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Leamington MB August 7,1994
Ecclesiastes 11:1 - 6
When I read this passage at first I had a strange image flash into my head. I imagined a person standing on the side of a river throwing pieces of bread into the river and looking like he was feeding the fish. Then the next phrase says that after many days he would find it again. I sure would not want to eat that bread! Can you imagine soggy bread perhaps even rotting? These verses were not for me.
When I thought about the fact that the richest and wisest man in the world had written these words I thought that perhaps I was missing something and would have to think about this in a little more depth. There is a parable here which has a deeper meaning than that first picture I conjured up in my mind. If we understand that bread is a picture of all that which we possess and water is the sea of people, we begin to get a different picture.
What kind of bread can we cast about? An obvious interpretation is that of sharing food with others. I had to ask myself - when is the last time I shared hospitality with someone other than my small circle of 3 - 5 friends and a couple of close relatives? Has my hospitality circle grown lately? Have you ever invited a "stranger"- someone you did not know well into your home? We tend to live with such a narrow circle of friends because we like security. Our friends are predictable - they think like we think, do the same things we do and generally have the same worldview as we do. Perhaps we need to expand our hospitality circle as verse 2 says, "Give portions to seven, yes to eight." Take a moment and write down the names of 3 people you have never had over to your home and determine to invite them over before the end of the month. Most people are delighted to be invited over - just for a conversation over a cookie and glass of cold water. God has special people he wants you to meet, so get out and enjoy them. We do that by sharing our Bread!
A rich lady dreamed that she went to heaven, and saw there a mansion being built. "Who is that for?" she asked of the guide. "For your gardener." "But he lives in the tiniest cottage on earth, with barely room enough for his family. He might live better if he did not give away so much to the miserable poor folks." she muttered.
Farther on she saw a tiny cottage being built. "And who is that for?" she asked. "That is for you." "But I have lived in a mansion on earth. I would not know how to live in a cottage." The words she heard in reply were full of meaning. "The Master Builder is doing His best with the material that is being sent up." (1000 Tales worth Telling p. 119)
Perhaps we need to think about other bread - helping the poor with financial resources - a thing Paul was excited about doing. Paul tells us that the major concern of the Jewish church was that when he was working with the Gentile "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." Gal 2:10
Perhaps some of you read the story of Fritz Kreisler of Austria in the Our Daily Bread this week. He was one of the greatest violinists of all time. He thrilled audiences around the world with his skilful playing. Although he could have commanded the highest fees, he refused to do so and never became rich.
Kreisler once said, "I never look upon the money I earn as my own. It is public money. It is only a fund entrusted to my care for proper disbursement." Speaking for his wife as well as himself, he said, "I feel morally guilty if I order a costly meal, for it deprives someone else of a slice of bread - some child perhaps of a bottle of milk ... In all these years of my so-called success in music, we have not built a home for ourselves. Between it and us stand all the homeless in the world!" Are we as concerned as Fritz Kreisler was about people who are hungry and homeless?
It isn't just sending money to relief agencies but giving to people you know personally. If you don't know any poor people there are many way to find them.
What other kind of things could we consider bread besides food/ hospitality or money? None of us seems to ever have enough money to give away so what could we give away? We could give away a listening ear to a hurting friend. We could give away our expertise to save others hundreds of dollars in expenses. We could give away our skills for making things or helping others - from mowing a lawn to building a house. Volunteers are needed to help with Habitat for Humanity or others building in our congregation. We can give away a few hours to help someone learn how to sew, knit, crotchet, cook or bake. Perhaps you could teach English Bible studies to those struggling in our Laotian fellowship or some foreign exchange student at the University of Windsor. I was thrilled with the team work that went into last week's worship service. Everyone working together - music, tank, ministry from the word, the deacons serving, people who attended.
We can give away - love and encouragement. We can give away forgiveness and understanding; compassion and wisdom.
Cast your Bread upon the waters for after many days you will find it again.
What other bread can we share? We can share the Bread of Life. We can share the love of God, the forgiveness of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. What a great privilege to "Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land." How many people have you given the Bread of Life to? One or two, 7 or eight, 700 or 800? We do not know what disaster may come upon our land or to people we know so we should be giving out the message of eternal life in Jesus. One unique way we are planning to do this as a church in spring is by giving the Jesus Video to anyone who wants to have one.
Verse 3 tells us that there are certain principles in effect in our universe. Things which will always happen whether we tell it to happen or not. If a cloud is full of water it will dump it over your house when you're having a picnic. Trees will fall over when they are old and decayed.
As I built houses, I discovered a few other things that always happen. The head of the screw is always on the wrong end. Just where you need to put a nail there is always a knot. The board you cut twice is always to short. The crown or bend in the board is always the wrong way. We can blame Murphy for these dilemmas.
Like the guy who kept throwing out nails because the head was on the wrong end we give excuses why we can't share the Bread. Solomon said it this way,"Whoever watches the wind will not plant, whoever looks at the clouds will not reap." Those who are not daunted by small interruptions will be successful and send on material ahead with which the Master Builder can build a mansion. We do not understand God's sovereign work but we move ahead knowing that he will bless.
Verse 6 Sow your seed in the morning and at evening let not your hands be idle for you do not know which will succeed whether this or that or whether both will do equally well. We are no longer an agrarian society so we don't plant too many seeds but most of us have a job. We often feel that we can not do everything we would like to on that income so Solomon suggests that in the evening we should be keeping our hands busy. Don't waste time watching TV or reading superficial books or magazines. Be creative with your spare time and keep your hands and mind active. Work on a hobby, craft or part-time business. I always have a list of "jobs" I could be doing and never miss the fact that we do not have a TV. Who knows whether your extra activity might become something very successful. I am not suggesting that we should all be workaholics but we need to be alert to the opportunities and needs around us.
Solomon in this passage encourages us to two character qualities, generosity and industriousness. How do you want to Spread your Bread! Did I hear someone say with butter please. And how about some mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and cukes. Looks good. Anyone want a quarter?
Perhaps it is a little rude to eat in front of you but I do it to paint a picture. Some of you have some bread but you are not sharing it. God wants you to share it. Think about one thing you could share and make a commitment to share it with someone in need.
In closing may I read Gal 6: 7 - 10 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.