By Cathy Zhang
09 Oct 2011 Sunday
Reading Scripture: Mark 6:35-44
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered,
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[e]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
Good morning. Please join me in a very short prayer. Lord of mercy, Lord of glory, Lord of creation, please send your Spirit to us today so that all of us can be enlightened and strengthened by your Spirit and your glory and your love. May the meditation of my mind and the words of my mouth be pleasing to you and open all of our hearts to hear your words.We pray in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.
Today we will focus on this feeding miracle. It appears in all four gospels, in Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. They have all recorded this miracle story and they have very similar sayings, for instance, the breaking of the bread/loaves, and saying thanks to heaven before Jesus divided the loaves and the fish. But only in Mark, you have a very vivid, detailed description, and only in Mark, you see these two verbs, “go and see”. The previous Sunday, I was talking about “faith”, Christian faith. Actually it is a faith of actions. The faith you need to live out, to show and to do things. You need to do. And last time, I talked about that we suspend our disbelief to try first and today, again, I will talk about “go and see”, these two verbs also focusing on actions.
First, why Jesus asked the disciples to “go and see”. It was a big crowd following Jesus because Jesus had done many miracles, healing miracles. And it was getting dark. The disciples noticed the pressure of a huge group following them as the masters, as the leaders. They knew something had to be done. So they worried and they figured out and they came to Jesus. The disciples said to Jesus, “Send them away”, for there are too many people and we cannot feed them all. Think of that, 5000 people gathering around, and they are poor and needy. But Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” Pressure came again to the disciples. How? How can we? And they raised the difficulties to Jesus again.
Two difficulties: one, it costs a lot of money! 2000 calories each (should be 700 calories), think of those poor people, the disciples are poor, too. Jesus is poor. It costs a lot of money to buy the food to feed so many people. The second difficulty is that it is a long journey for them if they want to buy some food; it takes them a long time. It is a long journey. It is tiring and tiresome. So Jesus said,“ go and see, how many loaves you have?” So the disciples went and see, found two fish and five loaves, and then Jesus performed the miracles.
Why did Jesus want them to go and see? The purpose for them was to turn their eyes away from God to the people around them. The disciples were following Jesus, listening to Jesus all the time, trying to comprehend the mystery, and trying to learn from their master. But it was time then for them to turn their eyes away and look around the people. It is the purpose of Christian faith, not only to listen to God or focus on God’s words and teachings, but also to serve, to turn your eyes away and look around your world, taking up your responsibilities. Be the partners of God and serve with God. So that is why Jesus said “go and see, and find something”, then God will help you figure out what to do. So many people to feed. Yes, go and see what you can get, 5 loaves and 2 fish, and God can finish the miracle. 5000 were satisfied and there were still more. 12 baskets of leftovers, what a wonderful thing.
So the first why Jesus wants the disciples to go and see. We are the disciples, too. So the teaching is that -- turn your eyes form God’s teaching, from your meditation to do something, to look around the world, and go and see their situation.
Secondly, what follows “go and see” is to respond and serve. After the disciples went and saw the need, the situation, and they fetched 5 loaves and 2 fish back to Jesus. Jesus responded and served the people. We always say we follow Jesus, and Jesus is our model and our example, so that is how we respond with love and compassion. To respond with love and compassion actually also requires something. It requires, first of all, an attitude of humility. A lot of times we go and help others, it is that we love to help others; we love to serve the church. But maybe we go and see in a hurry, and we always want to present our ideas, we may notice the difficulty and the mistakes there immediately, and then we are rushing to provide our good suggestions and we think we are right. However, if we go and see, what is hidden behind is our attitude of humility, our humble attitude to listen first and to observe the situation more carefully.
Christianity in China:
For instance, the religious situation of China has long been a topic in the world. You see many foreigners coming to China, and also you can see many reports talking about the persecution here. However, if you are here, you know that it is only one side of the story, maybe, only a quarter of the story. It is a complicated situation here. During the National Holiday, I was in Nanjing, and I went to Xuanwu Lake with my friends. We were surprised to hear the hymns not far from the entrance besides the lake. A group of people with their guitar, like our hymn choir group, with microphone and soundbox, they were singing hymns loudly and freely. Some people were sitting in front of them, listening, joining or maybe singing with them. You could also see many other ladies, who were delivering the handouts/leaflets to the passers-by. They were there, freely singing. That is one thing actually you can see.
Yes, we also have house churches, they cannot be open, and they may have to change their way of worshiping. Or maybe they have to worship not as us, openly. So it is a very complicated situation, and it is hard to judge. Or it is hard to teach others how you should worship God in China. Besides, China is a very plural country, very diverse, with many other religions existing for a long time – it has a long history. When you talk with others, who maybe a Buddhist, who may have been a vocal religion believer. you may find a kind of confrontation, especially when you talk with well-educated people in universities, who have some knowledge of other religions. Actually, the more humble you are, the more you show respect to them, the more possibility for you to win their hearts.
Better Evangelism in China:
It is not right that we judge them very quickly, or you tell them that if you do not believe in Christ, you are going to hell, very quickly. If you are not going to threaten them in that way, but the way you respect them, you listen to their ideas, you respect their previous experiences, their pain, the suffering they had, and how that kind of wisdom has helped them going through all the difficult times. They are still searching and they are still pursuing the truth. You respect them, listen to them, go and see their situation in this way, then, they will listen to you, and also they will come to Christ finally. Because we are only the ones, learning to be the disciples to go and see, and to get the five loaves and the fish back to God, and it is God who is doing the final work, who is doing the miracle, not us. So condescending will never help. Also, remember that, during the service, actually who are the ones whom have been transformed? Us. Not the ones we are actually helping with. In the process through your helping, you will be transformed.
Put God first:
I have heard many friends, always telling me some excuses, even once when I was teaching in a seminary. A student was asking for a leave because she was taking an entrance examination for the Master’s level. She told me that “I have to prepare for my exam, which is coming in three months, so I cannot preach. Do not ask me to preach., I have to prepare for my lessons and my exam.” If it was an ordinary person or a common person in the church, I would not say anything, maybe I would just say, “OK, maybe we can talk about that”; but for seminary students, I became very serious, and stern. Because I could not see that God would be the barrier for the examination or for the things that you want to pursue. Because, why do they learn? They learn to serve God, and they think that examination will be better, or more important than the work for God? Actually, I also talked with many other students who are in the other countries, I said, “if you like, you can go to the church.” They always said, “Oh, yes, because I have an exam, so this Sunday I am not free.” But those excuses actually will never work; because you have been working all the time, and you have been studying all the time, going to church actually is a good break. It is God who is always helping you, strengthening you, if you are in a group, serving others, serving God., God is strengthening you through all the things you are doing, and you are the one who will benefit the most.
Secondly, to go and see, actually also means the responsibilities, the duties that we Christians carry on ourselves. To go and see the situation, we notice the situation and we know our responsibilities to challenge and to change.
For instance, there is one sub-consciousness or a kind of well-known saying in China, that is, there is no unconditional love or hate in this world. (“这世界没有无缘无故的爱，也没有无缘无故的恨”。) Many people would think this way, if you show your kindness to somebody, you must have some reason. You must have some purpose hidden behind it. Or if you hate somebody, there is also some reason there. So, it is very difficult for the Chinese. to believe there exists this unconditional love, We are very utilitarian, because in Buddhism or other (traditional) religions, we trade with gods: I pay this, I bow at this, I worship this, I follow all the duties, then I should get something back. However, it is our task to challenge this sub-consciousness of unconditional love, as a human being., It is very natural for us to expect something, when you help others. Maybe you do not want something materialized, but at least, you want their respect, you help them, you want their smile or kindness, returning back to you. But sometimes, it may not be the result, you may not get it. When things like that happens, always check, why I expect that, where is my unconditional love, and think about how God gave us this unconditional love. Because we were so bad, we sinned every day, we promised we were not going to sin but we did the same thing again, and God just pardoned us, and loved us first of all, before we even knew God. God is still there, He has been helping us through all kinds of way. And He finally gives us this wisdom in our eyes to see the love of God.
And there is one, we all know that in Henan Province actually, many people suffered with HIV, AIDS. And many Christian groups went there and helped them. One of my friends also, whose church organization adopted many orphans and the HIV kids in that village. So he visited them several times. He has to get in touch with the local officials. After many visits, many talks, and finally one day, in the banquet after some alcohol, this official finally loosened himself and talked freely, and he said, “I cannot help asking you this, why do you come and help these poor kids. Why, for what purpose? Because there is no unconditional love, just let me know your purpose.” And this friend said, “But in my mind there is unconditional love and this is what I have experienced. I do not want anything, I just want to help, and I thank you for giving me this opportunity to help. Because you give me this chance to serve, the people behind me, those who are serving the kids, they are very happy, and also they have learnt something, and they are very grateful. And we never let anybody know our church background, and we never tell them we are Christians or from which organization, we just want to help.”
Go and see:
So it is our challenge that we show our unconditional love to others, to embrace them, to be tolerant, to respect them, so that we can show a community of love and a community of unconditional love. In this way we are challenging and transforming this sub-consciences. Go and see, it is a requirement from God; it is a commandment from God for Christians to notice the situation around us, to see the need of the people, and to respond and serve the people like God has done for us. To go and see is also an invitation to you, if you are not a believer yet. It is an invitation from God that you go and see the Christian community. See the people around you who are Christians, so that you can be touched by God’s love. Let’s all go and see. May God bless His words. Amen.
|Sermon: Go and See||video||audio||doc|
|Worship song: Here I Am To Worship||video||audio||lyric|
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|Worship song: Alleluia To Christ The Lord||video||audio||lyric|