You may not know that Norton Lages is the director of Mission Québec. He is also one of the pastors of Church 21, which meets at Scotiabank Cinema on St. Catherine Street in Montréal. At the 2019 Summit last June, he preached a very inspiring message and we were all encouraged by his passion for Québec and the truths of the Word that he taught us.
Here is a short summary of his sermon by Rachel Bergeron, with the collaboration of Matthieu Giguère.
Imagine sitting on warm grass by a lake. You are listening to Jesus’ voice that can be heard from far away despite the distance. For hours, he has been enlightening your thoughts. Your heart does not know why, but you are touched by what you hear. Some of your fears are fading. Your daily sufferings no longer matter. Never have your ears, hidden by the typical Israeli veil, listened to such deep but paradoxically simple words. And yet, your body is slowly getting tired. As invigorating as the master’s preaching is, your tongue is thirsty for fresh water and food. Suddenly, you see it. The master gets up. He speaks with his disciples. You don’t hear well, but you are certain of this: Jesus will not only quench your spiritual thirst; he will nourish your weak body. A basket arrives quietly towards you. People discover its content, are amazed and pass it around. In the distance, you see a small flat and pale mass. Could it be bread? The closer the basket gets to you, the louder the sound of joy is. The master is feeding the crowd. It relieves the hunger of all souls, in all its forms.
Jesus’ math defies ours. It surpasses the world’s logic that was created by himself – the Master of the universe. With little, he produces much. With nothing, he creates everything. With five loaves and two fishes, Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 men (Mark 6:33-44); with seven loaves and a few fishes, he fed 4,000 men (Mark 8:1-10).
Jesus shows us that with very little, thanks to multiplication, he can feed a large crowd, to such an extent that several baskets of food remained ! His management of resources reflects a different logic than that of men. The economics of God’s kingdom requires few resources. In order for us to see a multiplicative transformation that has never been seen in Québec, we need to understand how resources work in Jesus’ Kingdom. We will try to understand three ways of trying to manage the Kingdom’s economy, two of which are not to be imitated.
1) Growing the Kingdom’s economy by force
Mark 8:14-16 reads:
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
While the disciples had just experienced the glory of multiplication some time earlier, they did not understand Jesus’ recommendation. He said: “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” What is Herod’s yeast? Why does Jesus give this warning? Herod and the Herodians’ yeast is an attempt to advance the Kingdom by force. Herod wanted to grow his own kingdom through blood, military and political power and the subjugation of the people. In other words, Jesus gives an important warning: beware of circumstances that overshadow Jesus’ glory. Beware of your own will to advance the Kingdom of God by force and a sometimes subtle dictatorship. Do not forget the ultimate, absolutely necessary and divine power that is in Jesus alone.
Québec’s history has shown on occasion the weaknesses of such an attempt. In the 1960s, in collaboration with the Catholic Church, the government tried to advance its kingdom in this way. The results still evoke a lot of emotion today as we continue to discover its negative repercussions.
"(...) with less, he did more. With nothing, he created everything."
While there are today many available resources and methods of outreach, let us be careful to plant the seed of the Gospel in the hearts we serve. Let us be quick to seek the will of God and slow to make others swallow our yeast. Let us not forget that Jesus gave thanks, took some bread and multiplied it to feed a crowd. In seconds, with less, he did more. With nothing, he created everything.
2) Growing the Kingdom through good behaviour
When we read the Scriptures or experience victories in our lives, it’s easy to let ourselves be guided by the Spirit and trust Jesus. But when we lack what is necessary, when we forget our bread (like the disciples), when resources are limited or when a small storm appears on the horizon of our plans, our human tendency is to plan, fight and outshine Jesus’ glory. We become preoccupied. And this preoccupation often leads to sin.
The connotation of sin is evident when Jesus recommends to his disciples to beware of the Pharisees’ yeast. Their method, also well known in our time, is to control people’s behaviour through fear and religious pride. It is easy, for a time, to look good, to align our values with those of the Church, to submit to a certain behavior. However, it is more difficult to hide the state of our heart in the long term.
Mark 7:6: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
"When we are insufficient, God can overcome; when we are weak, God is strong; when we are imperfect, we are of great value in his eyes."
We may appear good before men, but what the Lord is asking of us is a heart transformation, abandoning everything to Him. God desires to begin his transformative work in us. When we are insufficient, God can overcome; when we are weak, God is strong; when we are imperfect, we are of great value in his eyes.
3) Growing the Kingdom by faith
The Lord will only act when we abandon our plans, our strength, our Pharisaic behaviors and our selfish desires. He wants our affection for him to prevail over our fears. We must realize how weak our actions are when compared to the victory of the cross. Let us not believe that we can increase the Kingdom of God through our plans and aspirations. Let us let him transform Québec, by faith, because he alone is capable of doing so.
"Let us not believe that we can increase the Kingdom of God through our plans and aspirations. Let us let him transform Québec, by faith, because he alone is capable of it."
When Jesus distributed and multiplied the bread among the crowd, he gave himself, for he is the bread of life that nourishes and revives hungry hearts. He cannot help but feed, carry and encourage those who go to him. Submitting the Kingdom’s economy to him will make it bear fruit in a miraculous way, without strength or pride, but through a faith that glorifies his name.
“This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:58)