Summary: Why do we bring up the bread and wine from the back of church at the offertory? What is heaven like? Does God prefer a big splash and fanfare or big results done quietly?
If you are picking up an Agatha Christie and you are impatient you’ll turn to the last page of the novel to find the answer. But of course first of all you have to know the question, which in an Agatha Christie book is “Who was the murderer”.By the end of this morning sermons I hope to answered three questions
- Why do we bring up the bread and wine from the back at the Offertory?
- What is heaven like?
- What does God prefer - a big splash and a big fanfare, or big results done quietly?
Firstly - What is heaven like? A strange question to ask (you might think) when we have just heard the parable of the Feeding of the Five thousand. If you did one of those vox pops video things asking people on the streets “What’s heaven like?”, you would probably get things about floating around on fluffy clouds with wings and harps or perhaps a garden with streams and beautiful sunsets.
Neither of those are what Jesus says heaven is like. The biggest thing Jesus compares heaven to is a party - what theologians (who like long words) call “the eschatological banquet”- but which basically means just a feast, a party, a celebration.
look at Jesus’s parables - Luke 14 or Matthew 22 - the Kingdom of God is like a great feast - perhaps a wedding feast - and the king invites hundreds of people but they all say no - so instead he invites the poor and the lame and those who could never expect to go to party and they feast and celebrate together. Matthew 25 - the parable of the ten bridesmaids and they are waiting for the groom, Those who are unprepared and haven’t bought enough oil miss out but those whose lamps are lit go and share in the wedding party. Luke 15 - the Prodigal Son comes home - and what does the Father do? He slays the fatted calf and throws a party with food and music and dancing. Earlier in Luke 15 the woman who’s lost her coin, the farmer who has lost it’s sheep - each finds it and throws a party.
Jesus models this in his ministry - Jesus goes to the wedding at Cana in Galilee and makes sure the wine doesn’t run out. On other occasions Jesus parties with the scum of society - tax collectors and workers in the red light district. In effect Jesus is being like the King who invites those who would never normally get invited to a feast. In all this Jesus isn’t just doing this because (as the Pharisees accused him) he likes a good time. Jesus is doing this to model what heaven is like.
On so on a hillside surrounded by “five thousand men, besides women and children too” - surrounded by perhaps 15,000 hungry people - Jesus took… blessed … broke …. and gave out the loaves and the fishes. “and all ate and were filled” - these people, many of whom struggled to get a decent meal from one meal to the next - “all ate and were filled” - and indeed there’s so much food that there’s twelve baskets of leftovers, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.