Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

July 2018

The Boy Who Provided Loaves and Fishes

The Boy Who Provided the Loaves and Fishes

I know you have heard the phrase, “Good things come in small packages”. Often used when at Christmas one child has received a present in a great big box and another child has received a present in a very small box and the second child somehow feels like their gift is much less important than the bigger gift. Often the small gift costs much more than the larger one but there is just this perception that the bigger something is the better.
Often people of smaller stature feel the same way - they aren’t as good as those people who are taller. But you know just because you may be a shorter person and you can’t play basketball, shorter people make much better soccer players. We could think of whole bunches of examples of short things or small things or things of lesser number which are far better than their larger counterparts. And when you read the Bible, it is pretty common that the smaller, shorter, less than, younger ones are the ones who are the Superheroes in a given situation.
We continue to look at superheroes of the Bible - and we are concentrating now on those superheroes who remind us that being small, or young, or less than, doesn’t mean that you can’t do great great superhero feats for God!
Today we are going to talk about the little boy who brought his loaves and fishes to Jesus who then took what the boy had offered and was able to feed well over 5000 people. This little boy is one of the superheroes our VBS will be looking at to help show our children that children can be great contributors to the work of God regardless of their age or their size.
But before we talk about the boy and his lunch, I want us to think about another little boy who did a great work. David was a young boy between 12 and 15 when his father asked him to take food to his brothers who were serving in the army. Kind of made me think about our soldier care packages! David went to where his brothers were stationed and delivered the package of goodies from his father.
While he was there, he learned about Goliath. Seemed that the soldiers had been stationed on top of a mountain and perched on the other mountain was the army of the Philistines. Now the Philistines had challenged the army of Israel to a one on one contest. One soldier from each army would meet on the plain between the two armies and would fight it out and the one who survived would be the winning army. The two armies agreed and the Philistine army sent out their one soldier who happened to be the 9 ft tall and very mean Goliath.
When the Israeli army saw Goliath, they could not find any soldier who was willing to go and fight Goliath even though they were the army of God and God had guaranteed he would help whoever when to fight the giant. So every day Goliath would come out onto the plain and taunt the army of God and wait for someone to come and fight him and no one would. That is until David shows up to deliver food to his brothers.
Now, not only was David very young, but David was also small in stature. He was truly a little boy. He’s up there on the mountain when Goliath comes out for his daily challenge and David is amazed that no one will go fight. So he says to the King, if none of these grown men, professional soldiers, are willing to go fight this giant, I will. Of course everyone thought he was joking or crazy or both, but he was serious and David follows up on his offer even though everyone thought he was being suicidal. He prayed, he got 5 small stones and he went out and killed Goliath. This little boy, the small one that no one thought could do

anything, accomplished what the older and bigger and more skilled people were not able to do.
Let’s jump up several thousand years. Jesus is traveling around Galilee teaching and preaching and healing. Great huge crowds are following him as he goes from place to place. Traveling with Jesus are his disciples. A group of young men whom Jesus is trying to train to take over for him when he ascends to heaven. He has shown them great miracles and told them over and over again that they were capable of doing great things. In fact at one point Jesus sent them out on their own to teach and heal and they came back all excited because they were able to do what Jesus knew they could do. They had great success in teaching the things of Jesus and even being able to heal people.
As today’s story opens, we have Jesus and his disciples - who remember know what they are capable of doing - being followed by a large crowd of people when Jesus goes to a hillside and begins to teach and the people are so enthralled by what Jesus is saying they don’t realize how late it has become and Jesus and his disciples know that these people have been here all day and they need to eat. Jesus looks at the disciples and says, “You feed them”. And the disciples get hysterical. How can we feed all these people, we have no money, there are no stores nearby, we can’t do it Jesus. Lets just send them home! Jesus is pretty disappointed in his disciples because Jesus knows what they are capable of and the disciples never even consider the idea of God helping them provide for these people.
Meanwhile the disciple Andrew is wandering around the crowds perhaps asking if anyone has any food to share when a small young boy offers his food. I don’t know any of the particulars, but what I do know is that this young boy is willing to give this small pittance to Jesus with the confidence that Jesus will be able to do something with these small loaves and fish. Now historians agree that since it was the food of a small boy we are talking small loaves like the size of a dinner roll and fish about the size of anchovies. Everything about this story is small - the boy is small, the food is small, and the disciples faith is small. Jesus takes this small offering, blesses it and begins to break off pieces of the bread and the fish and give it to the disciples who distributed it to the crowds who all ate their fill and then when the disciples went back to clean up there were 12 basketfuls of bread and fish left over.
Good things come in small packages and in these stories it is good things come in the form of small children. There is David, a small child who was willing to do what grown, professional men were not willing to do. There is the boy with the loaves and fishes who was willing to trust that Jesus could do something with this food when the older, more experienced, supposedly trained by Jesus men didn’t even think of trying anything.
We have to remember that everyone is valuable to God. It doesn’t matter the age or the size. As an older person - you are capable of doing much more than you think you can. Young ones, you are capable of doing much more than you think you can. And to the rest of us, we can’t ever assume that someone is not capable of doing something because of their age or their size.
In Acts we read: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young will see visions, your old will dream dreams. In other words, God’s work will be done by old and young alike and all will be a useful, helpful, important part of the Kingdom of God.
We need to remember in God’s eyes, it is not the size or the age or even the ability, it is the willingness to step out in faith and do what God is calling us to do. Amen!

Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary, Mother of Jesus

The story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is pretty familiar to us. At least the story of Mary before Jesus’ birth is familiar. We know that Mary is a young girl living in her city of Nazareth where she is preparing to be married to a man named Joseph. However before she is married, an angel comes to her and declares she is going to get pregnant by the Holy Spirit and the father of this child will be God. Her son, the angel tells her, will be the Messiah, the savior of the world. Mary is concerned by this news because it is going to bring her hardship and hard decisions but she agrees to do what God asks of her.
She gets pregnant as foretold which puts Joseph in an awkward position but an angel visits him as well and tells him what is going on and he decides to do the right thing and marry the pregnant Mary.
At some point in her pregnancy Mary goes to see her cousin Elizabeth who is also carrying a miracle baby because Elizabeth is past child bearing age. Elizabeth’s baby is to be the one who announces to the world that Jesus is going to be the coming Messiah. When the two women meet, Elizabeth cries out:
 “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” Luke 1:42
This is the passage I want you to think about today -
Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you among women. I bet when you think of someone being ‘blessed’ you think about a soft, easy life where all is good and there are no problems. We use that phrase a lot when we think of the good things that happen to someone and your response is “You are blessed.” But when we think about the life of Mary, we would not think of her as living a blessed life because after she says ‘yes’ to God, her life is never easy or calm or peaceful.
As we continue our summer with Superheroes. Mary the Mother of Jesus wasn’t on any of your lists! When we are asked to think of superheroes, pictures of meek and mild Mary just doesn’t come to mind. But how much more of a superhero can you be than agreeing to carry the child of God in the midst of the oncoming trials and tribulations that come along with this task. Mary will be one of the superheroes our children will be studying during Bible School to show that you don’t have to be a big bombastic larger than life person in order to be a real superhero.
Mary as we know travels to Bethlehem with Joseph when she is almost due to deliver Jesus. One of several difficult journeys she is going to have to make. She delivers Jesus in a barn with no one to help her except Joseph before the days when we could google ‘how to deliver a baby’. A couple years later in the middle of the night Joseph wakes her up and says ‘God has told me to get out of Bethlehem and to travel to Egypt” and so rapidly she packs up and begins another difficult journey to a country she knows nothing; about to live with people she doesn’t know who speak a language she doesn’t understand; to learn a new way of doing things in a culture she is unfamiliar with.
And then after being there for a while, Joseph once again tells Mary to get packed and they begin the long journey back to Nazareth. Mary and Joseph had left so quickly from Nazareth that Mary was probably a little unsure of the reception she would get when she returned home.
We don’t know much about that time period between the return to Nazareth and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. We assume it was a pretty normal time but we do know that Joseph died sometime during these years.
Then Jesus leaves on his ministry but returns to Nazareth a couple times to see his family and to preach and teach and heal as he did around other parts of Galilee. It is a disturbing story when we read in the Gospel of Mark that his mother Mary and Jesus’ brothers were embarrassed by Jesus’ behavior; by his claim that he had the power to heal; that he was the one who fulfilled scripture.

What that shows us is that Mary may have been a superhero in her obedience to God, but she was human and filled with all those human frailties of wanting everything to fall into the right boxes and Jesus certainly did not do that.
But this is the picture I really want you to think about. The next time we see Mary, it is at the foot of the cross. We talk a lot about the suffering of Jesus, but through all the hardships Mary has been through, there can be none harder for her than this.
In the movie The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson does a very clever thing in showing these flashbacks about Mary and Jesus. You see Jesus as a toddler running and falling down and Mary running to pick him up and soothing his tears. You see in another flashback Jesus and his mother just having a friendly conversation. They were a typical mother and son.
So now, picture the tragedy of Mary as she sits at the foot of the cross and watches the mutilated body of her son hang on that cross in agony. Imagine how Mary felt as she heard her son cry out the words of Psalm 22
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” The same Mary who was called blessed by God, the same Mary who picked up her toddler and kissed away his skinned knee, is now watching her son cry out in anguish hanging on a cross and there isn’t a thing she can do.
Think about the suffering this mother is going through at this moment. Can we even imagine what this moment is like for her? And what about Jesus’ father, God, how much he is suffering as well over the pain and torment of his son?
Suffering is a subject we talk about a lot. Why do we have to suffer? Shouldn’t being obedient to God give us some kind of insurance policy against the hurt and pain of this life? What is the point of giving our lives to God if we can’t even get relieve from suffering out of it?
So God teaches us several things about suffering as we learn about the lives of the people he records for us in the Bible. First thing we learn is that there is no insurance policy from terrible things happening in our lives. Mary, and many others, teach us that. Mary, the mother of God, suffers horribly. Yet she is blessed of all women. It doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t seem fair.
But then we hear from the cross Jesus’ words to his disciple John who is also present. “John, take care of my mother.” In his own agony, Jesus makes sure his mother is taken care of. In her suffering, Jesus sends her help and comfort.
While we may not understand suffering or why it affects some and not others or how come we as God’s children are afflicted with suffering just as much as those who aren’t part of God’s family.
One thing we do know - that in our suffering Jesus is right there suffering with us; that in our suffering he really does understand our pain and agony. It must have added to Jesus’ pain on the cross knowing that his mother was having to watch what was happening. Yet Jesus’ was concerned about his mother; Jesus made sure she was taken care of. We are told that John the disciple took Mary home with him and he cared for her.
Don’t make your suffering worse by trying to rationalize why you are suffering. God doesn’t produce suffering because of something you did. Suffering is not the result of God punishing you. Don’t agonize over why because it just makes the suffering harder. If we learn anything from the stories of the people in the bible, it is that suffering happens. Bad things happen. There is no rhyme or reason, there is no pat “why” answer, life is what it is and things happen. That is all the explanation there is.
But what we do know; what we are assured of is that in the midst of this suffering God is with us. God will provide us help. What kind of help? We don’t know - but it will come. Sometimes it is that supernatural feeling of God’s peace just washing over you. Sometimes it is a person God sends to bring his love and care for you - but it doesn’t come. God will never forsake you or leave you….
Mary is one of our best examples of a superhero because she was obedient to God and because through the awful suffering of her son, she never lost relationship with God.
Hall Mary, mother of grace, blessed are you among women. And you are all blessed of God.