The River was Calling

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
   praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
   praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon;
   praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
   and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
   for he commanded and they were created.
He established them for ever and ever;
   he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
   you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
   stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills,
   fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
   creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples,
   princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
   old and young together!

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
   for his name alone is exalted;
   his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
   praise for all his faithful,
   for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!

The river was calling Will’s name last week.  Both Jack and Will love hanging out in and around creeks and rivers and lakes and streams.  And Jason and I love hanging out with them while they explore these truly fascinating parts of creation.  We have spent countless hours exploring various bodies of water over the years. 

We can outlast any family who might happen to come to enjoy the same bit of God’s creation.  The McFarlands have staying power when it comes to the great outdoors!

I often joke that we should give lessons to other parents on how to take children into nature – because I am repeatedly dumbfounded by the parents who bring children to rivers and then say things like – “Don’t get wet!”  Seriously – don’t get wet.  That is just plain mean spirited!  Or to by grandparents who take their grandchildren to a particularly appealing place to explore – only to declare – “Don’t get dirty.”  But – getting dirty is so much fun!  God made children to be curious creatures, and they love digging in and exploring nature when they are given the opportunity.   

I find this approach to being outside so very sad – because nature is so much more fun when you are fully immersed in it.  Nature needs to be explored using as many of your senses as possible.  Nature is intriguing when you can feel the water on your feet (or in my sons’ cases all over your entire body).  When you can hear the delightful plop of a rock hitting the water after you have thrown it as hard as you can.  When you have built a tower of sticks and have felt the texture of the bark.  When you have caught a frog or two or three.

Actually – I believe this is true for adults too.  I believe that we also need to immerse ourselves in God’s creation.  We too need to feel cool river water on our feet.  We also need to listen to that delightful plop of rocks hitting the water.  We need to feel the intriguing  texture of bark.  We need to take in all of the wild and wonderful colors of nature.  We all need to park our technology for a while and get out into God’s creation.  The world won’t end if we don’t have cell service for an hour or two!

Nature is really and truly good for us.  It is good for our souls.

If you don’t believe me – science backs me up on this – studies have shown “that when people walk in nature, they obsess over negative thoughts much less than when they walk in the city.” (The Nature Fix)  Think about that for a moment.  Just being in nature changes your attitude and the way you think.  Nature makes us more positive.  We can all certainly use some more positive right now!

The McFarland sons have a deep and abiding love for Floyds Fork River.  And frankly I don’t blame them.  Floyds Fork River is seriously cool.  And so – we spent Thursday evening delighting in God’s glorious creation.

It truly was a perfect summer evening.

We explored.

We saw beautiful wild flowers.

William played in the river with his boat.

We met an adorable frog/toad.

Jack and I looked for river glass which we found in abundance.

We chatted – and we were quiet together.

Jason kept an eye on everyone as he always seems to be doing (it is his superpower.)

Jack skipped stones.

Will got very – very wet.

Jack and Will turned looking for fossils and river glass into a contact sport!  (Something anyone who has raised sons will be able to relate to I am sure/I hope. . .)

We enjoyed the blessings of God’s creation.  We left wet and dirty and thankful for the opportunity to enjoy all of that wonderful nature.

These are not easy times we are all living through.  I encourage you to take some time this week to get out into God’s creation.  Spend some time in your yard.  Run your fingers through the grass.  Go for a drive to a park.  Roll down the windows and listen to the birds sing.  Read Psalm 148.  It is a beautiful reminder of all our God has done and is doing in our world.

You are all in my heart, thoughts, and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Worship for Sunday, August 9, 2020

1 Kings 19:9-18

At that place [Elijah] came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’

He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’

The Word of the Lord.

This mountain always makes me think of the Lord. I know it probably looks nothing like Elijah’s mountain of the Lord.

Psalm 85:8-13

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
   for he will speak peace to his people,
   to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
   that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
   righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
   and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
   and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
   and will make a path for his steps. Amen.

Romans 10:5-15

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ down) ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?” ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’

The Word of the Lord.

A stormy sunset in Fern Creek

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I absolutely – positively love exploring Mayan ruins.  I can’t even begin to explain the joy that fills my nerdy – history loving – tree hugging heart as I explore yet another ancient Mayan ruin.

Many of the really – really good sites are out in the middle of nowhere. 

Being located in more remote areas of Mexico means many of these sights are in the actual jungle!  We see absolutely spectacular plants and trees and animals.  We saw real – honest to goodness wild monkeys hanging out in the trees while eagles soared overhead.  (Yes – the mosquitoes are the size of buzzards – but hey nothing is perfect!)

That isn’t a picture from a zoo my friends! That is a wild monkey!

And I cannot describe how gorgeous and lush and green Mexico’s jungles are.  I have never – ever seen so many shades of green.  I was enchanted.  I was constantly declaring to anyone who would listen – (okay to Jason and Jack) – “Look at all of the GREEN!  Just look at the green!  I love all of the green!  Aren’t you dazzled?  Aren’t you amazed?  Isn’t it gorgeous?”

To which Jason would reply – “Yes Kerri.  It is beautiful – and it is going to rain today at 2:00 o’clock.”

The green just seems to go on forever and ever . . .

And it did.  Every single day of our sabbatical in Mexico.  Great big – scary – wild and crazy storms filled with flashing lightening and crashing – booming thunder and lashing rain that came down in sheets and torrents.  These were storms that made you wish for a basement and we never – ever had a basement.  Storms that left you soaked even if you were wearing your rain poncho!  Storms that caused flash floods.  Storms that turned city streets into rivers and turned trails into mud pits!  Storms that made parents pretend to be brave and act like everything is okay and like no one was about to die.

These storms were just plain awesome and wild and totally terrifying.  Trees would bend and dance in the daytime sky that had gone from a gorgeous blue to a furious black in what always felt like mere seconds.

Over and over and over again.  Day after day.  These wild – terrifying storms would descend on our lives seemingly out of the clear blue sky. 

Storms are part of life.  Even when we are incredibly careful – unexpected things happen.  Fierce storms pop up out of nowhere. 

Which is exactly what happened to the disciples in our Gospel reading for today as they sailed across the Sea of Galilee.  A severe storm popped up out of the middle of nowhere. 

Just a few hours before the disciples had been safe on the shore with Jesus.  Listening to Jesus teach about God’s grace, love, and mercy.  Watching with joy and excitement as Jesus had healed the sick.  And helping Jesus feed 1,000’s of people with 5 dinner rolls and two fish.

But then – just a few hours later – the disciples are in a wildly bobbing boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee – in the middle of a terrifying storm.  They fear they are about to die.  And they are terrified!

Their world was turned upside down and inside out.  One moment the disciples felt safe and secure and deeply content and the next they were being whipped around in a raging storm. 

Sunset on Lake Superior – after a storm

Does that sound familiar to any of you?  Has life ever hit you with a storm out of the clear blue sky?  Can you relate?  Have you felt that sort of fear? 

Maybe it was a phone call that came in the middle of the night.

Perhaps it was the day you lost your job.  Or the day you were asked to take a pay cut just to keep your job?        

Or when your spouse asked for a divorce.

Or when a doctor broke the bad news to you.

Or when a policeman knocked on your door.

Or when your child shocked you with news that broke your heart.

Or as you stood over the grave of a loved one.

Or when a treasured dream died.

Or maybe it was this horrible – frightening pandemic we are all living through right now!

So many of these storm leave us searching for the EXIT sign.

Certainly – everyone here can understand some of what the disciples are feeling as they were being tossed around by that terrifying storm.  Life has a way of bringing storms our way.  And the worst storms often seem to come out of the clear blue sky.

I wish I could be like one of those smooth talking TV preachers (with the really good hair) who promise if you love Jesus enough – bad things won’t happen to you and your loved ones.  But we all know that isn’t true.  I wish I could promise you that as Christians your lives won’t ever be rocked by the storms of this world – but I can’t.  Following Jesus doesn’t mean life will be smooth sailing.  Jesus doesn’t promise us that. 

But Jesus does make us other promises.  Life-giving – life-sustaining promises.  Our Lord gives us hope.  Incredibly awesome hope.

Let’s return to the disciples’ boat.  Yes – there is a raging storm.  Yes – the waves are tossing their boat around.  Yes – the disciples are afraid.  But there is something else happening too.  We see the disciples are not alone.  We see Jesus is with them.  Jesus walked through the raging storm to be with them.  Jesus doesn’t leave his disciples alone to fend for themselves.  Jesus was with his disciples when they needed him the most.

And the same is true for you.  Even when you are being tossed around by the storms of this life you are not alone.  Jesus is with you.  Jesus promises that you are never alone – not even for one single moment.  

Your Lord is with you always. 

The storms of this life will come.  Those storms may crash into your world making a great big mess of things – but even then you are not alone.  Jesus has promised to walk with you and to share in each and every moment of your lives.  You will never be forsaken by God.  God is with you each and every step of the way – even on the stormy seas of life.  Truly this is Good News.  AMEN.

Having an Important Conversation

When do you pray?

I have never been particularly gifted at stillness.  I often joke that I became a pastor simply because I could never sit still through an entire worship service!  Unless there is knitting involved.  If and when it is socially acceptable to knit I can and will gladly sit still for days!  If only my beloved children and husband would just allow it.  But the McFarland sons usually need or want something like food or attention and Jason is really big on exercise.  Jason claims science has proven that I will likely live longer and actually be able to knit more if I put down my knitting and exercise every once in a while. . .

Anyway – since I am not particularly gifted at prayer when I am still – I pray while I am on the move.  Somehow – moving my body allows me to focus my mind better.  Over the years – I have developed triggers and times that I use to remind me to pray for specific people and things.

Yesterday is a perfect example of how and when I pray.  Will and I were carrying out what has become an important ritual in our lives since we resumed worship at Saint Stephen in this COVID-19 world.  We were preparing the sanctuary for worship on Sunday morning. 

First I needed to run the vacuum in the sanctuary and then I needed to place all of the prayer lists and announcement sheets on the chairs.  As Will played with his trains and chattered away to me about what his trains were up to – I set about my tasks.  The sanctuary was beautiful and peaceful and filled with light.  As I ran the vacuum I prayed.  I gave God thanks for the feet that had walked on the carpet (and made it dirty).  I gave our Lord thanks for our wonderful Christian community.  I gave thanks for my sisters and brothers in Christ.  I gave thanks for Saint Stephen Lutheran Church and for the blessing of being your pastor.  I also gave thanks for the little Lutheran chatterbox who was keeping me company.

Then I moved on to placing the prayer lists on each chair in the sanctuary.  This is a ritual in my week that I have particularly come to love.  As I placed the prayer lists – I prayed for the people whose names are on our church prayer list.  I also prayed for the people who love and care for them. 

On Tuesday when I placed the Bible readings on the seats in the sanctuary – I spent some time praying for the people I am missing so very much right now.  I prayed for our sisters and brothers in Christ who can’t join us for worship in the sanctuary because of COVID-19.  I prayed and I lamented just a bit – because I am sad about the changes COVID-19 has brought to our Christian community.  I also gave thanks for the love I have for this wonderful Christian community that is Saint Stephen Lutheran Church.  I gave our Lord thanks for the opportunity to know and love such nifty people.

As Will and I were heading home on Wednesday afternoon – Will hurried into the sanctuary.   My sweet boy walked right down the center aisle.  He was a man on an important mission.  Will walked right up to the Jesus statue that we have hanging above the back altar and he waved to Jesus and apparently – Will told Jesus goodnight and that he would see him again tomorrow.  (This image is burned into my memory.  I am certain I will remember that sweet – still chubby 7-year old hand waving up at Jesus for the rest of my life.)

We really can just talk to our Lord.  We don’t have to use church-y words.  We don’t need to use thees and thous and haveths and doths like the King James Bible does (but if you want to that is great too).

Try having a conversation with your Lord like you would your best friend.  Tell him what is on your mind and in your heart.  You really can tell him everything.  He has heard it all and then some!  And then maybe at the end of your day – like Will – tell Jesus goodnight and that you will see him again tomorrow.  Because – as people of faith we believe (we know) no matter what happens – we will all see Jesus when we wake up tomorrow!

You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.

In Christ and with Love –

Pastor Kerri

Terrific Times on a Tuesday

Will and I had a terrifically fun morning on Tuesday.  With less than three weeks to go until NTI 2.0 launches, we decided it was time to brush up on our math skills.  We found the perfect way to practice our math as we prepare our hearts and minds for the adventures that await us in second grade this year!  Will and I counted all of your donations of cans and boxes and rolls and packages and bottles for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries food pantry. 

Wow – did we have a busy morning!  Our sisters and brothers in Christ have been very generous indeed!  Will and I counted and counted.  We organized and we organized.  We filled bag after bag after bag!  Will and I filled our car until there was only a boy-sized spot in the backseat and a Mommy-sized spot in the front.  It was such a blessing and an honor to be the folks who were able to deliver these extra special blessings!

We had the incredible joy of delivering:

4 jars of pasta sauce

43 boxes of pasta and macaroni and cheese

18 cans of pasta

2 jars of jelly and 8 jars of peanut butter

21 cans of tuna or chicken

30 cans of vegetables and beans

23 bottles of dish soap

72 bars of soap

14 bottles of shampoo

28 tooth brushes and 14 tubes of toothpaste

148 rolls of TP

We also dropped off our donations for the FCHUM online auction and Gala that starts on September 1st.

Renee and her faithful volunteers were thrilled to receive our donations.  All of the toiletries and TP and cleaning supplies are especially appreciated right now.  One of the volunteers exclaimed – “Oh look!  We are going to have the cleanest clients in the city!”

All three assured me that there were BIG smiles under their masks!

Thank you for your generosity.  Thank you for sharing your blessings with others.  Thank you for giving.

We are continuing to collect school supplies for the Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries until Sunday, August 16th. 

We can help.  Working together we can make a difference. 

In Christ and with Love –

Will and Pastor Kerri

Worshiping together on Sunday, August 2, 2020

I am so very sorry – but we will not be able to post a video of our worship service this week. There was a problem with the memory card . . . grr. Jason and Jack are on the tech issue and have already solved the problem. We are ready for next Sunday. Thank you for your patience with the Saint Stephen technology team (he is just 16 years old)!

Isaiah 55:1-5

 Ho, everyone who thirsts,
  come to the waters;
 and you that have no money,
  come, buy and eat!
 Come, buy wine and milk
  without money and without price.
 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
  and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
 Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
  and delight yourselves in rich food.
 Incline your ear, and come to me;
  listen, so that you may live.
 I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
  my steadfast, sure love for David.
 See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
  a leader and commander for the peoples.
 See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
  and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
 because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,
  for he has glorified you.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,
  slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
 LORD, you are good to all,
  and your compassion is over all your works.
 The Lord upholds all those who fall
  and lifts up those who are bowed down.
 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,
  and you give them their food in due season.
 You open wide your hand
  and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
 You are righteous in all your ways
  and loving in all your works.
 You are near to all who call upon you,
  to all who call upon you faithfully.
 You fulfill the desire of those who fear you;
  you hear their cry and save them.
 You watch over all | those who love you,
  but all the wicked you shall destroy.
 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD;
  let all flesh bless God’s holy name forever and ever. Amen.

Romans 9:1-5

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 14:13-21

Now when Jesus heard [about the beheading of John the Baptist], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Just this week I read that 821 million people in our world suffer from the burden of not having enough to eat. Think about that for just a moment – 1 out of 9 people who share this planet with us will go to bed tonight hungry!

And there are serious problems right here in our own community too. 1 in 6 Kentuckians don’t always know where their next meal will come from. 25% of Kentucky’s children live in poverty.

And of course – the experts on these sorts of things tell us – all of this is being made so much worse by COVID-19.

These numbers and statistics are both staggering and heartbreaking. Because we all know these aren’t just numbers and statistics. These are our fellow human beings. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

With so many needs surrounding us – there are probably times when you feel overwhelmed and discouraged. After all – there are so many people who need so much. It would be easy to throw up our hands in surrender and do absolutely nothing.

But rather than surrendering – why don’t we turn to our Gospel reading for today? There we encounter our Lord and a huge crowd of people who have come to hear Jesus preach the Good News of God’s grace, love, and mercy and to be healed.

This crowd is so intrigued and inspired by Jesus and so desperate for the healing he offers – they don’t even notice how much time is passing. So as evening settles in – the disciples remind Jesus that everyone is tired and hungry and thirsty from a day spent out in the scorching – hot sun.

The disciples plan to send the crowd away so everyone can go find something to eat and drink. This seems like a perfectly logical response to the situation. After all – the disciples weren’t traveling around with a U-Haul truck full of groceries.

But – Jesus rarely does what seems logical to us. Instead – Jesus declares – “they don’t have to go away. You guys give them something to eat.” Imagine the looks the disciples must have exchanged after hearing this newest declaration from Jesus. (There may have even been an eye-roll or two.)

Can you imagine the resources it would take to feed 1,000’s of hungry people!?! Where would you even begin?

Think about the Thanksgiving dinner that we host here at Saint Stephen every year. (And yes – I do use the words “we host” very loosely since all I do is smile a lot and eat!)

I have witnessed first-hand the military precision the Zimmermans and Mills use to pull off our Thanksgiving dinner. Plans are executed. Trips to multiple grocery establishments are made on their assigned days. Strategies are used. Notes are taken. Grocery ads are read. Prices are checked. Clocks are watched and timers are set. Volunteers are recruited. Sign-up sheets are deployed. Extreme precision is required.

Frankly only a crazy person would come between Peggy Zimmerman and her special notebook of notes. And I wouldn’t get between Buddy and a can opener on that Sunday for $1,000. Barry takes his mashed potatoes very seriously and Marilyn – well let’s just say that she runs a tight ship. Feeding 150 hungry Lutherans is a serious undertaking.

It would be quite an amazing feat to feed 1,000’s of hungry people even with time to plan and a loan from the bank. And yet – that is exactly what Jesus asks his disciples to do. Jesus wants them to feed over 5,000 people – and he wants them to do it quickly.

With no markets in sight the disciples do the only thing they can do – they take an inventory of their resources. But they come up with some seriously discouraging news – they only have – 5 small loaves of bread and 2 fish. Matthew doesn’t tell us who the generous giver is – but other Gospel writers tell us the donor is a little boy. So this was a child’s sack lunch.

The disciples must have been feeling pretty discouraged as they reported their news to Jesus. One dinky, little lunch was nothing in the face of so much need! The disciples were probably thinking – “this is nuts. This is a hopeless dream.”

But what if that had been the boy’s attitude? What if he had said – “I will keep my lunch. After all – my lunch is so small and the need is so great. What I have to offer couldn’t possibly make any difference.” What if the boy had decided to keep his lunch because logic told him it could never feed 5,000 hungry people?

Thankfully the boy didn’t do those things. Instead he gave his lunch to the disciples who took it to Jesus. Then Jesus took that lunch and with God’s help – it fed everyone!

And these folks didn’t just have a light snack. That humble lunch became a feast. These folks went away full and deeply satisfied.

And when the disciples picked up the leftovers – there were twelve baskets full. What an amazing miracle! This story of giving is a powerful testimony to us.

The boy gave his lunch to Jesus in faith – hope – and trust. And in Jesus’ hands his lunch fed 1,000s of people. Think about what things that seem small to us can do in God’s hands. Think of the ministry that goes on in and through our church. Think of the lives that have been changed and blessed – because people gave their gifts to God – no matter how humble they seemed.

Since this spring we have collected bags and bags of food. Those boxes of mac and cheese and cans of pasta and soup – made lots of meals. Think of the difference those meals made.

Think of the school supplies we are gathering right now and the children who will be blessed by them.

And the families at the Ronald McDonald House. And all of those meals and all of those prayers and conversations. Think of the lives that have been blessed.

Think of all of the dresses that Deb and Cathy and the Creative Hands Sew Group have made for little girls in our community and beyond.

Think of our tower of TP for FCHUM last fall that got so tall it toppled over and became a wall!

Think of the blankets and shawls and hats and scarves that the Prayer Shawl group has sent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Think of our offerings to Lutheran World Relief and all of the chicks and pigs we have adopted over the years.

Think of the blood drives. And the lives that have been saved!

Think of the lives that have been changed because of the ministry of Saint Stephen. When we give our humble gifts to God – God works miracles.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed by the needs that surround you – remember the faithful – hopeful boy and his humble lunch that fed 1,000s. Give what you can in faith and hope and know that even the humblest gift can change lives and work miracles once it is given over to God. We worship an awesome God. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.