Posts Tagged ‘Feeding of the Many’

Preparation for Worship

  • Something green. Christian worship has different seasons throughout the year. We are in the season after Pentecost. The color green represents this time communicating growth and discipleship. Add some green to your worship area with cloth, paper, or plants.
  • Two candles. Our worship begins with the light of two candles: one represents Christ’s humanity and the other represents Christ’s divinity.
  • Something to eat and drink to celebrate communion. The type of food and drink does not matter for they are merely symbols which help us celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The Worship of God

Invitation. Today’s gospel reading, Matthew 14:13–21 contrasts the scarcity values of empire with the abundance values of God’s realm. The former teaches us to make what seem like practical decisions, sending people off to fend for themselves. The realm of God values proclaimed by Jesus is one of compassionate assurance that through the abundance of God, there is enough for all.

Light two candles in recognition of Christ’s presence.  In our practice, one candle represents Jesus’ divinity and the other Jesus’ humanity.

Gathering for Worship

Passing the Peace
Say to one another, “May the Peace of Christ be with you.”
Respond by saying, “And also with you.”

Psalm 17: 1-7

Listen to what’s right, Lord; pay attention to our cry!
Listen closely to our prayer; it’s spoken by lips that don’t lie!
Our justice comes from you; let your eyes see what is right!
You have examined our hearts. You’ve looked us over closely,
but haven’t found anything wrong. Our mouth does not sin.

But these other people’s deeds?
We have avoided such violent ways
by the command from your lips.
Our steps are set firmly on your paths;
our feet have not slipped
We cry out to you because you answer us.
So tilt your ears toward us now—
listen to what we are saying!
Manifest your faithful love in amazing ways
because you are the one
who saves those who take refuge in you,
saving them from their attackers
by your strong hand.

Opening Prayer.
Gracious and loving God, you enabled the Psalmist to turn to you in the confident assurance that cries and prayers would be heard and answered by you. Prayers uttered in the belief that your steadfast love would not permit despair and desolation to have the last word. We offer our prayers in that same belief, and with even greater confidence that we are heard by you, for the wonderful evidence of your love has been revealed in Jesus Christ, in whom we seek refuge time and time again. Through Jesus, our burdens are lightened and our sins are forgiven. Through your love, our lives are blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. For these great and glorious gifts, we offer our thanksgiving, our praise and our adoration. Amen.

Songs and Psalms of Praise and Prayer

Song of Praise
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee
Holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! all the saints adore thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
God everlasting through eternity.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide thee,
Though the eye made blind by sin thy glory may not see,
Only thou art holy: there is none beside thee
Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

A Reading from the Psalms
Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

Listen to a church member read or read below.

The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
very patient, and full of faithful love.
The Lord is good to everyone and everything;
God’s compassion extends to all his handiwork!

The Lord supports all who fall down,
straightens up all who are bent low.
All eyes look to you, hoping,
and you give them their food right on time,
opening your hand
and satisfying the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
faithful in all his deeds.
The Lord is close to everyone who calls out to him,
to all who call out to him sincerely.
God shows favor to those who honor him,
listening to their cries for help and saving them.
The Lord protects all who love him,
but he destroys every wicked person.
My mouth will proclaim the Lord’s praise,
and every living thing will bless God’s holy name
forever and always.

Prayer for Others
Pause after each paragraph to give voice to prayers as prompted. [Additionally, if you would like our church family to pray for someone or something in particular this week, email the request to]

Merciful God, who shelters us and guides us, we give you thanks for….

God who comforts, receive those who are fearful and lonely….

God whose love is steadfast, be refuge for the ill, the dying, and those who care about them.…

God of righteousness, we ask for your wisdom and ways of justice to prevail in our community, this nation, your world….

God who seeks our trust, grow us and guide us in your ways that are life-giving in your world. Amen.

Prayer in Song
Ruah! Breath of Life
(“Ruah” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for Spirit.)

Ruah, Breath of Life, breathe in us.
Jesus, Bread of Life, give us strength.

Ruah, Bread of Life, breathe in us, we pray,
that we may spread goodness to all people on earth.
Spirit, wind of change, bring a peaceful day,
and we will join you, bringing life to birth.

Ruah, Breath of Life, breathe in us.
Jesus, Bread of Life, give us strength.

Jesus, Bread of Life, give us strength, we pray,
that we may help others who are hungry and poor.
Fill us with your grace; show us all the way
to share your table and your open door.

Ruah, Breath of Life, breathe in us.
Jesus, Bread of Life, give us strength.

Celebrating Communion

A Reading from the Gospels
Mark 14:22-24 
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

Share what you have to eat. Before eating, have someone say,
“This food represents the body of Christ. As we eat, we remember Jesus.”

Share what you have to drink. Before drinking, have someone say,
“This drink represents the covenant Christ made with us that our sins will be forgiven. As we drink, we remember Jesus.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving. Dear God, thank you for your abounding compassionate love. Thank you for guiding and leading us through these difficult times. Thank you for always being with us. Amen.

Song of Faith
Amazing Grace (NEW BRITAIN)

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
was blind but now I see.

The Gospel Reading

A Reading from the Gospels
Matthew 14:13-21

Listen to a church member read the gospel and/or read below.

When Jesus heard about John, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. When the crowds learned this, they followed him on foot from the cities. When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion for them and healed those who were sick. That evening his disciples came and said to him, “This is an isolated place and it’s getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “There’s no need to send them away. You give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here except five loaves of bread and two fish.” He said, “Bring them here to me.” He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves of bread and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them and broke the loaves apart and gave them to his disciples. Then the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate until they were full, and they filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. About five thousand men plus women and children had eaten.

Reflection on the Gospel from Jeffrey

Listen to the reflection and/or read below.

“Conversion to Compassion” 

We Christians experience many conversions in our lives of faith. Whatever brings us to that initial decision to follow God, whether it’s the “still small voice” of God, or the gentle nudge of a caring mother, or the regret of too many personal sins, or the fear of death and hell, something and someone was a part of the beginning story of our faith. This initial conversion is most often then followed by baptism. We do well to mark this spiritual change with a physical reminder. I remember a few small details of my baptism at the age of 9. But I can’t forget the weight of the water pressing against my white robe, or my “baptism buddy” as we call them here – that friend who was baptized in the same service – his name was Cliff Adams. Yet since the age of 9, I have lived through many more conversions in the name of Christ.  

It is the nature of our discipleship with Jesus that our faith grows and matures. Repentance does not end after baptism. As our knowledge of God deepens, so does our experience of the world. As our love for the Gospel grows, it compels us into communities of grace. When Jesus becomes more than the poor guy who takes our punishment to let us off the hook, then we can hear Jesus calling us to take responsibility for justice and peace rather than letting someone else do it.  

These other conversions, as I want to name them, are rarely if ever marked with a ritual. The time when we realize that forgiveness from God becomes the avenue for our forgiveness of others, is not celebrated in the church with a ceremony. Nor am I suggesting that it should it be. And yet the conversions must keep happening in our lives of faith. We continue to need God to change our hearts. Our experiences of God are not simple acts of self improvement that make us better people. They transform us into becoming God’s people for the world and on behalf of others.  

All of this brings us to Matthew 14:13-21. In these words from Matthew, we hear the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 men plus many other women and children. It is both an iconic story in the New Testament, and also one that we take for granted. We know this story, right? We’ve heard it thousands of times perhaps. It is the scale of this miracle that is breath-taking. Imagine half of the football stadium at WCU filled to capacity. Jesus is standing on the field teaching through the day and the sun is beginning to set behind the mountain ridge. The disciples suggest sending them to Speedy’s Pizza or Kobe Express for dinner but Jesus has another suggestion. You feed them. I don’t know if this is a test of their faith in Jesus, or a simple lesson in feeding the hungry. Either way, they have some bread and fish, just a bit, and with this portion of God’s creation Jesus feeds everyone. No one is left hungry or wanting.  

I love that Matthew doesn’t record Jesus’ words when he looks to heaven and blesses the bread so that we’re not tempted to turn genuine prayer into magic formulas. The giving of God’s blessing is not found in saying the right words. God doesn’t respond on command like a well-trained spaniel. Instead, the economy of Matthew’s description emphasizes Jesus’ relationship with God rather than some knowledge of a magical incantation. So often in the New Testament, the miracles of Jesus are built around relationships rather than formulas. While I genuinely love the concept of memorizing scripture, and I honestly think we don’t emphasize it nearly enough in our day and time, the purpose of memorizing Bible verses is not to use it like magic but to initiate a relationship with God. 

So here we have Matthew 14 and the feeding of the 5,000 and are awed at Jesus’ miracle once again. But what if we missed something in the story that is as important as the abundance of fish sandwiches? What if there’s more than just one miracle here? We are deeply committed to hunger ministries at the CBC. Yet it is a reality that if we feed someone today from an all-you-can-eat buffet, they will be hungry again in a few hours. Jesus’ miracle of feeding is vastly important and inspiring, but it didn’t last beyond the next day’s dinner. On the other hand, we too easily brush past the first miracle, the lasting miracle, in this story. Let’s look again at verse 14: “When [Jesus] went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.” 

How can we overlook the curing of the sick? We are so enamored by the spectacle of the feeding that we skipped past the healing Jesus did. Perhaps we are so accustomed to Jesus healing people that we’ve presumed this to be “normal” when this miracle should leave us in as much wonder as the feeding of thousands. Or maybe we overlook the healing because we know we can feed people, but healing is a different kind of gift and we don’t have it. After all, I have prayed for thousands to be healed and am not sure the results, but I know without a doubt that I have helped to feed thousands—just not all at one time! 

Let’s dial it back even more into verse 14. For the miracle of healing starts with compassion. It says, Jesus had compassion for them and cured the sick. I venture to add that the feeding of the 5,000 is the result of this same compassion. Can we then say that compassion is a pre-requisite for miracles? Maybe so. Perhaps more certainly we can assert that our conversion to compassion is necessary for God to use our lives for ministry.  Or if we wanted to be more bold in our assertion, no ministry of justice and mercy and grace happens without human compassion for others. At the very least, it is clear that Jesus did not act without compassion nor should we. In fact, when our actions lack compassion, it is obvious that we do not represent the Gospel.  

If I’m right about our need to convert to compassion then I also must assert that it is a choice we make. Just like we are free to choose to become a Christian and be baptized, we have the freedom to exercise compassion towards others – or not. Compassion is a product of spiritual intention. In this way, compassion can be developed and grow stronger. It’s not like being tall – that’s not a talent. What someone does with being tall (or not) matters more. Thus no matter how much compassion we may “naturally” possess, we can develop more compassion, and we can choose to use it for the work of justice and peace and hope. In this way, learning compassion is a discipline of our discipleship. 

Compassion is built upon a genuine empathetic care and concern for another person. In a literal sense, it is to feel something another person feels. It asks us to take on their hurt, or feel their wound as though it were ours, or sense their hunger in our own belly. Compassion allows us to understand not just from a distance but to internalize their struggle as though it were our own. Compassion is not pity; it is not feeling sorry for someone and their circumstances. Nor is it to be an exercise in elitism – “Oh you poor thing; I want you to be like me.” Compassion requires us to enter into their situation in a way that turns our heart toward their need and motivates us to respond in a way that brings them wholeness and restoration.  

In the imaginary world of superheroes I have long thought that a superpower for a doctor or nurse would be to feel precisely what the patient feels. Where it hurts. How much it hurts. At what intensity. If a doctor can move a patient’s knee and feel the same pain in the same location, they would know better how to treat it. They will also develop an earnest need to find the right cure, and soon. In many regards, this superpower describes compassion. Every superpower has its weakness, however. It’s easy to see that if doctors felt their patients’ pain, we would have fewer doctors. Who wants to feel pain every day at work? Maybe this same effect explains why some people are only focused on themselves and have not developed a holy compassion for others.  

Compassion it turns out is easy to forego because its consequences are difficult to bear. True compassion leads us to action on behalf of others. We may remain in a continual state of being unsettled on behalf of those who suffer. In this way, compassion becomes more than a prelude to a miracle of Jesus, it motivates us to help find justice for others. As such, it is both a spiritual gift and an act of obedience to the call of God.  

Without compassion, we may be tempted to respond to people’s needs out of guilt, obligation, or selfish motivations. Good writers use this obvious duplicity in their craft. Two characters in the same book or movie are working toward similar ends – marriage, crime solving, success — with one person showing compassion and genuine care for those around them while the other character is manipulative and selfish. Readers and viewers learn the difference and easily find the truly compassionate one more Christ-like. It is no wonder, then, that genuine exercise of compassion for others is both a pre-requisite for ministry in the name of God, and also a witness to the world of God’s care through God’s people. 

In our personal discipleship and our church’s ministries, we will only respond to real needs if we exercise compassion. If a Christian doesn’t have compassion for immigrants, then no ministry will seek to help them find community and welcome among us. If Christians do not learn the discipline of compassion, then we will feel no pain in the pit of our stomach when someone tells us that 1 out of every 5 child in the US regularly misses a meal…or two. But when we learn compassion, we then respond with love, we feed those who know hunger, we do not accept the injustice of deportation, or the ravaging of native lands, or the misuse of creation for profit, or the scape-goating of African Americans. Shall I go on? Who else did I not name? The people you would add to this list will reveal your own compassion. If so, then lead on, good disciple of Christ, to serve them and help them and care for them and heal them and bring them justice in the name of God who not only knows all but feels all.  

In the end, the miraculous ability for Jesus to heal and feed leaves us in awe. But if he had exercised these acts of ministry without compassion, Jesus might just as well have been a robot. It is in the depth of compassion for others that we are most like Jesus. And it is out of this Christ-like compassion that we will respond with love and grace to those who are oppressed, sick, poor, and hungry. Without compassion for others, we’re left in need of another conversion in our faith. May it be that today, we feel more deeply and serve more completely in the name of God, the Most Compassionate One. Amen.

Questions for Reflection

  1. With whom or for whom do you feel deeply?
  2. Since compassion is something that can grow, with whom or for whom do you need to learn more compassion?
  3. In addition to compassion, what are other human emotions that God can use in us for the sake of others?

Prayer of Thanksgiving. Thank you God for constant love. Please help our church family grow deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
All Who Hunger

All who hunger, gather gladly;
holy manna is our bread.
Come from wilderness and wandering.
Here, in truth, we will be fed.
You that yearn for days of fullness,
all around us is our food.
Taste and see the grace eternal.
Taste and see that God is good.

All who hunger, never strangers;
seeker, be a welcome guest.
Come from restlessness and roaming.
Here, in joy, we keep the feast.
We that once were lost and scattered
in communion’s love have stood.
Taste and see the grace eternal.
Taste and see that God is good.

All who hunger, sing together;
Jesus Christ is living bread.
Come from loneliness and longing.
Here, in peace, we have been led.
Blest are those who from God’s table
live their lives in gratitude.
Taste and see the grace eternal.
Taste and see that God is good.

Sending Out
May the blessing and peace of God uphold you
the compassion and love of Christ enfold you
and the vitality and power of the Holy Spirit nourish and sustain you
this day and always. Amen.

Closing Song.  In our tradition, we close worship by singing the first verse of Blest Be the Tie.  Mindy starts us each week, and so she does today as well.

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. Amen.

Credits: The image is from [retrieved July 31, 2020]. The Opening Prayer and Sending Out were written by Moira Laidlaw. Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! was written by Reginald Heber (1826) with words inspired by the Nicaean Creed. It is set to a tune composed by John Bacchus Dykes (1861) which he named NICAEA in recognition of Heber’s text. The hymns were played by Tracy. The Psalm was read by Kendall. Ruah, Breath of Life was written by Jann Aldredge-Canton and composed by Larry E. Schultz. Mindy, Ally, Elizabeth, Kendall, and Tonya sang, Tessa played the flute, and Tonya accompanied on the piano. Amazing Grace is set to the tune NEW BRITAIN from the Virginia Harmony, 1831. The words were written by John Newton (1807). The song was played by Aidan. The gospel was read by Annelise. All Who Hunger was written by Sylvia G. Dunstan (1993) and set to the tune HOLY MANNA attributed to William Moore. Blest be the Tie is set to the tune DENNIS which was composed by Johann G. Nageli (1836) and arranged by Lowell Mason (1872). The words were written by John Fawcett (1782). The hymn is sung by Mindy. All scripture passages are from the Common English Bible translation. Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.  

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