Mandarin Sermon Translations

  • 9th Sunday after Pentecost – Abundance

    五旬节后的第九个星期日 丰盛

    Grace to you and peace from God our creator, our redeemer, and our sustainer who provides us with everything we need.


    This week’s news included some contrasting stories.


    First, there’s the story of the billionaire space race. Jeff Bezos flew up to space earlier this week, just a few days after Richard Branson did the same. Both men are billionaires, able to afford their own, private space shuttles. And while there has been a lot of debate on whether they reached the space or not – since no one has drawn a clear, red line where the atmosphere ends and space begins – their space project has been ground-breaking in many ways. Richard Branson, in an interview after his space flight, spoke about the new possibilities this brings. The space is now closer, he said. The space has become accessible to everyone, regardless of background. To everyone, as long as you have the financial means.


    But there’s another news story that’s received a lot less attention. I heard about it was through World Food Program ad that came across my Facebook feed. Because of Covid, and because of climate conditions, and because of continuous political unrest, the continent of Africa is experiencing a record spike in hunger. Over 280 million people on the continent do not have adequate access to food. Many families have not eaten in days and have no idea when or where their next meal will come from.


    These two stories paint very different pictures. One seems to be all about abundance, and the other about scarcity. We live in a world where should be enough, but the resources we have

    are not well distributed.


    Both the Old Testament story and the gospel today also talk about scarcity and abundance.


    First, a man with twenty barley loaves was met by prophet Elisha, the miracle maker prophet, who had company over. “How can I set this before a hundred men?” asks Elisha’s servant.


    Second, Philip has some serious but very reasonable doubts about the disciples’ ability to feed a huge crowd.


    Both Elisha’s servant and Philip saw the scarcity. There wasn’t enough. There was no way that twenty small loaves would feed a hundred hungry men. There was absolutely no way that the few coins in Philip’s pocket would feed the thousands.


    It’s easy to pay attention to when we don’t have enough.


    Theologian and Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann writes about a myth of scarcity. He writes how most of the time we do have enough – enough to live on, even enough to be comfortable. Most of the time we as a church have enough – enough to manage our ministries and pay our pastor’s salary. But we tend to pay attention to what we don’t have. We don’t have the big house or the new car or the cabin by the lake our neighbour has. We don’t have the large building or the worship band or the amazing light show that the church down the street has. If only we could have that… Then things would be better.


    Believing in the myth of scarcity, Brueggemann writes, leads to hoarding. When we don’t trust that God will provide, when we see only what we don’t have, we hold on to what we do have tightly, so very tightly. When a congregation faces financial troubles, one of the first things cut from their budgets is their benevolence. There just isn’t enough to share.


    When families face financial troubles, generosity becomes difficult, or impossible.


    Even when people don’t have financial troubles, when they focus on what they don’t have, generosity goes out the window. There just isn’t enough to share.


    But we believe in God who is generous and caring, and always provides enough. Not just enough, but more, abundantly more.


    Our gospel story also introduces us to a small boy with five little barley loaves and two dried fish. Barley loaves were the staple food of the poor who couldn’t afford wheat. Dried fish was another staple, easy to store in the hot climate. We don’t know where this boy came from, or how he knew what Jesus wanted to do. Maybe he overheard the conversation between Jesus and Philip?


    Either way, he had food and he wanted to share it. Maybe this is just another reason why Jesus tells us to have faith like the little children.


    This boy did not believe in scarcity. He had his little loaves, and he wanted to share. He didn’t stop to do the math; he didn’t stop to wonder whether he’d have enough left for the travel home. He didn’t go back to ask his mama if he could share. He gave his little loaves, trusting that they would be enough.


    And they were enough. With Jesus, because of Jesus, they were more than enough.


    Now, scholars have speculated that maybe Jesus didn’t multiply the loaves all that much… That maybe people had brought food, and the boy’s generosity inspired them to open their bundles and have a big potluck. Maybe. But that’s really beside the point. The boy believed in abundance and was willing to share. Jesus took what the boy had and blessed it. And everyone ate their fill, and there was lots left over.


    With Jesus, because of Jesus, a world where everyone can eat their fill is possible. Now, logically we know it’s not going to happen. There will always be those who hoard, and those who go hungry. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. The little boy’s barley loaves are an example of a small act of generosity that, through Jesus, had a big impact.


    We are not asked to feed an entire continent – God knows we can’t do that, unless we have a billionaire among our church members... But we are asked to take our little barley loaves – our wealth, our time, our skills – and offer them to Jesus, to share with others.


    We can do our part, trusting that God will bless the work of our hands. Our generosity will not always have a clear, immediate impact like the boy’s barley loaves. But God knows the impact even when we don’t see it.


    When we struggle to trust in God, when we struggle to see abundance – and we do, and we will – we can always look to Jesus who showed us that it’s possible. We return to these stories that tell us what’s possible. And we can return here to be fed by God’s word, and on most Sundays also by the bread and the wine. We are fed and nourished by Jesus, a tangible reminder that there’s more to this world than the news stories. There’s more that’s possible.


    What would a world of abundance look like? Can you imagine it?


    What possibilities could the abundant love of Jesus bring to all people, regardless of background?


    What are your barley loaves you are called to share? With Jesus, because of Jesus, you can trust that they will be more than enough.  


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