Sermon for Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Aug. 3, 2014
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Matthew 14:13-21
Sermon Theme: God’s Incredible Generosity
(Sources: Emphasis Online Illustrations; Anderson’s Cycle A Preaching Workbook; original ideas and examples; Believer’s Commentary)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not only does God keep all of us alive by providing us with our basic needs, but also His great generosity leaves us with abundance. A little boy learned this lesson in Sunday School one Sunday.
After the boy got home from Sunday School, and his mom served lunch, he began to examine a slice of tomato and commented to his mother that it was awesome how many seeds the tomato had. She replied that each seed had the potential of creating a whole new plant, but that hardly any of them would get planted.
The little boy pondered on that for a minute and exclaimed, “God sure wastes a lot, doesn’t He?”
Well, of course, God doesn’t waste a lot; we do! It seems that every Century, we waste more and more. When I was the age of that little boy, right after the Great Depression, and we ate watermelons on my grandparents’ long, L-shaped porch, my grandfather wouldn’t let us throw the seeds away. We had to save them and put them on the floor of the porch to dry and be used for next year’s watermelon crop. I don’t remember saving tomato seeds, but we did save watermelon seeds.
God provides generously! Not only does he provide an abundance of watermelons to eat this year, but, through seeds, even more are provided for next year.
In our sermon text for today, Jesus was attempting to get away for a period of rest and spiritual recharging by going to a lonely spot across the lake. He needed this rest and spiritual recharging, because His cousin, John the Baptist had just been killed, and this must have weighed heavily on His heart. Also He was tired from preaching and healing. However, the crowds followed Him across the lake.
Under those circumstances, most folks would have felt exasperation, annoyance, even anger for such intrusion. But not Jesus, — He only felt compassion. The people needed healing of body and soul, and so He served them in that way.
As the day was drawing to a close, the disciples were tired and hungry, and they wanted Jesus to send the crowds away. “Let them go into the villages and buy some food for themselves,” the disciples said in exasperation. Please notice how Jesus responds to them, because this is a command to us, too.
“Jesus said, “The y don’t have to go away! You feed them!”
When the needy ones come to the Church of Jesus Christ, it is up to us to do what we can to feed them, heal them, and provide for their needs.
Oh, yes, I remember the self-declared “needy” lady who came to our church with a passel of kids and asked for money to buy gasoline and to help her grandkids. Oh, yes, I remember it turned out that she lied to us and she had a criminal record and was later arrested. But, you know, for every false pauper, there are a dozen real ones, and Jesus commands us to feed them. Do we have the faith to believe that He will provide the means?
My grandparents, who were very poor, barely surviving, cotton farmers, would invite the whole family, — us, aunts, uncles, cousins – to eat Sunday dinner with them after church. And most of the time, they would also invite the preacher, as well as neighbors who might be having a hard time. My mother and my aunts used to marvel how their mother, my grandmother, could feed so many with so little, yet, we always left the table stuffed. My grandmother knew that God would provide abundantly.
The hunger and poverty we see in the United States is small compared to what we see in the rest of the world. According to Bread for the World, 852 million people across the world are hungry right now. Poor nutrition and calorie deficiencies cause nearly one in three people to die prematurely or live with disabilities. As many as six million children younger than five die every year from hunger-related causes.
People are still hungry, and Jesus still says to His disciples, “You give them something to eat!” The command to feed the hungry, to heal the sick, to be people of compassion is at the heart of the story of Jesus Christ. We can feed 5,000! We can find a way to feed the millions who suffer every day from hunger. We just have to believe that this is what God wants us to do. “You give them something to eat!”
It’s interesting that in so many churches in our Synod, the LWML is the only group actively pursuing this issue. Some people may laugh at their mite boxes, but over the years those mite boxes have sent millions of dollars into the hands of needy people throughout the world. The rest of us could learn from the national LWML.
Looking for an excuse to send the crowds away, the disciples said to the Lord, “We have only five loaves and two fish.” Their meager provisions did look woefully inadequate, but, then again, they had for some time now witnessed miraculous things from the hands of Jesus, so why should they be surprised if He performed a food miracle!
Jesus asked that the five loaves and two fish be brought to Him, and you know what happened! If we offer up to Jesus all that we have, whether it be much or little, Christ blesses it and multiples its effect. Maybe that explains the miracle of the mite boxes.
Well, everyone with Jesus that day ate until they were full and still there were 12 baskets of food left over. God doesn’t merely supply a maintenance diet, but feeds us until we are full. There is nothing stingy about God’s grace.
So the disciples had added up the resources, five loaves and two fish, and in their arithmetic, that didn’t compute with the 5,000 they needed to feed. But God’s divine arithmetic is different. Five loaves plus two fish equals plenty for everybody plus 12 baskets of leftovers.
That’s not surprising, — look at God’s divine arithmetic in other parts of the Bible. In Matthew 18, — how many times do you forgive? Not 7 times, but 70 x 7, which is not 490, but an infinite number. In Acts 2, one Christian plus the Holy Spirit equals 3,000 converts. In Malachi 3, 100% minus 10% equals 110 %! Etc. You and I add one plus one and get two, but God is not limited to simple addition or subtraction. He can take what we give Him and multiply it a thousand fold!
The miraculous feeding of the 5,000 was a lesson in hope, faith, compassion, and generosity for the disciples and for us. We are a small, seemingly insignificant, certainly not wealthy, rural church on the Gulf plains of Texas; we are like countless other small rural churches throughout America. None of us have huge resources, very few millionaires among us. Yet we are the churches expected to take care of the growing numbers of needy folks throughout the world. It’s folks like us who want to help, not shoot, the immigrant children at the Border.
The Lord takes our limited resources, multiplies them, and provides for the poor and the destitute. Our text says that long before Jesus fed the multitude, He healed their sick. Healing required faith which required preaching, so they also received the gift of the gospel. Their healing would not have been complete if it had just been physical and not spiritual, not to mention the overall healing power of Christ’s great love for us.
Whether we are instruments of God’s love, carrying His grace to others, or recipients of His amazing grace, we are indeed the most blessed people in the world! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.