "Yes Lord, you know that I love you.", he says to
him "Feed my sheep".

We are called to be like Jesus - - we are called to feed those in need, to
feed them with both the bread of heaven and the bread worked upon by human
hands.

And we are not left alone in the doing of it.  God's power is promised us in
it.  All we need to do is to do is bring what we have, as did the man of Baal
Shalishah to Elisha and as did the boy on the hillside to Jesus.

To bring it with thanksgiving 
- as Moses commanded.  
To bring it with joy 
- as the boy must surely have brought Jesus his meagre offering.
To bring it - not with regard to what it might or might not be able to do
- but with regard to the one to whom we present it,
with regard to God and God's love.

The story of the loaves and the fish show us that Jesus is used of God, that
he has the power of God   and it shows us too that God cares.  

It also shows us that what is small and insignificant in the face of this
world's need can, when offered to God, be multiplied and provide for the
world what is needed.
 
Miracles all have beginnings,
and almost always those beginnings are to be found within us.

Several years ago I heard the story of a man named Paul.

   Paul had received a special pre-Christmas gift from his brother.  It
   was a beautiful new car - fully loaded and ready to go.  On Christmas
   Eve, when Paul came out of his office, a street kid was walking around
   the shiny new car, admiring it.  "Is this your car, mister?", the kid
   asked.  When he replied that it was., and that his brother had given
   it to him for Christmas, the boy said, "You mean your brother gave it
   to you, and it didn't cost you anything?  Free?  For Nothing?  Gosh,
   I wish..."

   The boy hesitated, and Paul knew what he was about to say.  He had
   heard it many times over the past few days.  He was going to wish he
   had a brother like that.  But what the boy said shocked Paul.

   "I wish", the boy said, "I wish I could be a brother like that."

We can be a brother like that.  Or a sister like that.
All it takes is that we offer ourselves and what we have to God.
All it takes is that we cease to worry about how little we have 
and begin instead to think about what it is that we can offer.

Praise be to God who multiplies that which is given to him,
day by day.  Amen.


* HYMN: "A Little Child The Saviour Came"                          - VU 445


THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY BAPTISM
- Words of Introduction
- Presentation and Promises of Parents
- Profession of Faith and Congregational Promise 
- The New Creed (VU 918 or inside cover)
- Blessing of Water and Act of Baptism
- Presentations and Prayer


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We give you thanks today, O Lord, for welcoming Cameron into your family
this day.  We thank you for caring for the smallest and least in our world. 
Bless we pray David and Karen as they raise him up before you and put upon
him and them the fullness of your love that they may keep the vows and
promises they have made and so become living symbols of your love for all
people....   Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord God - help us to help us to care for one another and for your world. 
Cast out any fear that we have - any sense of inadequacy - any temptation
to despair - and give us the courage, the faith, the discipline, the trust,
and the love we need to offer the gifts that we have for your work in this
world.... Lord hear our prayer....

We pray today, O God, for all those who are in need.  We pray for those who
are sick and who require your tender care...  Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray for those who are hungry and who require our outstretched hands,
our sharing of what we have...  Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray for those who are oppressed and who require our passion and our
courage, our sharing before the rulers of this world of the truth about
your kingdom and your righteousness...  Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray for those who suffer in mind, spirit and in soul and who require
our prayer, our faith, our witness to our hope in you....  Lord, hear our
prayer....

Bless all who are in need this day, O God; both those whom we held up
before you in your sharing time, and those that even now you are bringing
to our hearts and minds as we pray before you...... bless them by your
Spirit, by the testimony and the actions of your Holy Church, and by the
redemption won for them by Christ Jesus, your Son and our Saviour... Lord,
hear our prayer....

We ask all these things through your living and eternal word, Christ Jesus
our Lord, he who taught us to pray to you as our most loving parent,
saying: OUR  FATHER....


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication

   Loving and most gracious God - without your hand of blessing nothing
   that we have has value - but with your presence all is made holy.
   Receive, we pray, these offerings, given in obedience and in
   thanksgiving.  Bless and multiply them for use in your healing work
   - a work in which the hungry are fed, the captives set free, and the
   poor have good news proclaimed to them.  We ask it in Jesus' name. 
   Amen. 


* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Would You Bless Our Homes and Families"        - VU 556


* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
   Christ.


* BENEDICTION
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- and may the love of God rest upon you 
- may the transforming grace and mercy of Christ Jesus dwell within you 
- and may the Holy Spirit uplift and sustain and bless you in God's
service, 
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2003
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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