Thank you for joining us for worship. Sundays, August 7 and 14, our in-person worship will not take place. These are two Sundays we have chosen to encourage our members to attend other churches and learn how other churches are worshipping God.
Our in-person gathering will take place on August 21 at 9:30 am. Please take note of time.
Minister is taking the month of August off. He will return on September 1.
If you have any pastoral concerns, please contact any elder.
Call to Worship (Psalm 33:12-22)
Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.
The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind.
From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth--
he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds.
A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save.
Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
In wonder of your creation, we come with hearts of worship. To you alone we bring ourselves and humbly bow before you. Receive us as your people who, though sojourn in the world filled with sin as sinners, come on your grace that have called us into your presence. Be pleased. On your Son’s account receive our worship. On your Spirit’s account, be glorified by the very human worship we offer you. All these we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 9:12-17
Sermon: Jesus and food
It's BBQ season. What a wonderful time to have BBQs and enjoy company. This is the time to get together with family and friends. Canadians have been extremely busy trying to catch up and do things we could not do in the past two COVID lockdown summers. Sadly, though, we are seeing increasing infections again. Our summer joys are dotted with reserved fear and concerns. We are not totally free to enjoy as much as we can. We are still cautious and careful as we gather and share summer laughs with one another.
There, however, is a fly in our ointment. Food prices are soaring. This is the time that food prices ought to come down or at least be stable in normal circumstances. However, the trouble at the moment is that with the excuse of war in Ukraine taking so many resources of all kinds, the world has been told that life has to match the scarcity of food and resources that deliver food to us. As prices soar, people are becoming more anxious each day about what it means to live with hunger. In the meantime, we hear stories of more and more people depending on foodbanks. Of course, we are told that Russia, who has lots of gas and fertilisers which are needed for Europe and many parts of the world, needs to be punished for invading Ukraine with sanctions and blockades. End result of this war in Ukraine, as we are told, is that prices have to increase.
In the meantime, this economic system that supplies our needs day to day is affecting the poorest of the poor the most. The super-rich and the mega- rich are not worried about their daily lives. Their wealth has grown leaps and bounds in the past few years. There seems to be no worries among the UberRich class. The rest of us are not doing so well. We are getting ready for an extended time of fear and anxiety. As interest rates increase, talks of wars ramp up, and things appear to fall apart all over the place, we begin to wonder if there are things we can do for ourselves to prevent massive failures. We are not the ones who want to let terrible things happen to us if we can help avert the oncoming disasters.
We often heard sermons on this passage. It is a favourite passage for many people. Sunday school children remember the “five loaves and two fish” song. Yes, the story of five loaves and two fish has been embedded in our minds since our childhood. Why are we so enchanted with this story? Is it because we seek for miracles so that everyone can be fed plentifully? Is it because we can imagine ourselves receiving something, too? Or is it because we imagine ourselves to be like the one who brought this very meagre amount of food? Interestingly, unlike Matthew, in Luke’s description, the disciples had among themselves five loaves and two fish. The amount of food was not even enough to satisfy Jesus and the disciples.
Of course, this story defies logic. This is why many people simply consider it as a fanciful and magical story that was designed for making Jesus God-like. Today’s focus for us is a bit different. Of course, in our world where life revolves around supply and demand economics it is hard to see the benefits of telling this kind of phantastical story. We would also miss the point of the story if we concentrated simply on understanding the story in our own context. Even if we modernise the story and say that the disciples told Jesus they had five loaves of bread and two hamburger patties, the story would not escape this fairy tale like result.
Let’s take a look at the story itself to see it from a bit different perspective. First, we see the concerns of disciples for these tired and hungry people. They notice the time as well as the state in which people are. So they bring people’s needs to Jesus, “Send the crowd away…” so that they could find something to buy and nourish themselves as well as a place to stay for the night. A very simple, but necessary request. It is not good for so many people to go hungry. Jesus responded, “You give them something to eat.” If, indeed, the disciples cared for the crowd, then, Jesus seemed to be saying that looking after the needs of the people was one of the responsibilities the disciples needed to engage first and foremost in a concrete and tangible way. They ought to help with what they have, not dismissing the crowd whom they cared for. Indeed, if we have our yards full of visitors who came to see us, we certainly would do our best to feed them, wouldn’t we?
What if we did not have much? What if what we have is not enough food for those who are in our houses visiting us? How could we feed all those who showed up unannounced? As I think about these questions, I remember hearing from many people who told me stories of their mothers during the great depression. Often the stories had similar statements. For example, “My mother always had something for everyone,” “She never turned anyone away hungry,” “She always managed to find something to cook when people came to visit.” How did mothers who were all going through depressions at the same time would feed people without having much? Yet, I heard these stories over and over.
There are also stories like “Stone Soup” that tell us about how sharing what little people have on their own can make a feast for an entire village. Here is the story as told by Canada Foodgrains Bank.
Once upon a time, a wise old man decided to go on a journey. So he packed a small bag, said goodbye to his wife, and set off. He travelled all day without meeting anyone. When it was evening, he came to a small village. “I think I’ll stop here for the night,” he said to himself.
Near the centre of the village, he met a group of people. So he introduced himself. “I’m a simple traveller,” he said, “looking for a safe place to sleep and a hot meal.”
“We’d be glad to offer you a place to sleep,” the villagers told him, “but we have very little food. Our crops were very poor this year, and there’s not much to eat in the whole village. Most of us are just barely getting by.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” the old man said. “But you needn’t worry about feeding me. I already have everything I need. In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you.”
“Stone soup?” the villagers asked. “What’s that? We’ve never heard of stone soup.”
“Oh, it’s wonderful,” said the old man. “Best soup I’ve ever tasted. If you bring me a soup pot and some water, I’ll make some for all of us.”
And so the villagers rushed back to their homes. When they returned, one was carrying a large soup pot, another had wood for a fire, and others brought water.
When the fire was going and the water had begun to boil, the old man took out a small silk pouch. With great ceremony, he reached in and pulled out a smooth, round stone. He carefully dropped the stone into the boiling water. The villagers watched eagerly. The old man began to slowly stir the pot, sniffing the aroma and licking his lips in anticipation. “I do like a tasty stone soup,” he said. “Of course, stone soup with cabbage—now that’s really special.”
“I might be able to find a bit of cabbage,” one villager said. And off she went to her house, returning with a small cabbage she had stored away in her pantry. “Wonderful!” said the old man, as he added the cabbage to the pot. “This reminds me of the time I had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salted beef. It was unbelievably good.”
After a moment of silence, the village butcher spoke up. “I know where there’s a bit of salted beef,” he said. And off he went to his shop to get it. When he returned, the old man added the beef to the soup pot and continued to stir.
“Can you imagine what this soup would taste like if we had a bit of onion…and perhaps a few potatoes…and a carrot or two…and some mushrooms. Oh, this would be a meal fit for royalty.”
And before he knew it, the soup pot was filled to the brim with vegetables of all kinds— carrots and potatoes, mushrooms and onions, turnips and green beans, beets and celery—all brought by the men and women and children of the village. Not only that, but the village baker came out with some fresh bread and butter.
And as the soup simmered slowly over the fire, the wonderful aroma began to waft over the villagers. And they began to relax and talk together, sharing songs and stories and jokes.
When the soup was finally done, the old man ladled it out into bowls, and they all shared a delicious meal together. There was more than enough for everyone to eat their fill. Afterward, they all declared that it was the best soup they had ever tasted. The mayor of the village pulled the old man aside, and quietly offered him a great deal of money for the magic stone, but the old man refused to sell it.
The next morning, he woke early and packed up his belongings. As he was leaving the village, he passed by a group of children playing at the side of the road. He handed the youngest one the silk pouch containing the stone, and he whispered, “It was not the stone that performed the magic. It was all of us together.”
Immediate reaction of the disciples to Jesus’ instruction to feed the crowd was to say that they had so little. In many ways, our reaction to all those who are in need is also to say that we have so little. Yet, what Jesus does is to have what little his disciples had to feed the entire people who were there. The point of Stone Soup is that with what little each person had the entire village was able to feast. Of course, it was more than simply the soup itself that made the evening. People were sharing, talking, and laughing together as they waited. Can we not imagine the same thing happening with those who were seated and waited for their portions from the disciples? Fellowship of sharing, talking, and laughing certainly makes the ordinary gathering into a glimpse of eternal life.
Can we imagine ourselves also answering Jesus’ instruction to give those who are hungry something to eat when we have so little ourselves? When we are willing to give what little we have, then, those neighbours in need can be satisfied once Jesus blesses what we bring to him and distribute what little we have. It is true that we as a dwindling faith community have very little in our possession. What Jesus can do with what little we offer is a totally different story. In faith, we bring very little that we have. In God’s grace, Jesus blesses all his people.
What a joy it is for us to know that you are the great God who welcomes our prayers! What blessing it is for this world to know that the one who created heaven and earth and all there in takes time to hear our needs and concerns. In this gladness, full of gratitude, we bring our prayers. O Lord, hear our prayers.
As the world continues its way of destruction through wars, climate change, greed, and hatred, we come in confidence that you are our redeemer who fills us with hope and life. Fill us with your love so that we may live each day as ones who love you and our neighbours.
We ponder and despair often in our weak faith. We search for hope and life in ways of humanity. We put our confidence in human abilities to think and solve problems. Yet, time and again our failures and our frailties remind us how we are inept and powerless in solving the very problems we have created in order to make our lives comfortable and safe. Forgive our foolish ways. Make us your Son’s people who deny themselves to follow the one whom you sent to reconcile us to yourself.
We pray for those who suffer pain, hunger, poverty, fear, anxiety, loss, and are in darkness of despair. We do not know how to help them. Help us to be your healing hand by being present as your presence. Make us ones who share your love with all who suffer. Give us courage to be faithful to them each moment.
There are many things we have not said in this prayer. We summarise them in the words your Son taught us. Hear our needs and concerns as we pray together, Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed would be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins as forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.
In response to you unending love, we bring our gifts to you. By the Spirit, open our eyes and hearts to see how this world needs your life-giving love. Help us to use these gifts to serve our neighbours so that your love may be shared in ways that they, too, may enjoy your blessings. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Hymn: In His time