“Give Us Generous Hearts!”

The text for this sermon is Matthew 14:13-21, the Feeding of the Five Thousand by Jesus.  Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on August 3, 2014, the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.


Dear Friends in Christ,


Last week I flew to the heartland of Lutherans in America and spent 3 days at a conference at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The conference was all about stewardship and I have come back with lots of good ideas for the Virginia Synod and for us at Resurrection. 


Mark Hanson spoke on the last day.  Remember him?  He served 12 years as our Presiding Bishop in the ELCA.  Let me share one of his stories.  He had recently been elected Presiding Bishop and was boarding a plane, dressed all in black, with his collar and pectoral cross.  He presents a rather imposing picture with his grey/white beard and 6 feet, 3 inch frame.  A cabin steward had fallen asleep in Mark’s seat.  Mark leaned over him and declared, “Arise from the dead!”  And Mark said “he did”.  Mark shared further that during the next 2 hours the attendant came by several times for brief chats and said that he had studied to be a priest, but had determined that was not his calling.  And he wanted to talk to Mark about his future and other ways he might respond to God’s call, and so they exchanged contact information.


The point that Mark gave us from that story is this: it’s okay to have some fun as Christians.  It’s even more okay to let others know you are Christian.  It’s really okay to reach out to others with whatever gifts we have been given by God.


Today’s gospel lesson is the feeding of the five thousand by Jesus.  It’s just amazing that upon my return from a stewardship conference that this is the gospel lesson that I get to preach on. 


Let me begin by putting you at ease.  Probably some of you may be thinking.  He’s returned from a stewardship conference and so today we’re going to be hearing about how much money he wants us to give to the church and how we must give to support our budget and how we are eternally behind and everyone needs to step up.


Let me put you at ease.  Today, I will not be talking about your giving to the church or our budget needs or our budget shortfall.  What I will be talking about today is our heart for stewardship in everyday life and how we honor God in our words and actions.


We’ll understand the story of the feeding of the five thousand better if we know the context in Matthew’s Gospel.  Word has just been received that John the Baptist is dead; he has been beheaded by Herod.  Jesus and the disciples are in mourning.  The people get word of this tragedy and no wonder so many come out to be with Jesus.  This is in effect a “wake” and a funeral.  This is a good occasion to declare the good news of the gospel through word and deed.  We learn a lot about sharing.    “Jesus, the people are getting hungry.  Send them away to the villages to get something to eat.”  And Jesus says to his disciples, “Don’t send them away.  You give them something to eat.”  They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”  And Jesus said, “Bring them here to me.”


You know how the story ends.  Jesus holds up the food to heaven, blesses it, and gives it to the disciples to share with all the people.  And all had enough to eat.  The little boy who shared his lunch isn’t in Matthew’s account, but it is in Luke’s account.  Luke certainly gives a heart-warming face to a generous heart.  This episode in the earthly life of Jesus should remind us of some other times in the Bible when we hear of God multiplying meager resources into a rich supply of food.  Remember how God fed the Israelites in the wilderness with manna?  Remember how Elijah the prophet fed the widow and her son with a handful of meal and a jar of oil that kept on giving?  Matthew wants to make sure that we understand the feeding of the five thousand as connected to the Lord’s Supper.  That’s why he makes it a point to say that Jesus lifted up those elements to heaven and blessed them and gave them to the people.


Do you believe that God can and does miracles today just as much as he did in the Bible?  I believe he does miraculous things every day.  It takes people of faith to see those miracles, to name those miracles and to tell others about those miracles. 


I am going to get you more involved in this sermon than I usually do.  I’m going to ask a question, have you consider it for a moment, and then see if we have 2 or 3 brave souls who would be willing to share your answer. 


Thank about a time in your life in which the resources were meager and you personally experienced a time of grace.  I’m especially looking for times when you can say that a miracle occurred that you cannot take the credit for…


I’m hoping that today you realize that stewardship does not end when we leave this worship space.  What we do with our resources and money shapes who we are as persons, and defines over the course of our lives who we become.


I believe that God wants us to be generous people.  When Mark Hanson said to that young cabin steward, “Arise from the dead!”, he was talking about Resurrection People.  By grace we have been set free.  We are no longer in bondage to fear about our future.  We have been set free to serve others out of the abundance of our God. 


Please, look for ways to be generous and be good stewards of all that God has entrusted to you.  Look for the miracles that God provides, name them and share the wonderful news of God’s abundant love with others.  That’s the good news for this day.


Thanks be to God!  Amen.