1 Corinthians 13:1-7 and Matthew 14:13-21
(Quoted scripture is New Revised Standard Version)
There were three mice who died and went to heaven. After a couple of days, St. Peter stopped by and asked them how they liked being in heaven. The mice said that it was OK, but since they have such short legs, it was hard for them to get around because heaven was so big. So St. Peter told them that he thought he would be able to help them. After a little while, an angel came to the mice and gave each of them a set of roller skates. Right away, the mice put the roller skates on, and they could zip around heaven, really enjoy themselves.
A little later, a certain cat died and went to heaven. After a couple of days, St. Peter stopped by and asked the cat how he liked being in heaven.
The cat answered by saying, “Oh, boy, do I like being in heaven! I’m having a great time and I’m really enjoying myself. And most of all, I love those meals on wheels!”
Now, I don’t really believe mice and cats go to heaven, but I do like the idea of ‘meals on wheels.’ It’s a great program to help the shut-ins and elderly.
We are going to talk about food today in the story of Jesus feeding of the five thousand, and although food is the object, a compassionate heart is the motivation and the reason all are fed.
Joe and I are the deans at Elementary-Mini-Camp every summer at Camp Michigamme. One of the things we like to do is introduce the 3rd through 6th graders to the idea of sharing what they have with less fortunate children. In our ‘it’s all about me’ American culture, for some children this sharing concept may be a new idea. We encourage the children give some of their canteen money (money they have to spend on candy and ice cream every day) to something we call ‘the me too’ offering.
In 2016 a young man called and asked if we needed another male counselor for the week, and we were introduced to a Michigan Tech student Ross Michaels. Ross is an extraordinary young man. He was awarded a full scholarship for Michigan Tech and was going into his senior year in 2016-2017. He has graduated from Michigan Tech and now has a full scholarship at the University of Michigan, with enrollment beginning in 2018, answering God’s call to be a doctor.
This year Ross and his wife Kaitlyn contacted us again asking if we needed counselors for Elementary-Mini and we enthusiastically said ‘yes.’ I had officiated at their wedding last October on the shore of Keewenaw Bay, with a renewal of their baptism vows by immersion in the waters of the bay afterwards, and I had come to know them both very well. Kaitlyn is also an exceptional young woman, graduating from Michigan Tech this year as well.
When Ross and Kaitlyn arrived at camp this year, they shared with me that Kaitlyn has just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. They are both in their 20s. In spite of Kaitlyn’s diagnosis, they are seeking a mission they can serve together in, in this year of deferral before Ross enters the University of Michigan. Their desire is to love and serve as Jesus did. They each have a compassionate heart, because Jesus lives within them.
Ross has been to Haiti twice and Kaitlyn went with him once. When it came time to talk about the ‘me too’ offering, Ross told the children about his experience in Haiti and how for many of the children there the only meal they receive in a day is the one of beans and rice they get when they’re in school, and some children walk as far as 7 miles to a United Methodist sponsored school each day. The 28 children, who were at camp for just 3 days,
were inspired to give, from their canteen money, $109 which will be sent to the Haiti Hot Lunch program through the United Methodist Church. Ross and Kaitlyn helped the children to begin to have a compassionate heart.
We read from 1 Corinthians 13 today with the Apostle Paul telling us what love should look like in our lives. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (vv. 4-7)
I believe if we are living this kind of love in our lives, it will cultivate within us a compassionate heart. When the love of Jesus lives within us, it kindles the fire of compassion. Compassion becomes a desire to serve those in need. Serving others humbly gives people hope. Hope cultivates faith. Faith believes in the power of God. It is the power of God’s love exemplified in Jesus Christ, which when received by us, creates within us a compassionate heart.
This circle of God’s amazing grace is love, compassion, serving, hope, faith, returning to love; is life lived to the fullest. What a wonderful world we would have if all people lived this way!
Jesus is the finest example of this in our miracle story from the gospel of Matthew. This is the only miracle that is recorded in all four gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus has just been told that his cousin and friend, John the Baptist, has been beheaded by Herod. Jesus is grieving, his heart is hurting, and his desire is to spend time alone with His Father God, being comforted and gaining the strength he needs to complete his earthly mission.
“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.” (Matthew 14:13-14)
Jesus is exhausted, his heart is hurting, and yet when he sees the need of the people, he meets their every need. He cures their illness and then he feeds them. Jesus does this because he has a compassionate heart. The circle of God’s amazing grace: love, compassion, serving, hope, faith, returning to love, originated with God’s Son Jesus.
Jesus’ disciple John would go on to write in 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” Jesus is love!
Even though Jesus was exhausted and grieving, the love Jesus has for us took precedent. Matthew 14:19-21, “-taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.”
Hal David and Burt Bacharach are familiar names to music lovers in America who grew up in the 1960s and 70s. David wrote the lyrics and Bacharach wrote the melodies to such well-known pieces as “I Say a Little Prayer for You,” “Close to You,” “One Less Bell to Answer,” and the Academy Award-winning “Rain-drops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
They wrote one song that captured the heart of America perhaps more than any other because it perfectly illustrated our loneliness and hunger for real love:
What the World Needs Now
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone;
Lord, we don’t need another mountain,
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb,
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross…
Enough to last ’til the end of time.
Lord we don’t need another meadow
There are corn fields and wheat fields
Enough to grow
There are sun beams and moon beams
Enough to shine
Oh, listen Lord if you want to know
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some, but for everyone
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
This morning, as we come to the communion table, remembering the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, I encourage you to ask God to reveal the kind of love you are living out in your life. Is it love for self, or love for others? Remember, you cannot control how others live their lives. You can control how you live yours!
Do you insist on your own way? Are you envious, boastful, arrogant or rude? Are you irritable or resentful? These are not love.
It breaks my heart when families are torn apart because people do not know how to love. When we live this way no one wins, especially the children, who become collateral damage because the adults in their life do not know how to love.
OR, does your life exemplify Jesus? Are you patient and kind, serving others humbly? Are you loving and serving others with a compassionate heart, bringing hope and inspiriting faith in people’s lives?
The circle of God’s amazing grace: love, compassion, serving, hope, faith, returning to love; is life lived to the fullest!
Father God, reveal to us today how we are living out the example Jesus gave to us while he was here on earth. Help us to have the compassionate heart of Jesus. Amen
Pastor Rosemary DeHut