Liturgy Lessons: November 25, 2018
Call to Worship: Psalm 145:3-4, 8-21
Prayer of Invocation
Hymn of Adoration: All Creatures of Our God and King (#115)
Musical Meditation: I Hunger and I Thirst
Assurance of Pardon: based on Psalm 85:8-13
Hymn of Assurance: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
Reading of the Word: Luke 9:7-17 (Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand)
Sermon: Rev. Shiv Muthukumar, “Who is Jesus?”
Tithes and Offerings
The Lord’s Supper: Living Waters (Getty); Wonderful, Merciful Savior
Closing Hymn: All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly (Holy Manna)
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 – 1919)
We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.
Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.
They hand about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives,
And conquers if we let it.
There’s not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
While living hearts can hear us.
Full many a blessing wears the guise
Of worry or of trouble;
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise,
Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
To gladden every morrow.
We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.
When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of leftovers. My earliest childhood memories of Thanksgiving are family gatherings in a one-room meeting hall in Okeene, Oklahoma, a small farming town with a single traffic light and two huge grain silos overlooking the railroad tracks. The meeting hall was on Main Street, which, despite being flanked by mostly vacant storefronts, was lovingly decorated with garlands, wreaths, and Christmas-themed banners that stretched from rooftop to rooftop, creating a homespun and festive archway that made driving into town feel like a parade. I remember being introduced to the same people every year—great aunts and uncles, second and third cousins whose names I could never remember. All the men seemed to have wide-brimmed hats, bolos, cowboy boots, and giant belt buckles shaped like states. But it was the food that really caught my attention. The potluck buffet spanned the entire width of the room and required at least half a dozen six-foot folding tables. The casseroles outnumbered the cousins, and it seemed like there were more pies than people. I imagined all the children racing to stake their claim in the “Great Oklahoma Pie Run.” I had my sights on Grandma Ruth’s pecan pie, which was always the first to go.
After the feast, we would load up the trunks of the vans with the surplus food and move it to a conference room at a nearby hotel in Enid, where the adults would sit in a circle and spend the weekend eating the excess. The children would take five-minute breaks from swimming in the hotel pool to run dripping wet to the “food room” and grab a fistful of snacks or sweets. For us kids, it was a three-day binge, and it was paradise, even without Atari. My childhood cup runneth over.
This Sunday we will hear the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand (Lk. 9). It is an astounding tale of God’s abundance, where he converted a meager amount of food into an overflowing feast to indulge the hungry crowd. There were even twelve baskets full of the leftovers. What does this tell us about Christ’s character? I believe He delights in expressing the abundance of His grace to us. Abundance. It’s etched all throughout scripture, and manifest in Christ our savior, who gave his own body and blood as bread and wine for the whole world so that on the day of salvation he may declare of his people, “they shall hunger no more, neither shall they thirst anymore” (Rev. 7:16). The account of the loaves and fishes is not an anomaly. Recall the disciples’ fish nets suddenly full of more than they could possibly consume, preserve, or sell (Luke 5:6). Then there is Jesus’ response to the Pharisees when they fussed over a woman who poured out a year’s salary worth of perfume over him: “leave her alone,” he said, “she has done a beautiful thing!” (Mk. 14:3-6). And what about that famous wedding feast, at which Jesus made wine in an abundant excess of quality AND quantity. In light of such overflow, such generosity, how do we respond? Well, giving thanks would be a good start. A heart full of gratitude would seem appropriate. As would a deeper longing for the abundance of God’s love in Christ. The apostle Paul, who learned to be thankful in all circumstances, prayed that we “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-18). Paul wants something far more satisfying than just a full belly at Thanksgiving. He would probably see my childhood notion of paradise as severely lacking. The following quote sums it up well. I’ve used it in previous lessons; however, like Grandma’s pie, it is just too good not to have seconds.
“This was simply a superfluity, a luxury. They had no wine, and what does this mean? For it is a sign, and it must signify something. That God created man not merely that he should endure existence, that he should drag through life, but that there should be a festivity, a gladness within him, not only that he should be reconciled to his existence and have what is needful, but that he should feel within it a music, so that he may say ‘it is a joy to live.’ The world is not wrong when it seeks for the ornamental and the beautiful, it is an instinct of what is true, that God created us for brightness and glory.”
– Adolf Saphir, 19th-cent. Presbyterian Minister
Words and Music by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Ed Cash (2016)
“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
– John 4:14
“And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”
– Revelation 21:6
This hymn begins with a question and an invitation. “Are you thirsty? Are you empty? Come and drink these living waters.” It is reminiscent of Isaiah 55. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!” I need to hear this invitation, because I often wander in the desert, my sinful choices having led me to one mirage after another, and I am left spiritually dehydrated. The prophet Jeremiah spoke about this to ancient Israel. “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer. 2:13) But God promises his healing streams if we come to him. “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” (Is. 41:17-18). He promises to guide you continually and “satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (Is. 58:11) The verses of this hymn read like a litany of spiritual benefits to be had if we swap the world’s polluted tap water for the crystal-pure Perrier that Christ offers.
“Christ is calling, find refreshing at the cross of living waters.
Spirit moving, mercy washing, healing in these living waters.
Love, forgiveness vast and boundless”
But it’s not just the benefits we should be seeking. Just as water flows from a source, so too do the gifts lead us back to the benevolent Giver. The hymn reminds us that “Christ is our living waters.” There is also a baptism theme in this hymn, which reminds us of our redemption and renewal in Christ. It is stated in the last line of the second and third verses.
“Lay your life down, all the old gone, rise up in these living waters.
Lead your children to the shore line, Life is in these living waters.”
My favorite part of the hymn is the chorus, which celebrates the river of life that flows through the city of God. This image is all throughout scripture. It is first depicted in Genesis 2:10-14 where the river flows from the Garden of Eden. Ezekiel 47 holds a beautiful vision of a river flowing from the temple, building in strength and depth, teeming with life, and producing abundant fruit for the surrounding land. And, of course, the book of Revelation gives a beautiful picture of paradise that shows “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev. 22:1). I marvel at how the beginning, middle, and end of the Bible contain this image of God’s overflowing abundance to His people, an endlessly gushing, life-giving, healing stream that is personified in Christ. The hymn summarizes that truth with this enthusiastic chorus:
“There’s a river that flows with mercy and love
Bringing joy to the city of our God.
There our hope is secure, do not fear anymore, Praise the Lord of living waters.”
Brothers and Sisters, as you celebrate this Thanksgiving, please remember it’s about more than gluttony. You were made for glory. So be thankful for a personal and loving God who cherishes his children. And be confident that the hope we profess is eternal. Are you thirsty? Are you empty? Come, drink deeply. Christ, through the abundant goodness of His Spirit, anoints your head with oil. Your cup overflows. As we sing this hymn, may we be renewed by His spirit so that “with joy we shall draw water from the wells of salvation” (Is. 12:3).