On Sunday August 3rd I led worship at Starbeck Chapel. We began worship with ‘Guide me O great Jehovah’ before I led the opening prayers. I told a story of a poor 11 year old girl who had been sold unbeknown to her family as a slave, to an ice cream factory, but whose crying had been heard by another poor family who asked ‘Save the Children’ to help; they bought her back and returned her to her home. Jesus felt sad because his cousin John the Baptist had just been killed; he knew he would soon be going the same way. He and the disciples sailed to the opposite side of the Lake of Galilee to find time for peace and quiet. However he was followed and on disembarking he found a crowd for whom he felt compassionate and he met their needs spiritually and physically. We then sang ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you.’ We then read Psalm 145 responsively and we heard Romans 9v1-5. We then sang ‘Break thou the bread of life to me’, before the dramatised reading based on Matthew 13v13-21.
In the sermon I talked about the compassion and longsuffering of God as expressed by the psalmist in psalm 145. He felt overwhelmed by God’s majesty and how much he cares for each one of us, so he burst into praise. I find the psalms are so helpful to me if I want the words to start a time of worship, praise and thanksgiving. The psalms say it all so clearly, both the joy and the pains of life flow to our God who is always listening. He holds us in his arms even at those times when we feel overwhelmed with sorrow and pain, until we once again can praise him and thank him for his deliverance. The psalmist encouraged his readers to call on the Lord and he would respond to their needs.
Jesus had just heard the news of the death of John the Baptist which foreshadowed his death; he needed to be alone to grieve but Galilee was a small country where it was difficult to be alone, as it was so thickly populated; but the east side of the lake was quieter, so with his fishermen friends Jesus got on a boat to seek a refuge there. He needed rest and a time of prayer with God. However it was not to be. When he arrived at the east side of the lake he found the crowds with all their needs had followed him and he felt compassion on them verse 14; ‘When he came ashore and saw a large crowd, his heart went out to them, and he healed those who were sick.’ He could so easily have found the crowd a nuisance as he needed his rest but instead he met their needs and healed them. Paul too felt compassion and grief as his people, the chosen people, who rejected Jesus. He would even be prepared to be cut off from Christ, if he could only bring them to Christ.
When it was getting late the disciples suggested the crowd should go into the villages to buy food, but Jesus challenged the disciples to provide the food. They brought the bread and fishes to Jesus who blessed them and the disciples distributed them; the crowds had enough and there were 12 baskets of leftovers collected. We can bring the little we have to offer in service to Jesus and he makes it sufficient for the needs around us, and there are even leftovers! Jesus could not have fed the crowd on his own; he needed the help of the disciples. We are Jesus’ hands and feet in a needy world using our meagre gifts which through Jesus’ blessing become more than sufficient. Not only does Christ make our small offerings sufficient but nothing is wasted; all the leftovers were collected up. God gives generously but we are to use the gifts wisely. May we have compassion towards the needy and the despairing and allow the love of Jesus to shine through our lives to draw others to his accepting, unconditional love.
We then sang ‘Longing for light, we wait in darkness’ before I led the intercessions where members of the congregation brought out illustrations of loaves and fishes to put on the altar, although they all brought them out together rather than following the relevant prayer section. I will try to think that out better in future. Worship concluded as we sang ‘Behold the servant of the Lord.’