Daniel E. H. Bryant
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon
text this morning comes from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6 verses 30 –
apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done
and taught. 31He
said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and
rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no
leisure even to eat. 32And
they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33Now
many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on
foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As
he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them,
because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach
them many things. 35When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a
deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36send
them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and
villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’ 37But
he answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to
him, ‘Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and
give it to them to eat?’ 38And
he said to them, ‘How many loaves have you? Go and see.’ When they
had found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’ 39Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the
green grass. 40So
they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41Taking
the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed
and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the
people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42And
all ate and were filled; 43and
they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44Those
who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
said in the first service I wasn’t going to comment on the election
because if I did I’d probably get in trouble with somebody.
Everyone has different perspectives.
But as I was reading this text, it suddenly dawned on me that in
that last verse 5,000 men is intentionally men because they only counted
men. Speaking of
undercounts! The problem in
democracy when you have undercounted votes is a huge problem, so
that’s my only comment on the election.
It’s a problem we have to figure out how to fix in this
crowd was probably much larger, because there were undoubtedly women and
children there as well. So,
10, 15, 20 thousand? We
don’t know. But you would
know as someone from that culture that there were more that were there
that for whatever reasons didn’t count, so to speak.
There’s a whole different sermon there, I’m not going to go
three aspects of this story that interest me this morning are that the
disciples try to send the crowds away because they need something to eat
– they should go into the town to get something to eat.
Instead Jesus tells them ‘No, you
give them something to eat’. It
never occurred to them that they could feed the crowd with five loaves
and two fish. Duh! That they had the resources to feed such a large crowd – it
never occurred to them.
then tells them to take an inventory.
See how much food you have on hand.
They go and see and come back and report five loaves and two
fish. After blessing these
very meager resources, hardly enough just to feed the 13 of them (and
whatever women may have been in their company).
Jesus has the disciples distribute that food among the crowd.
And it is more than enough.
we call this a miracle. And
rightly so – what else can you call it?
You start with this much, feed this many people, you end up with
this much. But note that
there’s nothing in the story that claims that – that says it’s a
miracle, that says it’s a sign. Simply
says ‘we started with this amount of food and ended up with this
much’. Draw your own
conclusion. Some have
suggested that really what happened was that when the disciples came out
with that food and the crowd saw them attempting to feed this huge crowd
with so little, they either felt shamed or they were so moved and
impressed by the effort, whatever the motivation, they then pulled out
the food that they were holding back, and shared it with the rest.
And it was because of that that there was so much food left over.
before you discount that as denying the power of Jesus to miraculously
feed this crowd, stop and ask yourself ‘which is the greater
inanimate objects to spontaneously multiply for a divine power?
Or, causing hungry people in a time of scarcity and want to
spontaneously share of their meager resources?
you want to see a modern day miracle along that line I would just invite
you this afternoon as part of our Go and See festival to visit the
Helping Hand Ministry, to see what is happening there, it is one of the
things we’ll be featuring. We
served last year almost 600 families, over 1,100 children, over 2,000
individuals all told, for less than $5,000.
We provided ample, quality clothing, coats, household items,
Christmas gifts, backpacks, school supplies, toiletries, bedding – did
I leave anything out? What else? Layettes,
quilts, and all the rest for less than $2.50 per person.
In my book, that’s a miracle.
Multiplying not loaves and fishes but clothes and dishes.
It is a miraculous thing to behold.
because we read this as a miracle story we tend to focus on what Jesus
does in the story. But the
emphasis is really not on what Jesus is doing, it’s on what the
disciples do or at least what they’re supposed to do.
First, Jesus gives them that imperative – ‘you feed the
crowd’. And then he tells them to take that inventory – ‘go and
see’, and they do. And
then finally he gives them the food and they distribute it.
Each step along the way goes from Jesus to the disciples, and
then to the people.
other words, this story is not so much about what Jesus did as it is
about what the disciples, what the followers of Jesus, are supposed to
do. And this three-fold
program for feeding the 5, 10, 20 thousand people I think is a model for
our ministry. First of all
to determine our mission – you give them something to eat, you give
them something to wear, you visit them when they are sick and in prison,
you go and make disciples of all nations, you preach the good news to
the poor, you heal the sick. That’s what we are asked to do.
That is our imperative – why is it left to us? Paul makes it quite clear, he says ‘you, followers of
Jesus, are the body of Christ’. We
are the ones to continue this mission, this ministry of Jesus, here in
this place, in this time. That’s
why our mission statement says that we are called to be a light to the
world here in the heart of Eugene.
Living out that community envisioned by Jesus.
To be Christ-like people, spirit-filled, sharing the love of God
for all people.
then, in this program of fulfilling our mission, we are to identify the
resources we have to do just that.
How many loaves have you? Go
and see. I think if you
participate in the Go and See festival this afternoon (it’ll take
about 90 minutes) it will be very enlightening as you go and see all the
incredible things that the church does.
As a congregation, our resources basically come down to three
things: there is first of
all the accumulated resources of past generations invested into this
church, into this facility. This
beautiful, historical building, along with our education wing and even
our parking lot are the gifts bequeathed to us by those who went before
us, who established this congregation, given to us to do this ministry
that God gives to us. Sometimes
I think we take that for granted, therefore it’s good to pause and to
remember and to give thanks for all of this that has been made possible
through the significant sacrifice of others.
about 1911 when this building was built, and the streets out here were
just dirt and mud. There were no sidewalks, there were hardly any
buildings, we were WAY outside of town. Eugene was just a little sleepy
village down there by the railroad station.
1911, $75,000 dollars – well, they had to deduct a $1,000 off
the top of the building cost because they couldn’t fix the leak in the
dome. And for 80 years that
was the job of the Deacons to go up there and move those buckets around
to catch the water until we fixed that in our first phase of our
building campaign in the early 90’s.
But think about that then -- $74,000 dollars and what that meant
for that congregation. And
also think about the fact that they were not a church a lot larger than
ours at the time – they had just built and paid for another building
just 20 years prior to that. And
here they were moving out of a building only 20 years old to move into
this building. Think about
the sacrifice they had to make.
the way, in 1911, we were the only Christian Church within a 20 mile
radius. Today, there are 9
or 10 in that same radius, mostly congregations that we helped to start. So we have been growing in a variety of ways.
other words it is only through the significant sacrifice of many others
before us that we have this wonderful resource available to us. And that represents both a tremendous responsibility to use
it well for the mission that we have been given, as well as big shoes
for us to fill as we are challenged to step up and to meet the needs
presented to us.
the current members and friends who make up the ministries of this
church through their combined efforts, are the second resource that we
have available. This
afternoon we are going to show you 33 different ministries of the church
in our Go and See festival. When
I added up all those involved in those ministries – the leaders – I
came up with 280 people. When you count the duplicates – those who sing in the choir
and teach Sunday school and the like – we still have about 150 people
actively involved in some form of ministry in the congregation beyond
those who come to worship or come to Sunday school.
I think that’s impressive. It’s a lot of people involved in
doing ministry and it is our greatest asset.
in point: we identified
about 24 members who are no longer able to attend here on a regular
basis and we have a group of six women – our calling ministry – who
stay in touch with those 24 people on a regular basis.
And our elders take communion every Sunday to people – about 8
or 10 out of that list. This
morning, one of our members is undergoing an angiogram, and I thought
it’d be good to go and have prayer with her but I was a little tied up
– hard for me to get away. But
I had no difficulty finding someone to go and to spend that time with
her this morning so she knows that her church is thinking about her.
suppose if we had a lot of money, that we could hire another minister to
do all of that. But in my
experience, ministry is much more effective when it is done by those who
are called to do it as members of the body of Christ rather than those
who are paid to do it as the staff of the church.
Is that right? Good!
Because you see if you really do your job well, then I won’t
have anything to do, and that would be fine by me! I always said that
ministry was a great profession, if I could just figure out how to do it
the third resource at our disposal is of course financial.
Primarily through the offerings that we receive.
Last Sunday I said something about our tableau of giving.
You know how sometimes when you start to say something and then
you know it’s not quite the right word but you go ahead and say it
anyway because you can’t think of what the right word is?
Reminds me of the pastor of a mega-church, one of these big huge
congregations, who was making this dramatic point of how it was
necessary to take a second look at a particular thing in the life of a
church, and with great emphasis he said that ‘it is time that this be
re-thunk!’ Say it with conviction and people will think you know what
you are saying J.
So I referred to our tableau of giving when I was at the table
for the offering moment. Somebody
thought I didn’t know what I was talking about and suggested that I
really meant ‘plateau’. That
we were on a plateau of giving—well I looked up the definition of
tableau and it says a ‘graphic picture or scene’.
So I want to show you our tableau of giving, just so you know
that I do know what I’m talking about.
For, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, we had good, steady
growth, and then the last couple years we have hit this plateau.
tableau of giving that shows the ranges of gifts that we receive on a
monthly basis, and the number of givers – the shortest bar down there
are those that give about $10 or less a month, then $25, $50, $75, $100,
$150, $200, $300, $400, $500, $600 and above.
Now obviously as you get to those larger amounts there aren’t
as many, that give at that level, but there are people who make very
significant contributions and they are all significant because they all
add up to support the ministry of the church.
Over 180 households that contribute in one way or another to the
life of the church – that’s very significant.
another tableau – our giving by age.
This is really interesting, Patty put this together.
What’s interesting – the dark green are the number of givers,
the yellow is the total annual gift from those folks in that age group.
You see at the lower end, 5-19 years of age, we have a good
number of givers. I think that represents 10, 12, 13 folks that give in that
5-19 range. Those are our
children, our youth, that are giving on a regular basis – that is
significantly up from where it was 10 years ago.
That’s a good sign. Obviously
they don’t give as much, they don’t have as much to give.
20-29 year old group, the 30-39, and then we have a big jump in the
40-49. I don’t know what
happened to the 50-something crowd, but let this be a challenge to the
50 something crowd, the 40-somethings are out giving you by a
significant margin for whatever reason.
And then the strength of the congregation in the 60+ crowd, and
on. And that’s not
surprising – folks at the maximum earning power in their lives, and
frequently with the greatest discretionary funds that they have. The last one is just all the folks that we don’t know their
ages because they’re new, or only here on occasion, what have you.
how do we compare to other churches, Disciple churches in Oregon?
We are 6th in per capital annual giving, a little over
$1,200 that we give per household to the church.
That’s significant – we do fairly well in comparison to other
churches, but obviously there are others that do better, so there’s a
challenge there for us. So,
there’s our giving tableau,
that I hope will help us to move off the giving plateau! As we are all challenged by that.
will only happen if those of us who are able to do so step up the
challenge, inventory our personal resources, to go and see how much we
can give to feed the 5,000, the 10,000, the 20,000.
To make miracles happen here at First Christian Church. I just have to say one more thing about that:
the Biblical bench-mark for good stewardship is tithing.
Giving 10% of our income. And
for many of us that is a healthy goal to strive toward.
However, Art Simon, the founder of Bread for the World notes that
it has a couple drawbacks. First
of all, in encourages people to think of stewardship only in terms of
their financial contribution to the church.
And stewardship, of course, is much more than that.
That is why I hesitate sometimes to even use the word stewardship
to talk about financial campaigns.
Stewardship really is about everything
we do with the resources God gives to us.
Stewardship is as much about the kind of car you drive – what
would Jesus drive? And the
food you eat, and how you live your life as it is about what you give to
the church. Secondly, it is a one-size fits all approach which does not
recognize that a tithe for some would be a hardship while for others it
would be easy, and should be the floor of our giving, rather than the
ceiling of our giving. Third,
and worst of all Simon says, it implies that if I give 10% to God, then
the other 90% is all mine, whatever I want to do with it, it’s up to
you see, nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus doesn’t talk about the tithe, Jesus doesn’t want 10%,
Jesus wants 100%. He wants
you to give your whole life. We
don’t expect people to give like he says to that rich young ruler, to
sell everything he has. But
we do call people – that is the call of Christ, to give yourself, you
full self, not just one small portion of your life to God.
And then to figure out what that means in terms of your giving to
the church, and what you do with your finances.
So for most of us, tithing sets the standards too low, and we
need to think in bigger terms, we need to be challenged at whatever
level that challenge comes, be that 3%, 5, 10, 12, 15, or 20 percent on.
The last thing for us to do, once we have
determined our mission, and taken account of our resources available to
fulfill that mission is to then pass out those loaves and fishes.
To put those resources to work for God.
What will happen when we do that?
Will it produce a miracle? There’s
only one way to find out. Go,
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