(Click HERE to listen/watch this service – begins at the 12-minute mark, sermon begins at 20-minute mark)
“Fish Your Wish and Count Your Dough!”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Welcome to Church, people!! This is our SECOND month of actual physical gathering since the middle of March! I have loved being in the same room with people while we sing and pray!! There’s only about 25 of us in the room together – there’s more in the Adult Sunday School Room – and so we’re still on-line on Zoom and Facebook Live for those who could not be here today – for all kinds of reasons.
Welcome to this “gathering” in God’s name. We are assembled in NorthEast Spokane, WA, along with people from all over the world. We are very glad you are “here” with us.
For those who made it into the building this morning – thank you for wearing your masks and following the seating and walking protocols. And just a quick word about our gathering – the COVID numbers are not decreasing and Governor Inslee is suggesting that we might be moving back to Phase 1 in WA. What that means is that it is a possibility that we might not be meeting together sometime this month. Our Elders are listening to CDC guidelines and deciding on what seems best practices for each others’ safety. We love you, and we want everyone to be and to stay well.
Restrooms are open, but we are hoping you can “hold it” until you get back home, so there will be as few people as possible using the facilities. And, while we’re just sitting here, you can probably take your masks off – keep your “distance”. When we sing or do any responsive readings, please pull your masks back up.
Be filled with God’s Holy Spirit presence and power, in your homes, through your phones and computers, and in your lives. Feel free to laugh at our efforts … and pray with us … and hear and be transformed by God’s Word.
Listen now and join in as Pastor Kathy leads us in our Call to Worship: from Psalm 17 listen to the praise and hope in the psalmist’s voice – and claim his faith and trust as your own.
Our song of praise today invites us into God’s presence and to proclaim His wonder to the world around us – Shout to the North and the South –
Through the Written Word,
And endorsed by our spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For those of you who have ever been married, you’ll understand this. You know how when two people from different families and different lifestyles try to combine and find the common ground – it’s hard, right? – they also discover surprising disputes that pop up completely unexpectedly.
For Jennifer and me, one of those surprising differences was in how we play games. Jennifer’s family is a very adept card-playing family – and by “adept” I mean competitive! Even in simple children’s cards games – like Go Fish. “Do you have any 4s” – “Go fish!” “Ha! I fished my wish!” That was a totally new phrase and level of card-playing caring to me!
My family played games like Monopoly! But, as you know, and the reason “nobody” really likes this game, it takes for.ever! And so, before the game is actually ever finished – bed-time, or summer-ends, or off-to-college – and so someone says, “That’s it. Count your dough!” And whoever has the most money wins.
“Fish Your Wish” and “Count Your Dough” became catch-phrases for two very different families’ game-playing-mentalities.
They are also the catch-phrases of today’s Bible story from Matthew 14 – a Bible story almost everybody is familiar with because it is one of the few that are included in all four Gospels!
Matthew 13 tells of huge crowds coming to Jesus and listening to Him teach using parables. Then in Matthew 14 John the Baptist is killed – beheaded by Herod – and we come to today’s story – Jesus is both physically exhausted and emotionally drained – that’s the set-up for what comes next.
Listen to story of grace and truth from Matthew 14:13-21 – Listen for how they “fish their wish” and what it means to “count their dough” …. —- [The screen will show this passage.]
14 13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Matthew 14:3-12 is a flashback, telling the story of Herod’s birthday party—and Herodias’ scheming—and the daughter’s dance—and Herod’s promise—and John’s head on a platter. That is followed by our text, the story of the feeding of the five thousand.
What a contrast between Herod’s gruesome dinner party and the meal that Jesus provides for the 5,000! Herod’s party is characterized by opulence—Jesus’ meal by bread, the most basic of foods. Herod’s party is characterized by hatred—Jesus’ meal by compassion. The host at Herod’s party is a petty tyrant whose only concern is his own power and well-being. The host at Jesus’ meal is a compassionate Savior whose concern is the well-being of those who have come to see Him. Herod’s party ends in death—Jesus’ meal offers life. The contrast could not be more deliberate or complete.
This is a three-act story: Compassion – Abundance/Providence – Eucharist-like fore-shadowing.
Let’s look at the Compassion Act first. Matthew doesn’t tell us where Jesus goes to be alone – or really even why.
It could be fear, or at least caution. Herod might well conclude that it is necessary to kill Jesus after having killed John. The word “withdraw” (Greek: anechoresen) occurs five times in Matthew in previous chapters, each time in response to danger (2:12, 14, 22; 4:12; 12:14). However, while Jesus has cause for fear, we don’t see Him acting fearfully elsewhere and there is no reason to believe that fear motivates Him here. But it could be timing. On another occasion, Jesus chose not to go to Jerusalem because “My time has not yet come” (John 7:5). Jesus came to die, but there is a time to die and it is not yet Jesus’ time.
It could be grief over John’s death. John was family and more than family, he had come to prepare the way for Jesus and, at Jesus’ request, had baptized Jesus. He was a close friend, a trusted colleague, and a family member. Even though Jesus can put John’s death in a larger context, hearing of John’s death surely must grieve Him. If He can feel compassion for the crowds (v. 14), He can also grieve the death of His cousin. Jesus surely needs time alone—time to grieve—time to heal—time to prepare.
Whatever it was – Jesus wanted, needed, some time alone. How frustrating to need time alone and to be invaded by more crowds! Jesus has every reason to be angry with the crowd for interrupting His solitude. Instead, He has compassion on them and heals their sick.
“Jesus went out, and he saw a great multitude. He had compassion on them, and healed their sick” (14:14). Jesus’ compassion eclipses His need for solitude.
Next, the Abundance/Providence Act. Just as Jesus felt compassion for the crowds in verse 14, the disciples also feel compassion in verse 15. They are surely hungry themselves, and can imagine the misery that awaits the crowd unless someone takes action.
Their approach to Jesus is unusual. They do not address Jesus as Lord, but they explain the obvious, “This place is deserted, and the hour is already late” (v. 15). They then issue an order, “Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food” (v. 15). They assume that Jesus is so caught up in ministry that He has failed to notice the fading sunlight. They feel a responsibility to bring Him back to reality—to prompt Him to act sensibly.
The disciples are concerned for the crowds, but they are also concerned for Jesus. A crowd can quickly become a riotous mob if not managed properly. Even if things don’t go that far, the good will that Jesus has generated will dissolve if the crowd goes away hungry. The disciples are also concerned for themselves. In a crisis, Jesus will want them to do something—and they can’t imagine what they can do.
“They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat” (v. 16). The word, “you,” is emphatic in the Greek—“YOU give them something to eat.” The obedience of the disciples was important to this miracle just as our obedience is important to the kingdom today.
Christ takes our contribution, however limited, and makes it enough.
Christ takes that which we have to give, however little, and makes it sufficient. When a widow pleaded with Elisha for help, Elisha asked, “What do you have in the house?” She replied that she had nothing except a pot of oil. Elisha told her to borrow pots from her neighbors, and to pour oil from her pot into the other pots. When she obeyed, her little bit of oil became sufficient to fill all the pots. Elisha then said, “Go, sell the oil, and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest” (2 Kings 4:7). In giving blessings, God often uses what we have on hand.
“YOU give them something to eat” continues to challenge Christians today. We live in a world full of hungry people and pray that Jesus might do something. He responds, “YOU give them something to eat.” The church has often risen to the challenge, providing food, clothing, shelter, and medical care to people in the far corners of the world. LPC does this for a few in Kenya as well as our own neighborhood!
The disciples respond, “We only have here five loaves and two fish” (v. 17). The disciples emphasize not what they have, but what they don’t have. They see not possibilities, but problems. Their assessment is right on the mark. The disciples have five loaves and two fish—seven items—enough for a small family—but the crowd spreads across the horizon. Not only have they assessed the food supply rightly, but they also have a point in their assessment of Jesus. He obviously needs someone to confront Him—to bring Him to His senses—to make Him face reality. “Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food.” Act now, before this situation turns ugly. Send them away. End the day on a positive note, Jesus! End it now!
Just as they doubted God in the wilderness, saying, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” (Psalm 78:19), now Jesus’ disciples doubt His ability to feed the hungry crowd.
We are always tempted to believe, as the disciples did, that we have nothing to offer in the face of overwhelming need. Millions of people are hungry, and we have nothing to offer except a small box of canned goods. Millions of people are affected by this COVID virus, and we have nothing to offer except a few dollars. Millions of people lose their homes and livelihood to war or natural disaster or a failing economy, and we have nothing to offer except prayers and a few blankets.
In such situations, we are prone either to despair or to defer to Big Government. The church is poor, but Congress has plenty. Perhaps we can fulfill our obligation by persuading politicians to do something.
One problem with that approach is practical. Governments are inherently inefficient, taking a dollar from our pockets and absorbing 90c for their own purposes. Their top-down programs seldom work as promised. In many cases, little aid reaches the little people.
Another problem is theological. In whom do we really trust? Where do we believe power really lies? No, God’s supplies are abundant – and He provides in miraculous ways! As imago dei, God’s image-bearers, we can live with abundance and watch God use us in His Kingdom purposes every day!
The last Act looks forward to the Eucharist/Communion. “Bring them here to me” (v. 18). Dale Bruner, retired Whitworth Bible professor, says that in the disciples’ hands, five loaves and two fish are not much, but there are other hands here—Jesus’ hands. If Jesus can touch a leper and make him whole, perhaps he can make something of this meager food supply. The disciples have added five and two and gotten seven. They need to learn to count to eight. They need to include Jesus in their equation.
This is an important word for the church today. Most churches struggle just to keep the doors open and the bills paid. How can we expect to do anything meaningful to relieve world hunger—or address any number of horrendous problems? We say, “We have only seven dollars.” Jesus says, “Bring them here to me.” We, too, need to learn to count to eight.
“He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass” (v. 19). This is a bold move, because it raises expectations. Now the whole crowd will focus its attention on Jesus to see what He will do next.
“and He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitudes” (v. 19). Jesus takes action once the disciples bring Him the five loaves and two fish. He does more than just share the crowd’s pain—He feeds them. First, He orders them to sit on the grass. Then He looks to heaven and blesses and breaks the loaves. Then He gives the bread (but not the fish) to the disciples. To this point, there is no indication that any miracle has taken place.
When Jesus gives thanks for the bread and breaks it for distribution, He is doing what any Jewish man would typically do for his family at the beginning of a meal.
The disciples distribute the bread, and “They all ate, and were filled” (v. 20). This is the first indication that anything special has happened. It means they were all full to satisfaction. Jesus uses this word earlier to promise that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled (Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5).
This suggests a Godly blessing rather than some sort of natural process. It is a divine rather than a human enterprise.
“They took up twelve baskets full of that which remained left over from the broken pieces” (v. 20). Twelve is an important Biblical number. There were twelve tribes of Israel and twelve apostles. The number twelve seems to indicate a kind of spiritual purpose.
In the manna miracle, people were not permitted to keep leftovers, but Jesus is greater than Moses, and He has the disciples gather twelve baskets of food after they have eaten their fill.
The abundance of the leftovers, especially as contrasted with the small quantity of food with which Jesus started, emphasizes the grand scope of the miracle.
There is no mention of wonderment on the part of the crowd. Perhaps they are unaware that a miracle has taken place. Nor is there any mention of wonderment on the part of the disciples—and they do know that Jesus has somehow multiplied the little bit of food that they brought Him.
The Eucharistic character of the feast is evident in the verbs. Jesus took, blessed, broke and gave … only the bread (not the fish) to his disciples for distribution.
Also note the parallels between Matthew’s account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and his account of the Lord’s Supper in chapter 26. Eugene Boring, Bible commentator points out:
14:15 “when evening had come”
26:20 “when evening had come”
14:19 “sit down” (Greek: anaklithenai)
26:20 “He was reclining” (Greek: anekeito from the same root as anaklithenai)
14:19 “He took the five loaves”
26:26 “took bread”
14:19 “He blessed”
26:26 “gave thanks”
14:19 “broke and gave the loaves to the disciples”
26:26 “broke it. He gave it to the disciples”
And the Eucharistic theme continues even after the meal has been served. The disciples not only distribute the bread, but also collect the broken pieces following the meal. Some scholars treat this as stewardship of precious food, but it makes more sense as a respectful (if anticipatory) gesture of concern for the broken body of Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church does not allow any of the Communion elements to go to waste!
This story leaves us asking what really happened. Several interpretations have been proposed:
• This is a miracle of abundance. Jesus took a small amount of food and multiplied it many times over by Godly power.
• The parallels with the feeding of Israel with manna in the wilderness are important. Jews had come to believe that the messiah would repeat the manna miracle, so this miraculous feeding is a strong sign affirming Jesus’ messiahship.
The real questions are: What do we think of miracles? What do we think of God? Do we believe that God intervenes in our world? If God does intervene, is there any reason to believe that Jesus did not provide massive quantities of food to feed this crowd? Is there any reason to doubt that God is able to provide for us today?
“Those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (v. 21). Whatever happened, it was truly amazing! Early on, the story establishes that there is an impending crisis for which the disciples have no answer.
As the story unfolds, wonderment grows. There are only five loaves and two fish, but “all ate and were filled.” Amazing! We cannot imagine how they were filled—except by the grace of God.
And then we learn that the disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers—more than they had when they started. Amazing!
And then we learn that there were five thousand men, plus their families – 15,000-20,000(?!), a truly great crowd. Amazing!
Through faith is Jesus – this crowd, and you and I – fish our wish – and in the end we count our bread-dough in twelve baskets of overflowing abundance!
Compassion – Abundant Providence – God’s Abundant Compassion Provided through Jesus Christ!
Can we live into that faith – and might our neighbors know God’s Abundant Compassion Provided through Jesus Christ by knowing us?
As we move into a time of prayer together – let me talk with our kids for a minute – all-y’all can listen in:
Have you ever watched a wrestling match? Wrestling is a popular sport all over the world. Wrestlers have to be strong and determined to win. Wrestling isn’t a modern invention, though. It’s one of the oldest sports in the world, and it dates back thousands of years.
Have everyone show you their best wrestler face and pose.
In today’s Bible lesson, Jacob spent an entire night wrestling with an angel of God. After an entire night of wrestling, God’s angel told Jacob to walk away. Jacob left the wrestling match with a new name and a limp from his hurt hip.
We sometimes struggle with God, too. We may want to do things our way instead of His way. When is it hard for you to obey God? (Allow time for responses.)
Dear God, please help us remember that You are the One who knows what’s best for us.
We can surrender to Your will and trust You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Prayer – LPC’s Day-2-Pray
- For the preaching of God’s Word and the praising of His name in every local expression of the Body;
- That unbelievers will be drawn by the Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit to respond;
- That Lidgerwood Church develops further unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace with other churches in our area;
- That our children and youth will be trained up and grow in Christ-likeness;
- That the reopening of all our church buildings would happen with faithfulness and wisdom;
Prayer Page – And now – call out a name, a place, a people, a situation, you are lifting to the Lord in prayer ….
[Lord’s Prayer] Amen.
– Offering (4449 N Nevada St, Spokane, WA 99207 ; or click HERE)
Friends, today we experience something that is still new to the whole Christian Community – I mean, this the fourth time we’ve done this, but we are the first generation to wrestle with this as a possible thing to do – we’re still doing On-line Communion, along with the Communion that we who have gathered together are able to share.
There has been much debate – over the theology and over the praxis of – celebrating the Communion meal … while not in actual communion with each other, and in our case here in this room together, from wafers and cups that have not been broken or poured from a single loaf or bottle.
So, to set the record for us – we are still in an unusual life-circumstance wherein keeping distant from each other is the wise option for health – so this is an unusual, irregular, and not-to-be-made-normal practice.
“Virtual Communion” draws from something in the past (the actual sharing of Communion that we have previously experienced and that we read about in the New Testament) and looks forward to something in the future (the restoration of this practice once the present constraints are relaxed).
This should remind us that our usual practices have exactly the same status!
And we look forward to something even much greater—a feast in the Kingdom of Heaven, where our sharing is not just a morsel, but a fully satisfying abundant feast on God and all His abundant goodness with all of creation. Today, in our homes, or when we are restored back to our Christian communities, we experience a mere foretaste of a much fuller reality.
What matters here is not what we offer to God, but what God offers to us, His whole people, of every color and culture, gathered together, to receive both Christ and “all the abundance of His Passion” as we remember Him in the bread and the cup.
So … from geographically afar, but in Christ, gathered in His name over our phones, tablets and computers … using whatever elements we might have in our own homes … we invite you to …
Join Pastor Kathy as she leads us in prayer – the words will appear on your screens in just a moment – we’ll keep you muted, but please feel free to pray along with Kathy:
As Christ sat in that Upper Room, with His disciples, He took the simplest elements of the Passover Meal and made them far more powerfully meaningful. For those of you at home, follow along with me, for those here in this room or upstairs in the overflow room, wait until after ….:
Jesus took the “bread”, and He blessed it and broke it, and said, “This is my Body broken for you, every time you eat of this, do so in memory of me” – as we receive the gift of broken bread, “together”, receive also Jesus as the true Bread of Life….
And He took “the cup”, gave thanks and blessed it, saying “this cup is the Cup of Redemption, the New Covenant, my blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins, every time you drink of this, do so in memory of me” – He also said that He would “not drink of the fruit of the vine again until He sees us in Paradise” – so we look forward to when we shall do this together in person, face-to-face again, and even more-so in the Heavenly Kingdom, face-to-face with Jesus Himself! – as we receive the gift of “this” cup poured out, receive also Christ’s abundant love and the cup that runneth over of God’s abundance for all!
For those gathered here, our Deacons will serve you, if you require help in opening the sealed wafer and cup, just raise your hand, someone will be by to help.
Expedition Song – Break Thou the Bread of Life! ….
Next Sunday, like we did today – please RSVP to us if you plan to attend so we can properly set up – and please CALL IN or email or text – so we can share with you what the plans will be – whether we will be allowed to continue to meet or not.
We close with this benediction. Repeat after me:
Grow in the grace and knowledge… [repeat]
Of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… [repeat]
Empowered by His Holy Spirit… [repeat]
Be His people everywhere… [repeat]
And give Him the glory… [repeat]
Now and forever more…! [repeat] Amen
Boring, M. Eugene, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. VIII; Nashville, TN; Abingdon; 1995; P. 324.
Bruner, Frederick Dale, Matthew: Volume 2, The Churchbook, Matthew 13-28; Dallas, TX; Word; 1990; P. 528.
Donovan, Richard Niell; https://sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/matthew-1413-21/
www.Sermons4kids.com Jacob Wrestles with God