During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha
I would like to introduce you to three different bread makers today.
1. This is our bread maker
What do we need to make bread?
- Oil, water, powdered milk, salt, yeast, flour
Can you help us put this together. (continue with talk while children are putting ingredients into the bread maker, with some supervision!)
2. THE bread maker.
The story that we read earlier speaks of a bread maker - but this bread maker is not a machine, but a person.
There was a story that fathers would tell their children. It was a story from many years earlier, about their dad's dad's dad's dad's .. and so on .. dad. It was the story of how he was a refugee fleeing from persecution in one country to make a better life in another. It was the story of a long journey through the desert. And they had no flour, no oil, no yeast and very little water. But God had given them a bread maker: a man called Moses. And Moses had prayed, and God gave them a bread-like substance which appeared on the ground. They called it 'What is it?' (which is what 'manna' means).
So now Jesus comes and Jesus is showing the people that, as Moses was a bread maker, he is THE bread maker
Jesus makes bread - for 4000 people.
He makes bread for the people because he has great compassion on them. The people have been with him for 3 days and in that time they have hardly had anything to eat. They are hungry.
And Jesus provides food for the hungry because he has compassion on them.
He knows what it is like to be hungry, really hungry. For a start he was brought up in a refugee peasant family - and there must have been times when Joseph and Mary did not know where the next meal was coming from. But he also fasted regularly, and on one occasion he fasted for 40 days.
And it was his compassion for people that drove him.
So what does Jesus need to make bread? What were his ingredients?
If the loaf that we are making will feed 4 people, then Jesus would need 1000 bread makers: that is lot of flour, a lot of yeast.
But Jesus did not need flour or yeast.
In order to make bread, Jesus used some people - his followers
What Jesus needed was
- a T-spoonful of faith: of people who believed that he was the Son of God, and who put their trust in him
- a pinch of giving: he required these people to give him what they had: on this occasion all that they had was 7 rolls and some mackerel
- a touch of obedience: these people needed to do what he told them to do.
What did Jesus do with these ingredients?
i) He added a gallon or two of thanksgiving: Jesus knows where people and things come from, and he says thank you to God. [One of the great things about being a Christian is that there is someone to say thank you to].
ii) And then he breaks what he has.
It is a bit like making a biscuit base. You have the biscuits. You have the rolling pin. And you bring the rolling pin down hard on the biscuits. Jesus breaks the bread.
And the result?
A great deal of tidying up. He feeds 4000 men and there was still so much bread that there were 7 baskets of leftovers. When God gives, he gives in abundance.
Jesus is THE breadmaker.
But I would like to introduce you to a third bread maker.
3. Would you look at the person next to you. They're the bread maker
If you have the faith that Jesus is the Son of God; if you are prepared to give to God everything that you have; and if you are prepared to be obedient ... God will use you to feed people.
He'll use you to feed people who are physically hungry
I've only fasted once for 3 days. At the end of the first day I was hungry; at the end of the second day I was very hungry, and by the end of the third day I was even more hungry - but did not feel hungry. But I have never in my life been hungry because there is no food or because I have not been able to get food. I have only been hungry by choice.
Today the famine situation in the world is much better than it was a year ago. The rains came early in East Africa and in West Africa the harvest has been better. But there are still 236000 children who are acutely malnourished in just Somalia alone
And here in the UK: I quote from the Sunday Express, so it must be true!
"Earlier this month (December 2011) an Army veteran and his wife committed suicide after struggling to live “hand to mouth” on food handouts from a soup kitchen they walked 10 miles to get to.
Mark and Helen Mullins were found lying side by side in their home in, Bedworth, Coventry.
In other distressing cases a family of four was eating roadkill after the father lost his IT job, a mother burned her furniture so she could save on fuel and pay for food, another ate paper towels to curb her appetite so she could feed her daughter and a 10-year-old boy was arrested for stealing food for his younger sisters"
I'm not suggesting that we open up our homes, although some of you will be called to do that. I'm not suggesting that we open the Hyndman Centre as a drop in shelter (at least not yet!)
But I am suggesting that we need to be prepared to come to THE bread maker - to ask him to give us his compassion, to put our trust in him, to give him what we have and to be obedient.
And he will use you to be bread makers.
I love the name harvest thanksgiving. It really does say what it is on the tin. We give thanks to God for the harvest, and for all that he provides for us - and we give, we give to him and we give to others. And when we do that, God will break you - he will share you and he will bless you.