Notes from the sermon by Dr Jan Betts 16 January 2020 – Calling (Part 3)
If you could spend your week doing anything you like what would it be? Watching your favourite box sets? Climbing mountains? Sleeping..I wonder..
I’ve just had a lovely holiday and when I got back what did
I find? Two kinds of jobs to be done. One set was lovely, contacting friends,
and family, gently pottering in my garden. The other set were not so nice –
tough emails to answer, bills to pay,
the hoover has packed up, the car needs its MOT, the last light bulb has gone
in the bathroom… lots and lots of jobs need doing and they have to be done or
there will be consequences.
One of my solutions to getting jobs done is to get someone
else in to do stuff which I really can’t do. We have jolly chats, and I go about what I
can do cheerfully while someone else does what I can’t do or haven’t time to do
properly. I feel so much better for the company and the sense of parallel
working which it gives me.
I have slowly come to recognise that I can’t do it all in my
life at home and am comfortable with that. But what I struggle with and have
struggled with all my life is how I find a balance in my ‘working’ life with
I know God is not interested in how much I ‘do’. I’m not
‘paid’ with eternal life for being a good worker, thank God. I have a
relationship with Jesus which asks me to be wholehearted and utterly committed,
as he asked the rich young ruler to be, as he asked Nicodemus to be. Despite
that I have struggled with a feeling that I need to be constantly saving the
world on all fronts! As if I could!
But in a recent sermon on the reading we have today of the
five loaves and two fishes I began to join up the dots a bit differently.
What hit me between the eyes was that ALL there was in the
basket which fed everyone was five loaves and two fishes. That was all.
I thought about this little lad. He was probably running
about half listening to Jesus, being with his mates and his family, looking
forward to lunch and his little pack up. They would taste so good and he was
hungry. And maybe he was standing close to Jesus when Jesus felt sorry for this
Jesus says to Philip ’where can we buy some bread’? Not where
can they buy bread but where can we buy bread? The disciples were
knackered and in fact Jesus had brought them to this place to rest but hey ho,
the people just wouldn’t leave him alone and he felt sorry for them.
So Andrew takes the hint and goes round asking if anyone had any food with them? There wasn’t much response that we hear of. I imagine the boy is puzzled. Is he the only one who has a pack-up? But he looks at Jesus and he looks at the crowd and he says honestly and simply ‘I’ve got some food’.
The straightforwardness of children is delightful. You’re
asking if anyone has any food to share -well yes he has and maybe he could
spare some of it. What were his feelings
if no one else was willing to share?
So he offers Jesus his basket thinking Jesus might take a
roll and be grateful. And Jesus takes the lot!!! No half measures. He just
picks up the whole basket. Hey that’s my lunch says the boy. And watches with
amazement while Jesus feeds everybody with it. Did other people bring out their
loaves in shame? It really doesn’t matter at one level but I hope so!
Jesus asks us for all of our five loaves and two fishes. We
hear this over and over again. If you want a relationship with me you have to
be all in. Be born again, be willing to sell those worldly goods which you feel
so responsible for, leave your fishing career, stop worrying about impressing
your neighbours, or filling your barns full of corn. Come and be part of my
Kingdom totally whole heartedly.
What really really struck me was Jesus wants my five loaves
and two fishes but I can’t offer more than that. I don’t have olives or cheese
or cake. I truly believe that Jesus would never ever ask me to be a treasurer
because spreadsheets are not in my basket.
But he does ask for the things I have got such as they are, because they
are part of our relationship. I can use them to feed others as well as feeding
you, he says. Give me your ability to write or to organise and you will get joy
out of it and so will others. And if you give me those and others give me their
gifts, their financial skill, their large hospitality, their love for children,
why then you’ll get that too because it will be share around for you.
Jesus wants the lot, and he wants the lot the lot from all
of us but he wants only what we’ve got. I am thrilled that others care so passionately
about climate change that I can hear from them and do small actions. This
church punches way above its weight in terms of loving actions in the world. I am thrilled that Hannah and others love
children so much that I can share in the delight of seeing them grow as young
Christians and young people. I am
thrilled that people do so much for asylum seekers here and I can contribute
what I can to their work. I love the way we affirm people of every sexual
orientation. I share in the loaves and fishes which other people have in their
baskets to do this caring work, and we are very committed to it as a church
Our community is first and foremost this Gospel-shaped caring. But is it more than
Let’s read Acts 2:42-47 and Philippians 2:1-11
We hear in these passages about the way in which the early
church worked together, in humility, sharing the love of Jesus among themselves,
being Gospel shaped caring. But they also shared their resources. They fed each other and they
took care of the widows and orphans. Lucky people they didn’t have buildings to
look after or minutes to take at meetings but we do! What they did do was to
give what they had and to support the community of believers.
So I am equally and perhaps even more thrilled that there
are people here who share their five loaves and two fishes of talent and energy
with us all when they do the chores which need doing or there will be consequences! I am
thrilled that there are people who put the bins out, clean out the chapel, work
so hard and with such frustration to
find a way of getting us a new roof, write policy documents to keep us in good
standing with the Diocese, who check that the fire alarms are serviced, who
notice when there is litter and pick it up, who write contracts for our staff and serve with cheerfulness on PCC and do Health
and Safety checks. When I was on PCC we used to say that changing
a lightbulb was a holy act of service and it is – it’s a loaf or a fish, and we
need to see that as cause for celebration as much as anything else we do. It’s something we do together, and we get joy
out of doing it together and feeding each other. Buddying up to do stuff is so
much more fun than doing it on your own. No one can do it alone.
So now I want to give you the challenge which I find so
hard, and which reduces me to tears sometimes.
At least 10 years ago we looked at our small community here and
our leaky church and our tired faces and we had a whole church discussion and
then a vote, praying and thinking through whether we stayed in this building or
moved out into a school or joined with the Methodists or whatever. We committed ourselves to staying, which was a
momentous decision, and we have worked and prayed to that end ever since. We
turned down quite a lucrative contract because it would mean the building
wasn’t available for the community during the week. We were trying to live the
Kingdom and to live for the love of God together in this community. Those years
since have been a long time to be working this through and we still have leaks
in the roof, but we’ve done an awful lot else as well, by the grace of God. We also – and Heston told me to put this bit
in – have some tired people who have been working for that long time and need
rest. Giving your lunch, your little bit
which grows to feed everyone is not a one day event, but neither is it a life
sentence and what we do this year may not be what God asks of us next year.
What he didn’t tell me to put in is to share with you how
many people have said they are worried about him when he goes green with
tiredness. He also has five loaves and two fishes and while he gets paid it
doesn’t give the rest of us leave to not share ours.
So what might be the bit of the loaves and fishes which you
could offer in the next five to ten years to keep the vision of our community
alive? Every little bit of offering can be transformed when we do it together
in the love and praise of God as the early church did. If we all do it together we get to have a great
picnic all the time, others see how much we love each other and no one feels
At home as I said I employ someone when I can’t do things.
Do we need to think about that? Life has been transformed by having our
administrator and thank God for the money that has let us employ lovely Dee to
do that role. Some of our loaves and fishes may be more money rather than time,
Thinking about my five loaves and two fishes has left me so much more thankful
for what I can actually offer, willing to give God back what I
have been given and to share it with the saints around me but also clear that I
don’t have to offer what isn’t there. Someone
else will share their oranges – in other words do the spreadsheets. I offer
what I have to my relationship with God and rest in the hope that we all share
together in the harvesting of the