Posts From August, 2020

Matthew 16 and Exodus 3 message on suffering

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Matthew 16 and Exodus 3 message on suffering

August 30, 2020


Suffering, pain, and sickness are an ever-present reality, and so we cannot escape them. Suffering is the center of our faith because Christianity is based on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Since the beginning of Judaism, Jewish scholars have been contemplating suffering. For instance, the books from Joshua to second Kings explain suffering as a result of disobeying the law of God. As a result, God punished the Israelites several times. After the exile, the Jews were careful to observe the law, but they suffered terribly by the Romans, who occupied their land and exploited them. During this time, the Jewish scholars understood suffering to be the work of the devil. Christians understand the origin of suffering to be the sin that has broken our world. Pain, suffering, and death are the result of sin.


We cannot comprehend the reason behind our suffering. Part of our human nature seeks to know and understand the reason behind our pain because we want to be in control. Even though we do not comprehend our suffering, God comprehends it. Imagine if the Israelites had lived a comfortable life in Egypt, would they have left Egypt to go to the Promised Land? No. Would God Yahweh be their God and our God? I do not know, but I am sure that the salvation story would be different.

We might not understand the reason behind our suffering; therefore, we need to trust God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in a sermon preached in 1938, “God is righteous, whether we understand His ways or not. God is righteous, whether he punishes and chastises us or whether he pardons us…We do not see it, but our faith must confess it: God alone is righteous.”[1] Surrender to God’s will, and God will make you see it through. All of us endured, is enduring, and will endure suffering. Our Lord Jesus suffered on the cross because his suffering is essential to our salvation. Jesus Christ’s suffering means your healing; therefore, he was determined to go to Calvary to carry your suffering and sin on the cross.


Peter tried to stop him, but Jesus rebuked him by saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus' statement implies that Peter is in the same league with Satan. Jesus called Peter a rock because he confessed that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Now, Jesus calls Peter a stumbling rock.  With these two incidents between Jesus and Peter, the evangelist Matthew links the identity of Jesus the Messiah with his suffering, death, and resurrection.


Jesus teaches us that “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (v.24). Jesus asks you to carry your cross, not his cross. No one can carry Christ’s cross. The cross means suffering and sickness, but for Christians, our suffering is not without hope because Christ is in solidarity with our pain. Christians are called to suffer for their faith, and as human beings, we are exposed to different types of sicknesses. Jesus is calling us to carry our cross, whether we suffer for his namesake or suffer from illness or any other challenges.


At the cross of Jesus, we receive not only mercy, peace, and grace, but also we encounter suffering. This is the irony of the cross. Bonhoeffer says, “That is the mystery of suffering in the church and in Christian life, that the very gate on which is written ‘abandon all hope,’ the gate of pain, of loss, of dying—that is very gate is to become for us the gate of the great hope in God, the gate of honor and glory.”[2]


Through pain, sickness, death, and all tribulations, you encounter Jesus’ love and assurance of his presence in your life. You do not need to fear suffering or to stay focus on your sickness because the Lord is working with you to fight back. You will always receive courage and peace from Jesus Christ, who endured your pain and fear on the cross and won the victory for you. Count on God’s righteousness to overcome your fears.


Our Lord Jesus Christ might not solve your problem, or heal your sickness, but he promises you to go into your suffering with you and to strengthen your shaky heart. The apostle Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus cares about your suffering and pain. He feels your suffering and understands your agony.  Trust in God’s promise in Isaiah 41:10 “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

 No matter what happens in your life, our Lord Jesus Christ is there for you to strengthen you and to give you peace and hope.











[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Meditations on the Cross.” (Louisville: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 1998), 39.

[2] Ibid., 44.

Matthew 16:13-20 and Exodus 1&2

Your faith is your lifeguard ‎

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras 

Matthew 16:13-20 and Exodus 1&2: your faith is your lifeguard

August 23, 2020


Grace and peace to you from God the Father and Jesus Christ, our Savior, Amen.

 One time I went to the YMCA to swim. During swimming, I had a severe leg cramp. I lost my balance and began to sink. I felt that was the end of my life. After a few minutes of struggling to survive, I heard the voice of the lifeguard asked me to hold on the rescue tube. The lifeguard saved my life. I had mixed feelings of fear and joy, so I cried.

Troubles of this world overwhelm us. Suffering and injustice can break our spirit. Sin, pain, and oppression can feel like cramps that make us sink in deep water. If you don’t have faith, you will sink and die. Faith is your rock when the ocean waves from a storm slaps your face. The kind of faith that sustains you is the faith of the apostle Peter, who confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Your faith can move mountains. These mountains are your anger, sickness, addiction, or whatever your challenges are.


Your faith in Jesus Christ gives you strength in times of trouble. It gives you courage against your fear. The story of the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, and the mother of Moses and his sister Miriam is the story of women's faith that gives them the courage to be resilient and to face Pharaoh’s oppressive policies and genocide. Because the midwives feared God, not Pharaoh, they refused to kill the Hebrew baby boys. Moses’ mother refused to give up her son to the Egyptians to throw him in the Nile but accepted Pharaoh’s daughter to raise him as hers. The faith of the Israelites sustained them amid their slavery. Their faith helped them to endure Pharaoh’s cruelty and xenophobia.


We face pain in our lives. We will face many challenges. We might lose loved ones, and we might endure sickness or face tragedies. Without these challenges, we will not learn what faith in Christ is. God works behind the scenes to help you to make it through. God worked through women nurturing love to destroy Pharaoh’s power. God’s sovereignty is manifested through compassion, care, and grace. Even though your problem and pain consume you, God is working in your life to help you. Your faith in Christ Jesus is like a lifeguard that saves you from sinking into deep water. Hold onto your faith to help you.


In good times it is easy to talk about faith and to encourage others to keep their faith. But the challenge is to keep faith in difficult times and to trust in the steadfast love of God to sustain you. In difficult moments, you pray sincerely and ask Jesus Christ to intervene immediately to solve your problems. Many times, Jesus does not answer your prayer in the way you want. So, you become tempted to be upset and be angry with God. Here faith is your lifeguard. Do not stop praying but ask our Lord to strengthen you and to help you to remain strong even though your difficult situation does not change. Ask God to guide your steps and open your heart to the Holy Spirit to comfort you.


When you feel the struggle and the challenges heavy on your shoulders, read your Bible, and surround yourself with faithful Christian friends. Since I learned about my father’s sickness, I rely on scripture more and more to stay strong. I put some encouraging verses from the Bible, where I can see them, to remind myself of God’s promises to my father and me. Stay in the word of God when tough times hit you. Trust in what the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.”

Matthew 14 Feeding the Hungry

Matthew 14:13-21

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras
Matthew 14:13-21
August 2, 2020

As people rush to stockpile supplies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stores have placed restrictions on the purchase of essential goods like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and medicines. The reality is that one person’s stockpiling can mean another person’s shortage. Hoarding and price gouging demonstrate the falling moral values in our society.

“With over 800 million people facing chronic undernourishment and a further 135 million people suffering crisis levels of hunger or worse... analysis shows that an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19.”[1] “David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), has labeled a ‘hunger pandemic’ alongside the health crisis.”[2]


The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. It is God who feeds and saves. The crowd does not mind walking a long distance to hear Jesus. Five important verbs describe Jesus’ reaction to the crowd:

  1. Jesus had compassion on them. His heart was moved with pity as he saw people struggling with hunger. Jesus was surrounded by hungry people who needed his help. Despite being fatigued, Jesus makes himself available to them and heal their sickness.
  2. The second verb is “to heal.” Most of the illnesses in Jesus’ time were due to malnutrition. Food supplies and debt were frequent problems for many.


When it was evening, the disciples ask Jesus to send the crowd away to buy food. The critical line is Jesus' directive to the disciples, who wish the hungry crowd would go away. Jesus says, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat" (v. 16). Jesus wants his disciples to take responsibility. So, the disciples give Jesus five loaves of bread and two fish.


  1. Jesus blesses the food. The third important verb is “to bless.” Jesus thanks God for the few foods he has. Learning to thank God for every little thing can enrich our lives and help us not to complain all the time. Jesus teaches us to be grateful for everything we have.


  1. The last two verbs describe Jesus’ reaction are breaking the loaves and giving them to the disciples to pass out to the crowd. The bread and fish just kept on coming. “It was certain only that the generosity of Jesus was streaming forth in superabundance.”[3] The three verbs: to bless, to break, and to give are used in our Holy Communion liturgy. The Eucharist feast is a symbol of God’s generosity, justice, and love. Breaking bread together is a communal and sacramental act that aims to transform us and make us a new creation in our relationship with God and our neighbor.

Traditionally speaking, the main point of feeding the 5000 is Jesus' ability to perform miracles. In fact, the main point is Jesus sympathizes with those who are hungry and put his sympathy into action. His sympathy demonstrates God's desire that food be distributed equitably. He cures and feeds the poor crowd. His reaction to the crowd recalls Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed and signifies that “The kingdom of heaven produces a plentiful harvest from the smallest of seeds.[4] From the little we have; we can bless abundantly. A commentator reflects on this story says:

The feeding stories are not about a miraculous multiplication of a few loaves and fish. Rather, they show how cooperation and fair distribution can bring abundance and harmony. There is enough for everyone if nobody grabs what they can without a thought for their neighbours. Jesus took the meager supply available and blessed, broke and distributed them. These three actions are at the heart of our Holy Communions... The ego, the false self that Jesus tells us must be put to death, is always concerned about scarcity, always therefore seeks to hoard, is afraid of the generosity of God, assumes that more is necessary before anything can be achieved. When I discover the underlying truth about who I really am the abundance of the present moment opens up. There is no need to wait until one condition or another is fulfilled. If, in trust, I use what is available to me at this moment then I am blessing, breaking and giving.[5]


I would like to end with a German song that I translated it into English. It is called Ich Glaube/ I Believe.

Ich glaube

I believe


Ich glaube, dass der Acker, den wir pflügen
Nur eine Weile uns gehört
Ich glaube nicht mehr an die alten Lügen
Er wär' auch nur ein Menschenleben wert
Ich glaube, dass den Hungernden zu speisen
Ihm besser dient als noch so guter Rat
Ich glaube, Mensch sein und es auch beweisen
Das ist viel nützlicher als jede Heldentat

Ich glaube
Diese Welt müsste groß genug
Weit genug
Reich genug
Für uns alle sein




Ich glaube
Dieses Leben ist schön genug
Bunt genug
Grund genug
Sich daran zu erfreu'n



Ich glaube, dass man die erst fragen müsste
Mit deren Blut und Geld man Kriege führt
Ich glaube, dass man nichts vom Krieg mehr wüsste



Wenn wer ihn will, ihn auch am meisten spürt
Ich glaube, dass die Haut und ihre Farben
Den Wert nicht eines Menschen je bestimmt
Ich glaube, niemand brauchte mehr zu darben
Wenn der auch geben würd', der heut' nur nimmt



I believe that the field we are plowing

we own for a while

I no longer believe in the old lies

It would only be worth a human life

I believe to feed the hungry

Serves them better than good instruction

I believe to be human and to prove it

This is much more useful than any achievement


I believe

This world should be big enough

Far enough

Rich enough

For all of us


I believe

This life is beautiful enough

Colorful enough

land enough

Enjoy it


I believe that a person must ask first

With their blood and money, you can wage war

I don't think you know anything about the war anymore


If you want it, you can feel it most

I believe that the skin and its colors

do ever determined the value of a human being

I don't think anyone needed to starve anymore

When you give today, you would receive today




[1] Caroline Delgado and Jiayi Zhou, “The Impact of Covid-19 On Critical Global Food Supply Chains and Food Security,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, June 26, 2020,


[2] Ibid.

[3] Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, Gospel of Matthew, The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. Kindle Edition, 2010), 189.

[4] Jennifer T. Kaalund, “Commentary On Matthew 14: 13-21,” Working Preacher, accessed July 28, 2020,

[5] “Abundance,” The Now New Testament, February 19, 2015,