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More than enough - Matthew 14:13-21

Facebook has many advantages, apart from being told when your friends are having coffee or their hair done. It is a way to keep connected with many interesting things in our world. Every day I get a post from the Michael Leunig Appreciation Group, and last week, one cartoon was about table restaurant legs – “The old ways … the true ways”.

I don’t often look at the comments, but did on this occasion, for some reason. The comments were about what you could use to prop up the short leg – a coaster, napkin, some matches.

But while it is a fairly inconsequential cartoon, I don’t think it was about restaurant table leg shorteners, but about disrupters – those things or people in our life who cause a disruption or irritation for no real purpose, but which require effort and energy to restore to normal. So for me the conversation about tools to fix the leg miss the point.

Sometimes our interpretation of Jesus’ miracles are a bit like this. We want to explain how Jesus might have walked on water, how water could have ever turned into wine and so on.

The miracle of the feeding of the 5000 presents this possibility of it being a short-legged table, and we want a solution or an answer to the mystery.

This is the only miracle story of Jesus that is recorded in all the Gospels, so we can regard it as significant.

Reading through each of the accounts in the four Gospels, we see that there are various and interesting, small differences which are fascinating to explore – but we won’t this time.

When the disciples, worried that the crowds were hungry and tired as darkness approached, came to Jesus to tell them to go off to buy food, the Lord replied, They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat. 

It seems a strange thing to say. Was this a test? ‘You give them something to eat’.

Matthew records Jesus as saying to the disciples on one occasion, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’. (Matthew 17:20).

 If it was a test of their faith, the disciples declined to take it on, and Jesus performed the miracle. 

Afterwards, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered.  It must have been a TUC gathering, because we never under-cater also!

So what are we to glean from this heartening story of Jesus’ care, and power?

Our story unfolds as a sign, revealing God’s unstinting generosity. Jesus doesn’t simply feed the hungry with enough to keep them going. He gives them more than enough.

God always supplies more than we need; spiritually and physically. However for most of us it’s a bit like Jesus’ telling the disciples that they could move a mountain if only they had the faith. 

The big trouble for most of us, and the wider Church, is our failure to reach our potential. It can be summed up in a report that one teacher sent home to my parents: “Bill has failed to achieve the low standards he set himself…” 

One commentator implies that the church cannot exhaust the resources of the kingdom. We have all we need right here, right now. 

The Gospels are full of stories and miracles of generosity and abundance: Narelle reminded us last week of the of seed that, though much of it was lost in the sowing, produced an abundant, miraculous harvest. 

Then there was the tiny, seemingly insignificant mustard seed that grew to be a large, bird-supporting shrub. (Mark 4:30-32.) 

And when the wine runs out at a wedding party, Jesus produced 600 litres of wine, when just a few six packs would probably have done the trick.  (John 2).

And here in today’s Gospel, when Jesus fed the hungry multitude, the wonder was not just that He produced enough nourishment to satisfy; the miracle was that a huge amount of food was left over.  

For us, for whom following the Lord is a way of life there is, in the Gospels, more than enough about Jesus and His boundless love for us; more than we’ll ever be able to respond to! Jesus gave us more commands, more wonderful words, a more expansive vision than ever we’ll be able fully to process. 

God gives us all we need. By the grace of God, there is a surplus of all we need to be His faithful people.  We will never fully exhaust the possibilities.

This is a wonderful and timely reminder for us as a congregation, as we face a future that some might describe as challenging. Our minister, Anne, has retired because of her chronic ill health, and of course,  she faces her own challenges. 

The Rev Kevin Dilks, a week or so back at Anne’s closure of ministry service, spoke of disappointment and how we need to recognise it and get on with what we have been called to. We have been now assigned the task to do all the work that the Uniting Church requires of congregations seeking a new minister. 

We will be resilient as we have in the past, discovering new gifts among us and turning again to the bonds of fellowship and friendship in our community of faith. And we will draw more deeply on the resources and gifts already in our community.

This is definitely not about mere survival, but discovering and celebrating and using the abundance we already have.

In the Church, God promises us that we will be given all that we need to be faithful to His commands. The Church can never find itself without enough gifts, without enough of the right people to do the work of the Church. When we do think that we have exhausted our resources, that we have done all that we can do, that we are scraping the bottom of the barrel in talent, that is probably more a commentary on our narrow, limited vision. It’s something that shows up in the disciples all the time; that failure to trust God fully; part of our earthbound way of looking at the world around us.

We don’t have to be a great church to have a great ministry, all you need is a surplus of Christians who are ready and willing to take up in faith the challenge that God offers, summed up in Jesus’s words to the disciples: You… give them something to eat…

You… say to this mountain, “move”…

 if you have faith as small as a mustard seed.

He has already given us all we needed to have an abundant future. AMEN

Let us pray: Lord, open our eyes to see all the gifts that you give us. Help us to see the talent in people right in our own congregation. Help us to call forth the gifts in others and to equip people to be faithful to your claim on their lives. Push us out into the world in Your name, eyes open to see this world as Your world. Give us the faith to see that you have given us all we need and more. Amen.

 

Bill Lang is secretary of the church council and convenor of the communications group. He has been a regular preacher at TUC since he and Jenny joined the congregation in 1975. He is a presbytery representative, and a member of the Karralika outreach team and the Child Care Advisory Group.

Quote for today

...But you know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you. John14:17

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F: (02) 6296 3403

Comrie Street
Wanniassa ACT 2903

PO Box 423
Erindale Centre ACT 2903 

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About Our Church

Our faith community began in 1975 as a small ecumenical gathering of people who settled in the new Canberra township of Tuggeranong. We have grown with the Tuggeranong Community, and our parish centre is the hub for our work, as a place of worship, of gathering and ministry.

We aim to help people have life to the full. We welcome people into a our Christian community where they can connect with God, with one another and with opportunities to make a difference in our changing world.

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