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)!
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.
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.