Pastor Sherry’s message for 7/25/2021
Scriptures: 2 Sam 11:1-15; Ps 14; Eph 3:14-21; Jn 6:1-21
Last week, I shared about the ministry of Mother Theresa, one of my “Heroes of the Faith.” This week, I want to mention another: Heidi Baker. She and her husband, Rolland, are both Pentecostal pastors with Ph.D.’s in Theology from the London School of Theology. They are also missionaries with a heart for orphans and the poor. While praying one day, God had told Heidi that He was “giving them Mozambique”–which was, at the time, one of the poorest nations in the world. Heidi and Rolland have been living and serving in Mozambique, Africa, since 1995. She and Rolland house, feed, and educate orphan children. She has become a noted speaker and “the public face” of their ministry. Her method in Mozambique has been to train up children to pray for others. She teaches them to pray: They pray for the deaf to hear, and they do. They pray for the blind to see, and they do. They pray for the paralyzed to walk, and they do. She claims that God has raised over 100 people from the dead, through the prayers of her various prayer teams.
In this destitute country, God has worked thru her and her husband to establish schools; provide medical clinics; distribute food; drill wells; and provide physically and spiritually for over 3,000 orphans. The Bakers have raised up many indigenous pastors and have planted somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 Christian congregations in mozambique!
One of my favorite stories from her ministry is about a “multiplication miracle.” A woman from Texas was visiting with the Bakers and offered to fix them dinner. She prepared a wonderful meal for 5, Heidi, Rolland, their two children, and herself. When she called the Bakers in to eat, Heidi expressed initial dismay at the small quantity as they always fed their 250 orphans whenever they ate. Heidi immediately suggested they pray for more food, then she told the woman to keep ladling out food from the pots as the plates kept coming. The woman was amazed to discover the pots never emptied. The Lord had multiplied her dinner until all the children and adults present received food. (See her book, Compelled by Love, to read about this story and others.) Wouldn’t it have strengthened your faith to have witnessed that?
Our Gospel for today focuses one of Jesus’ multiplication miracles, the feeding of the 5,000 from John 6:1-21 (also recounted in the other three gospels). John tells us (v.4) the Passover Feast was near. Jesus is not in Jerusalem; rather, He is preaching and teaching in Galilee. As I shared last week, a huge crowd had followed Him. In His compassion, He knows they are hungry. Perhaps recalling the Exodus and Numbers about the daily manna from heaven, as well as Elijah’s encounter with the Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-24), Jesus tests the disciples, asking them where they might find bread (and meat) for the crowd to eat. A correct answer would have been, “Lord, you know,” or “Lord, You are able to provide. But instead of thinking of heavenly possibilities, they focus on the earthly realities. Philip and Andrew seem set on problem-solving. They assert in verse 7 that the group lacks the money to buy enough; but they also point out in verse 8 that they have inventoried the current supply and found some small provisions—5 hamburger-sized loaves and 2 small, dried fish–insufficient for the numbers of folks present
Rev. Dr. J. Vernon McGee (p.99 of his commentary on John) says the 12 desired to become Jesus’ Board of Directors, and thus formed a committee to look into the problem. McGee and others have defined a church committee as “a group of people who individually can do nothing, but collectively they decide nothing can be done” (Not my experience at WUMC). He also claims a church committee is “a group of people who take down minutes and waste hours.” Sure enough, the committee report is that feeding 5,000 men (approximately 15,000, if we conservatively add in 1 woman and 1 child per each male) is impossible. They recommend to Jesus that He send them home. They have resolved the issue without considering God’s math—the mathematics of a miracle.
Jesus resolves the problem in a way reminiscent of the Old and New Testament multiplication miracles: He provides for them abundantly, passing out more than enough bread and fish to go around. Just like at the wedding in Cana, where He turned 6 large jars of water into 100 gallons of the finest wine. Just like with the manna and quail in the desert, plenty for 1-2 million people, every day for 40 years! Just like with Elijah and the widow, enough oil and flour to make bread until the famine ended.
Jesus turns His wanna-be Board of Directors into a wait-staff. He has them distribute fish sandwiches to groups seated on the grounds. Then, in a wonderful display of God’s abundant provision, He has them pick up the left overs. Now we must bear in mind that these folks were not usually well-fed.
Given free food, you can imagine that they would have eaten their fill. Instead of gathering up bites left on their plates, they collected 12 baskets full of what were probably whole sandwiches. Again, as J. Vernon McGee says, “I tell you, if you have the 5 loaves plus the 2 fish plus Jesus, then you’ve got something, Friend. Without Him, you don’t have anything at all.”
Our God is a God of abundance. He desires to bless us, extravagantly.
Before we get carried away, however, let’s remember there are limits to God’s efforts to bless. These limits often arise from our own sin and our rejection of Him. This is the point, I think, of our Old Testament lesson today from 2 Samuel 11:1-15. Up to this point in 2nd Samuel, we have encountered David’s triumphs:
1.) Anointed King as a successor to Saul;
2.) Killing the giant, Goliath, in battle;
3.) Successfully eluding Saul’s jealous and zealous pursuit of him;
4.) Finally uniting all 12 tribes under his leadership;
5.) Subduing the enemies of Israel; and
6.) Bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, his capital.
Now we see him plunge into trouble, the first act of a cascade of subsequent heartbreaks.
In what may have been a midlife crisis, David does not go off to battle against his lone unsubdued enemy, the Ammonites. He sends the army ahead without him. At home in his palace, he appears to be restless and bored. Rather than take his troubles to God, or ask what he might do to better his people, he takes a walk at night on his rooftop. From this height, he sees the lovely, we-presume-naked-Bathsheba, bathing on her rooftop. Rooftops were cool at night; perhaps she was trying to escape the heat. Where were her privacy screens? Now David has several other wives at this point (he is approximately 40YO), but he sees her and lusts after her.
Do you notice the connection between wealth, power, and boredom here? It has been my observation that the evil one uses this toxic combination to lead many into sexual sin. Look at the fall of Rome. Consider Jeffrey Epstein’s “Lolita Express” in which rich, powerful men—like Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew, and unnamed others–flew to an isolated Caribbean island to engage in illicit sexual activities with under-aged girls. The king summons Bathsheba to his palace and begins an affair with her. He is married, several times over. And so is she. Her husband is Uriah, a Hittite believer and one of David’s “Mighty Men” (body guards). Scholars also believe she was the daughter of another of his Mighty Men, Eliam. The couple’s actions thus hurt a number of people and seriously offend God. In one night, given moods of boredom and dissatisfaction, David sins colossally. He breaks the 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th commandments.
He also misuses his God-given powers as king. He sent for Bathsheba. Was she a willing participant? Possibly, but we don’t know for sure. She becomes pregnant. Scripture is clear (v.4) that she was not impregnated by her husband, as her monthly cycle had just ended. Now David feels forced to mount a sophisticated cover-up.
Notice that God includes David’s (and Bathsheba’s) moral failure in Scripture. God neither denies it, excuses it, nor pretties it up. God desires to use it as instruction for us. As our Psalm (14) says, Only a fool believes there is no God. David authored this psalm. He knows that God is omniscient, all seeing, all knowing. But like so many of us when we embark on sin, he isn’t thinking of God’s response. Nevertheless, God sees and knows and holds David accountable.
Because we are in Christ, as Paul asserts in Ephesians 3:14-21, we are covered by His righteousness. This is great, good news! Unlike with King David, the penalty for our sins has been taken on for us by Jesus. The penalty for both David and Bathsheba was death. Because we believe in Jesus, however, we are spared. What we may not be able to dodge, though, is the Law of Sowing and Reaping. We reap what we sow. We are subject to the ripple-effect of our sins. I could be wrong, but, as I see it, the consequences of our sins often boomerang back upon us. As the culture puts it, “What goes around comes around.” We steal from someone, someone then later steals from us. We betray someone, someone later betrays us, etc. We might say that sin ripples are often a form of subtraction.
This week, let’s focus our attention on God’s multiplication. As with Mother Theresa and with Heidi and Rolland Baker, God wants to bless us. Let’s try not to fall into sin, but if we do, let’s be quick to repent and ask God’s forgiveness. We want to experience God’s blessings, not the adverse consequences of our poor choices. Let’s ask God the Holy Spirit to help us and let’s remember, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 3:20, our God…is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine….
©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams