NextSunday Worship


August 2, 2020

“Supper Time at the Shore!”

Dr.James M. Pitts Matthew 14:13-21 Year A - Season after Pentecost - Proper 13

Our scripture today transports back to a special moment in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Jesus not only taught and healed people, he fed them.  He responded to their needs spiritually, emotionally and physically.  His was a holistic ministry embracing the totality of life.

Jesus was real and present.  He connected with people in the here and now, offering down to earth encouragement, forgiveness for sins and eternal hope.  Jesus was making a difference in how they dealt with the past, anticipated the future, and lived out the love of God as people of faith.

Wherever he went, crowds gathered to see him, hear him, and experience his healing touch.  It took an extra effort on Jesus part to have time alone, away from the crowds that followed him.  As our scripture opens, we see Jesus withdrawing by boat to a deserted place to be alone.  He had received some troubling news.  John the Baptist was dead!

Followers of John the Baptist reported to Jesus, that John had been executed by King Herod.  The King did not tolerate criticism or opposition to his royal way.  Besides being a critic of the political and social status quo, John the Baptist was directly critical of King Herod’s personal immoral behavior.

Listen to the scripture prior to our text:

About that time King Herod heard the news of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “I’ll bet its John the Baptizer. He has been raised from the dead, and that’s why he can do such amazing things.” For Herod had arrested John, chained him, and kept him in jail after John had told him, “It isn’t right for you to take Herodias, your brother’s wife.”

Herod was anxious to kill him, but he was scared to because the people regarded John as a man of God. Well, at Herod’s birthday party, Herodias’ daughter danced for him and delighted him so much that he swore he would give her anything in the world she asked for. Having been put up to it by her mother, she said, “Give me, here on a platter, the head of John the Baptizer.”

Hearing this, the Governor wanted to kick himself for having made such a rash promise in public, but he went ahead and gave orders to have John beheaded in the jail. Then John’s head was brought in on a platter and presented to the young lady, and she took it to her mama. John’s friends went and got his body and buried it; then they got in touch with Jesus and told him about it.   (Matthew 14:1-12).

Upon hearing this gruesome report, Jesus was overwhelmed with sadness and retreated to a deserted place.  He needed time alone to ponder not only what happened to John the Baptist but what this foreshadowed for his life and future.

Jesus’ retreat into the quiet shadows was cut short, by a great crowd that followed him.  Upon stepping on shore, he saw the crowd and had compassion on them and cured their sick.  Soon the serene sunshine of the day began to fade, evening fell, and the disciples came to Jesus with a concern…

“This is a deserted place, and it’s already getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to town and buy something to eat.”

Jesus told them, “They don’t need to leave; you all feed them.” They said, “But we have nothing on hand—except five loaves and two fish.

He said, “Okay, bring them here.” So, he told the people to sit down on the grass, and then he took the five loves and two fish.

Lifting his eyes toward the skies, Jesus said a blessing and gave the food to his students, who distributed it among the people. Everybody ate and had plenty, and there were twelve basketsful of leftovers. The number fed was about five thousand men, not counting the women and children.

In feeding the hungry, our focus is more than on food, it should be on Jesus: the giver of our daily bread.  When it comes time for our life’s final exam, Jesus our teacher and example on living the good and gospel life will ask at the judgment,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Bread and Fish

In the days of the early church, especially during times of persecution, the fish was a symbol whose secret meaning was shared only by the faithful.

The Greek word for fish… ICHTHUS …whose five component letters form an acrostic for the initial letters of five Greek words that mean…

JESUS – CHRIST – SON – OF GOD – SAVIOR.

On the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee is Tabgha, “the place of the seven springs.”  Here some 7 miles north of Tiberius, and just to the west of Capernaum, Christians have traditionally associated this site with the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

Sacred to the Christian story, believers in the 4th century built a church there.  Later, they constructed a colorful mosaic on the floors representing various types of plants and birds.  The flora and fauna depicted is common to the Nile delta.  Perhaps the artistic craftsman responsible for this grand mosaic floor originally lived in Egypt.

Today pilgrims admire the intricate designs of flamingoes, snakes, herons, ducks set amidst lotus blossoms and reeds.  Within that ancient mosaic, the centering point of interest is on the floor next to the altar.  There is depicted a basket with loaves of bread and fishes, reminding all of Jesus’ concern for the nurture of his children.

Leaving the Church of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, which is in the shadow of the Mount of Beatitudes, you walk only a few hundred yards to the south to the lake shore.  There is a small Crusader chapel, the Church of St. Peter.  It, too, was originally built in the 4th century.  It was destroyed in 1263 and was rebuilt by Franciscan friars in 1933.  This small, simple chapel built out of black basalt commemorates the appearance of the risen Christ to his apostles on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Tradition affirms that at that spot considered sacred, Jesus dined with his disciples.  On those steps leading down to the sea, Jesus stood and spoke to Peter, and to the others whom he called to follow him.

Today, within our memory and imagination, we gather at that place.  Experience the breeze off the lake and watch its gentle waves bathe the shore.  Together, we prepare have for a sacred meal in the presence of our Lord. We have been prepared because we have been able to listen in on our Lord’s in conversation with his disciples.

We realize that; he was not just talking to them; he was speaking to us.  He invites us to remember, to be faithful, to be about his work, and to follow him.

Conclusion:

Supper Time at the Shore

is a time to remember.

It’s a call to responsibility.

It is an invitation to remember…

where we have come from,

the calling, which is ours,

the commitments we have made,

and most importantly, whose we are!

You may remember the gospel song – “Suppertime!”

Years ago, in days of childhood

I would play till evening time would come

Still winding down that old familiar pathway

I hear my mother call at setting sun

“Come home, come home it’s suppertime”

The shadows lengthen so fast

“Come home, come home it’s suppertime”

We’re going home at last

Some of the fondest memories of my childhood

Are woven around suppertime

When mother used to call from the back steps

Of the old home place

“Come on home now son, it’s suppertime”

My how I’d love to hear that once again

But you know the time has woven for me the realization

Of a truth that’s even more thrilling

That someday we’ll be called to gather

Around the great supper table up there

For the greatest suppertime of them all, with our Lord

I can almost hear the call now coming from the portals of Heaven

“Come home son, it’s suppertime”

“Come home, come home it’s suppertime”

The shadows lengthen fast

“Come home, come home it’s suppertime”

We’re going home at last.

 

About the Writer:

Dr. James M. Pitts is university chaplain [retired] and professor of religion emeritus, Furman University.  A native of Washington, DC, Jim is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, SC, Southeastern Seminary at Wake Forest, NC, and Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY.

An experienced pastoral counselor, he has worked in both congregational and hospital settings. His professional expertise includes crisis counseling, substance abuse intervention, and career guidance for persons in ministry.

His sermons and essays on biblical and pastoral themes are published in books, magazines and on NextSunday.com. One of the founders of Smyth & Helwys, Jim serves as Chairman of the Board , principal photographer and editor of www.NextSundayGallery.com  an educational resource with a comprehensive collection of high quality photos illustrating the geography and archaeology of the Biblical world.

Jim and his wife Nancy are the parents of two sons and two daughters-in-law: Stewart (deceased) and his wife Kelley, and Jonathan and his wife Jackie. They are the proud grandparents of three grandsons, Will, Jon Walker and Colton, and a granddaughter, Lilli.

 

Scripture and Music:

Genesis 32:22-31

Psalms 17:1-7, 13, 145:8-9, 14-21.

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:13-21

 

Hymns:

Break Thou the Bread of Live

O Sing A Song of Bethlehem

Let Us Break Bread Together

All My Hope Is Firmly Founded

Sweet Hour of Prayer

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

Face to Face with Christ My Savior

Anthems:

Psalm 86 — Carl Nygard

Only Faith — Joseph Martin

A Quiet Place

Posted in Dr. James Pitts, Sermons on July 6, 2020. Tags: , , , ,