"Trusting in God to provide" Sermon by Vicar Sarah Kretschmann
Read John 6:1-21
In our Gospel text for today, what really stood out to me this week was what Jesus does after feeding the five thousand. Verse 15 reads, “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
What might Jesus’ actions be saying to us about humility? What might Jesus be teaching us about prayer and building relationship with God?
In today’s story, Jesus is in the middle of garnering some serious fame and recognition, things many of us are guilty of longing for at times. It can feel so great to be recognized and uplifted for what we do. And it is important to lift up others for their work and to graciously accept praise when it comes, but Jesus reminds us it cannot be the reason or continued motivation behind the good works that we do.
Jesus doesn’t turn to worldly affirmations for strength or for encouragement to continue his ministry. Rather, Jesus seeks time for reflection and prayer, finding every affirmation he needs within himself and his relationship with God.
Jesus withdraws from the applause of men and demonstrates the value of humility.
Now humility is not a popular trait to strive for in our world today, and it wasn’t in Jesus’ time either.
Leslie T. Hardin, author of The Spirituality of Jesus, reflects that “Jesus spent time teaching his disciples not to act and pray like the religious leaders of his day. Their propensity for self-righteous display and long showy prayers caused Jesus great consternation, enough, in fact, that he said that they ‘for a show make lengthy prayers’ (Mark 12:40).” Jesus shows throughout scripture that prayer and his miraculous ministry isn’t about show, it is about relationship.
Jesus’ miracles attracted attention to him, but they alone did not achieve the goals of his work in the world. Jesus’ ministry expanded far further than spectacular displays of healing and power. He wasn’t performing miracles for titles or accolades. They were just a vehicle for his larger message of love and relationship with God.
So what does Jesus’ relationship with God look like?
In Matthew, after Jesus sent away the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.
In Mark, Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and slipped out to a solitary place to pray.
In Luke, Jesus withdrew to a deserted place to pray. He spent the night in prayer to God.
Jesus shows throughout the Gospels that an important foundation and a manifestation of our complete trust in our relationship with God is resting and taking time to slow down and pray. Put another way, practicing sabbath is essential to our relationship with God and the world.
The word sabbath comes from the Hebrew verb shabbath, meaning "to rest from labour.” It is first mentioned in the book of Genesis. "The sabbath was made for man," as a day of rest and refreshment for the body and of blessing to the soul.
It is later referenced in connection with the gift of manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness in the book of Exodus; and afterwards, when the law was given from Sinai (20:11), the people were solemnly charged to "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."
At the heart of sabbath rest for all that God has created is placing ultimate trust in God. As Ellen Davis explains, “Authentic rest becomes possible, even in the midst of harvest time, because it is informed by the palpable, concrete understanding that God provides.”
Taking time to breathe and recharge, to stop and reset, can be an act of great humility and trust in God.
In Hebrew scripture, the Israelites are called into this ultimate trust through the good news of Jubilee, a year of economic justice and rest. God decrees that even the land shall observe a sabbath every 7 years, a time of rejuvenating confidence in God’s provision. The Israelites are assured that in spite of earthly evidence, the land will bear fruit and provide for them even when they do not work the fields for a year. In fact, God assures them that they will not just scrape by, but all will eat their fill and live on it securely.
Sounds a lot like the miracle of feeding 5000 people, doesn’t it? Like trusting in God to provide.
But man, it can be really hard to put our trust in God rather than our own abilities or understandings at times. It can seem simpler and more efficient to move to action and speed right past trust, prayer or reflection time with God.
What could it look like for you to take some time for prayer or reflection this week?
Maybe you could start your day with a moment of gratitude, thinking of all the things you are grateful for while you eat your breakfast.
Maybe you could take some time in the afternoon to sit outside or go on a walk lifting up any worries you have to God.
Maybe you could take a few moments to write down any reflections you have or questions to raise to God in a journal or on a piece of scrap paper as you get ready for bed.
Whatever works best for you, my challenge is that you take some time each day this week for rest, reflection and prayer.
May you be refreshed. May you be renewed in service to our neighbors. May you be reminded that God provides.
Let us pray.
God of Relationship, inspire us to dig deep into the rich soil of our souls and plant seeds of love and action continually nourished not by the flickering lamps of human validation, but by the radiant sunshine of your grace.
Like Jesus, let us live a life of intentionality, not grounded in worldly affirmations but in relationship with God. Beginning with a foundation of prayer and spiritual practice, help us to find sabbath moments in our lives, opportunities to connect and be reinvigorated through you.