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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

You May Think You Ain't Got Stuff

Date: 07/31/2005 8/4/2002
Feast: 18th s in o
Church: LHPC
Bible text: Matt. 14:13-21
Theme: Feeding 5000

(The following is an outline, or a collection of thoughts, rather than a full text.)

“You may think
You ain’t got stuff,
But God takes a little
And makes it enough.”

You ain’t got stuff.
Worn out.
You know how a balloon sounds when it slips out of a child’s fingers?
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like that.

The Bible doesn’t tell us all the details, but I’ll bet Jesus felt just like that at the place we take up reading today.

Matthew, chapter 14, verse 13: "Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself."

The first thing we have to ask is, what did Jesus hear that made him want to paddle out into the middle of the lake all by himself?

John the Baptist had been killed. Beheaded.
John's disciples had recovered the body, given it a proper burial.
Then went & told Jesus.

"Now, when he heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself."

Morning on the lake.
Single paddle, no supplies.
Water still & misty.
Thick air -- full of humidity, empty of life.
As paddled, what was he thinking?
What emotions were spilling over?


Forerunner in ministry.
Knew him better than anyone.
One who had baptized him & felt Spirit of God.
One who in his mother's womb leapt for joy when heard good news of Jesus' own coming.
Jesus WAS in a deserted place by himself.
Burden of being God's messenger was his alone.
His one almost equal colleague in ministry -- gone.


Herod -- puppet dictator of Rome's power.
Fat, drunken slob. Feasted on taxes & sweat of Israel.
Lewd BD party thrown himself.
Favor to wife's daughter (stepdaughter he was also in love with).
Because of a birthday halftime show that would embarrass Janet Jackson.
Beheaded John & had it brought to the girl.
Story would wear out anyone's heart -- tear a hole.
Good man, snuffed by evil.
Hole in heart filled with anger.
How could you?
Why would you?
John was a plaything Herod used to get a kick out of hearing preach.
Got drunk & swore a biblical oath.
Evil of biblical proportions.
Anger. Rage. Resentment.
Dig a paddle. Dig a grave.


Reality of mission sets in.
Like soldier who sees buddy die -- this is life or death battle.
Herod & gov't knew his connection to John.
Religious leaders already didn't like Jesus.
Not running away -- where could he hide? Public celebrity.
Paddling into the open. Into deep water, unique solitude.
Scripture: "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge."
Now he had the knowledge that no one was safe. Not even himself.
Fear chases us toward knowledge: drove him to a lonely place.


Only place to be alone with thoughts.
Paddling in straight lines? Or in circles.
Away from crowds, disciples, family.
"Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
-- or think.
-- or be quiet
(own sermons preached back at him.)
What does (John's death) mean?
to him, to his ministry, to John's own ministry?
What to do next?
Confront Herod?
Start an uprising?
Go into exile?
Call on angels to come down & protect him?
What does it mean that the humanity he's to save can so carelessly kill each other?
How do you really love such an enemy?
Will his own followers desert him?
Will his own disciples give him a decent burial?
If he does nothing: opens himself to criticism.
If he does something: rushes God's plan, moves too soon.


Not able to do anything, think anything, decide anything.
When brain & heart fail, let muscles take over.
Feeling everything & nothing.
Overburdened & empty.
Unable to connect reality to yourself.
Shock is when rug is pulled out, blindsided. Brain reaches its limit.
& so you go -- run, row, drive, ride, pedal, cook, eat, drink --
--- don't know why - just have to do something.
Rhythm of paddling is soothing in monotony.

Worn out.
Looks up.
Along shore, people running to keep up.
Calling to others, "There he is!"
One or two run into water.
Fear for their lives -- Deep!
"Go back, you fools!"
"Not now! Can't I be alone for 5 minutes?"
Turns boat to shore.
Pulls swimmers into boat.
Beaches boat, more people.
5000 men + wives + children
10,000? 15,000?
"He had compassion on them & cured their sick."
One at a time? Or in one blanket healing?
They stayed the day with him.
& he with them.
No more lonely boating, just people.
Saw John's face in theirs? Some remind him of Herod?

End of a long day. -- Jesus worn out?
Disciples came saying, "Send them away (to buy food)."
Jesus: You give them something to eat.
(They only had 5 loaves & 3 fish)
Jesus doesn't send people away.
Jesus won't send anyone away.
Would rather ask the impossible than chase away followers.
(Strength of command is not that they be fed, but that they not ever be sent away, alone, & forsaken, hungering.)
Compassion --
- cures their sick
- fills their bellies.
Feeding is compassion
- to people
- to disciples
(Jesus doesn't feed 5000+ himself.
Takes disciples' bread, blesses,
gives it back to them, they distribute.)
Leftovers – 12 baskets!
12 baskets, 12 disciples...
Doggie bags for the disciples?

Message is good news to us.
When we're feeling worn out.
When we want to get away from everyone & everything.
Good news - when our baskets are just about empty.
When someone breaks in wanting "just one more thing."
God doesn't give us everything that we want;
God blesses what we have.
God takes the worn out & makes it enough.

One thing we have in common with Jesus & disciples: we all get worn out.
Things we don't have the resources to handle.
Even good stuff is overwhelming if so much of it (vacations that are exhausting).
No place to go to be alone & away
out on the boat
- needs work
- other boaters splashing & making noise
- subwoofer from shore (”You can’t touch this” I don’t want to!).

Maybe we don't need to get away as much as we need blessing.
- assurance that your meager resources are enough.
- someone to turn to for help.
- peace of God that passes understanding.
When you are worn out, where do you get that blessing?

Finding blessing.

So much of Bible is about being worn out.
"Waters have come up to my neck."
"Out of the depths I cry to thee."
"Why hast thou forsaken me?"

...& relief
"ho, come to the waters, buy what satisfies."
"taste & see that the Lord is good."
"come to me, all you who are carrying heavy burdens. I will give rest."

...Bible IS a book for the worn out.
But not a self-help book, not an exercise manual.
Reminds us of God's unlimited power & goodness
& our own powerlessness in presence of the Lord.
Teaches that only after we accept our own powerlessness can we have strength of God.

What wears you out?
What makes your heart feel alone? Feel the need to be alone?
When you are alone, what surfaces?
Anger, fear, sadness, shock, thinking?
How do you feel toward people who want to take your alone time from you?
Resentful? Thankful?
Is your alone time lonely time? Something to be avoided?
Can you be compassionate toward those who want just one thing more than what you have?
When you are worn out, where do you find blessing?

In the economy of God, nothing is ever lost. Nothing is ever wasted. No little bit is too small to be blessed to great ends.

Whatever has been taken from you
- person
- time
- money

Whatever is being required of you that you DON'T have

When you are used up, worn out, & lonely-hearted

...ask God's blessing on what little you DO have.
The little you DO have may not be what you want,
- may not be as good as what you used to have
but blessed & broken, it will be enough to get you through the day.
And if one day, then the next.
And then the next.
Such is the compassion of God.
By God's compassion, the world is blessed
- by (with) people who paddle into lonely places
- by people who don't have much, but share what they have
- by people who are blessed & broken.
- by people who are empty-handed, & used up & worn out.

If you're feeling energetic & refreshed today -- good for you!
God has blessed you.
But come day when you have no energy, gone stale
-- know that you are twice-blessed by God's compassion.
You might feel like God's asking you to accomplish the impossible.
But even used up and worn out, God will not ever, ever, send you away.

“You may think
You ain’t got stuff,
But God takes a little
And makes it enough.”