Preaching Resources

9th Sunday after Pentecost (July 25, 2021)

Assigned Texts:

  • 2 Kings 4:42-44
  • Ephesians 3:14-21
  • John 6:1-21

Imagine that a congregation’s Board of Trustees has just received word that the lawn service that rolls in on Thursday mornings to cut the grass each week has decided to close up shop. And unfortunately, there does not seem to be another lawn service that can take on the job for the foreseeable future.  Folks on the board are well aware that when the lawn service comes, they roll out with four or five guys operating several commercial-grade riding mowers, a couple of trimmers, and those huge backpack blowers to finish off the job.  It takes them a little more than 45 minutes to do the whole job. But now that’s gone, and the grass is growing longer every day.

So, one board member who is ever the optimist, speaks up first. “Perhaps I can organize a group of volunteers to come and do the job”.  Another board member who is ever the detail person, speaks up and says “thats a great idea but what will they use to cut the lawn, the church has no equipment.”  And to that the church treasurer who is always trying to save money speaks up and says, “I have a pair of finger-nail clippers here!  And look it even has a file on the top. You wouldn’t want a rough edge on a blade of grass. “

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. But let’s look at our Gospel lesson for today.  So, Jesus and his disciples have been quite busy, Matthew, Mark, and Luke let us know that this miracle comes just after John the Baptist’s execution at the hands of Herod.  This would have certainly been a wake-up call for all of them, and a good time to get away and make some important decisions.   Jesus seems to be wanting to get away for a while so he suggests they get in the boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  But when they arrive at what they had hoped would be a secluded spot, there is a huge crowd that has followed them around the shore.  But rather than sending them away, Jesus decides to care for the hungry crowd and at the same time teach his disciples a lesson.   So Jesus turns to Philip and asks “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip answered him, “a half year of pay would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” And is then that Peter’s brother Andrew, just like Jay Larson, speaks up and says “Wait, there’s a kid over here who has a lunch box with five loaves and a couple of fish.”   We laughed at a pair of fingernail clippers mowing the church lawn.  Imagine feeding a huge crowd with such a meager start.

It is important to note that this is the only miracle performed by Jesus that is recorded in all four of the Gospels, the only one.  This tells us of the importance, and the sheer scope of the miracle for it to have caught the attention of all 4 Gospel writers.

John’s version of the story differs in one significant way in that it is the only one that lets us know about the kid with the lunch box of fish and bread.   For John’s Gospel, this is important.  It is for us too.

We often shrink from taking on challenges that seem overwhelming because we feel completely inadequate.  For John the message is clear, give what you can and let God do the rest.

As the wise old saying goes, “the journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.”

Last November 3rd and 17th two category four hurricanes struck the northeast coast of Nicaragua bringing 150 mile-an-hour winds, 20-foot storms surge, and over 60 inches of rain.  This brought significant flooding far inland which destroyed homes, church buildings, wiped out crops, and contaminated community wells in both Nicaragua and Honduras, just to the North.  This is an area where the Moravian church has over 80,000 members, well over 300 congregations, and several schools and medical clinics.  When we were able to communicate with our provincial leaders down there we realized that the task was going to be overwhelming.  So we put the word out to congregations asking for donations to the Board of World Missions Disaster Response fund.  About two days later we got a donation for $25.  Then another, then another.  Then they just started pouring in. We got larger donations from the mission boards in Europe.  All told, more than $160,000 came from Moravians across North America.  But then something even more amazing happened. When Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan’s Purse, and Lutheran World Service realized that we had already started to send these funds in to purchase emergency supplies and begin the rebuilding process, they too jumped on board.  Two mission aviation organizations agreed to donate their planes and pilots to fly supplies into remote areas that had been cut off by the floods.  Habitat for Humanity provided water filtration kits and cleaning supplies, Samaritan’s purse gave us 2 $10,000 grants to purchase medicines and then well-cleaning materials to pump out and clean the community wells that had been contaminated. And Lutheran World Service gave us over $280,000 worth of household and school supplies.  A shipping company donated space onboard a ship traveling from Florida to Honduras that transported all of that to where it needed to go.

All told, what started as a trickle of donations became well over half a million dollars.  Now that is still only the beginning of what is needed to complete this process, but thankfully we are not the only ones at the table to provide assistance.  But I am here to tell you that what we were able to do was truly remarkable.  I would call it a miracle.

Friends, acts of compassion need not be something large, though it can be. An act of compassion is a selfless act by one person to show kindness and benefit another.

Examples of simple Acts of Compassion:

  • Hold the door open for the person behind you.
  • Write a kind note to someone for no reason, or to say thank you for things they have done in the past.
  • Pay for the person behind you in the drive-through lane at a fast-food restaurant.
  • Smile at a stranger.
  • Help a friend with homework, a project, or chores.
  • Compliment someone for their excellent work.
  • Treat a friend to dinner or purchase a grocery store gift card for them.
  • Give someone a flower.
  • Give someone a hug, preferably if you’ve both been vaccinated.
  • Ask someone how they are doing and stop to listen to the answer.

We’ve got this kid over here with a lunch box and he wants to help feed somebody. Today, simply ponder what your small gift can be.  God will bless it, God will multiply it.  Thanks be to God. Amen.

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