Sermon: Small Things in the Hands of Christ

Small Things in the Hands of Christ
John 6:1-15
26 July 2015

There once was a man whose volunteer job was to pack boxes of food which would be shipped to needy families who lived in the Appalachia region.  All the food that was donated from came from organizations such as churches, schools, the scouts and other civic minded groups.  As the man reached into a box filled with cans, what he pulled out was a brown paper sack.

The man opened the paper bag and pulled out a peanut butter sandwich, an apple and a cookie.  And there was a name on the bag: Christy Room 104.  It seemed that a first or second grade girl had given up her lunch for some hungry person.

You see, small things in the hands of Christ are meaningful and sometimes they can accomplish important things.  This morning, what I would like to do is take a look at a familiar story and see how Jesus used something that was considered small and how he transformed it into something that made a difference.  My scripture text is John 6:1-15.

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.[a] A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages[b] would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they[c] sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.  This is the Word of God.  Thanks be to God.

In our gospel text, we are told, it was close to evening and those who followed Jesus into this remote area had no food.  Our Lord knew the people were hungry and he just fed them with spiritual food, now he needed to care for the physical.

So he asked Philip who was a realist what should be done.  He said “Six months wages would not be enough to feed all the people.  Then there was Andrew, the practical one, who was also the patron saint of Scotland and if I could use a Scottish expression, Philip might have said,

“Lord, there is a wee laddie here and he has five loaves of bread and two wee fishes.”

The bread that this boy had was similar to pita bread and the two fishes were like small sardines.  It wasn’t much, but it was all he had.  And that is what God asks of us.  It is our availability.

Isaiah 6:8 says, “I heard the voice of the Lord saying, whom shall I send and who will go for us?  Then said I, send me.”  That is the heart of this scripture.  Are we willing to be used?  To say yes to the Lord.  If there is a need, are we sensitive enough to be used in the Lord’s work.

Hymn #593 reflects that.  It is a favorite of many.  It is called, “Here I am, Lord”.  The chorus:

“Is It I Lord?  I have heard you calling in the night.  I will go Lord, if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.”  May God make that a reality in our lives.

A number of years ago, a retired Army Colonel, George Clarke and his wife Sara, who were devout Christians, purchased a building located in downtown Chicago.  It was called the Pacific Beer Garden.  Once papers were signed, the Clarke’s dropped “beer” from the sign and changed the name of the building to the Pacific Garden Mission.  Their purpose was to help and house the homeless.

In the beginning, the Clarke’s bore the entire cost themselves.  But as the ministry expanded, so did their expenses and it wasn’t long before they ran out of funds to pay the mortgage and they were told by the bank that they had only 24 hours to make the payment.  Otherwise they would lose the building and the ministry would close.

The Clarke’s knew this was a crisis moment in the ministry and made this a matter of prayer, which they did both day and night.  Essentially, what they asked the Lord was not to abandon this important work.

The next morning, when the Clarke’s emerged from their home, after their all day and all night prayer vigil, they were shocked at what greeted them.  Their front yard was covered with mushrooms of the very best quality.  And even more remarkable was that mushrooms were not in season.  And the Clarke’s knew this was clearly an answer to prayer.

Immediately, they began to gather the crop and brought them to the chefs at the very exclusive Palmer House Hotel and were paid a lot of money, enough to pay off some of the mortgage and satisfy the bank.  There was some extra money to pay other expenses.

And today the Pacific Garden Mission still goes strong.  Last month, a daily average of 850 homeless spent the night in their facility.  Approximately 1800 meals were served each day.  The Pacific Garden Mission also takes care of spiritual needs, there were a number of professions of faith and at least 100 people are in Bible Study.

This is an example of a couple who saw a need and did what they could and the Lord blessed them.  Even though there were some serious obstacles, but through faith and prayer, they found those opportunities.  If god were to call us to do something, he would provide the means, but we have to be willing.

In our scripture text, the miracle took place when the boy gave what he could.  That allowed Jesus to take the bread and two fishes, where he lifted up his arms and prayed.

Baruch atah, Adonai, elohenu, melech ha olam.  Borei, minei, mezonot. 

Translated “Blessed art thou O Lord, King of the Universe who creates various kinds of sustenance.” 

Then the bread and fish were distributed and this was truly a miracle.

When we were stationed in Hawaii, I heard an army chaplain preach on this same passage of scripture and what he told us was that we needed to learn how to count to eight.  Let me explain.  5 loaves of bread + two fishes+ God = Eight.  So when we include God in our equation with our limited human resources, we leave open the possibility of miracles.  And church history is filled with examples of small beginnings to include the ministries of this church.

One example of 5+2+God =8 would be the time a young boy read about Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s missionary work in Central West Africa or the modern day country of Gabon.  And this boy desperately wanted to help and do his part, but he only had enough money to buy one bottle of aspirin.  And what he did was write to what was called the old War Department and asked if they could fly over Dr. Schweitzer’s hospital and drop the one bottle of aspirin down to him.

A radio station heard about this request and as a public interest story, told of the young boy’s concern to help others.  Because of that radio broadcast, there was a groundswell of response.  Eventually this boy was flown by the US government to Schweitzer’s hospital in Africa along with 4 ½ tons of medical supplies that was freely given by thousands of people.  When Dr. Schweitzer heard the story, he said, “I never thought one child could do so much.”

Saint Teresa, a Roman Catholic nun, who lived long ago, once set out to build a convent with the equivalent of only 12 pennies to her name.  Someone who attempted to dampen her faith said to her, “Not even Teresa can accomplish much with twelve pennies.”  But the nun answered, “It is true what you said, but Teresa and twelve pennies with God can do anything.”  By faith, Theresa knew how to count.

When I hold a basketball in my hands, it is merely a basketball,

Yet if I place it in the hands of Lebron James, the greatest basketball player on the planet, this ball will do some amazing things.

Put a baseball in my hands, not much happens,

But put it into the hands of Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, this ball will strike out some of the best players in the league.

When I hold this paint brush, I can make a rudimentary likeness of something,

But if I were to put it in the hands of someone like a John Singer Sargent, the painting would turn into a masterpiece.

What I am saying is this.  There are different results because of the one who uses them.  It is the same thing in the Kingdom of God.  When we place our service, gifts, talents, and resources in the hands of God, He can take it and make something special out of it.  It is the principle of 5+2+God =8.

Christian Contemporary Radio is a sponsor of a program called-Make a Difference Monday.  The way this works is this.  Instead of waiting for an opportunity to do good, we should, let’s say, seize the bull by the horns and go out of our way to do something nice for someone.

Maybe visit a person, make a phone call.  There is another thing that people do and that is called Pay It Forward, the same principle.

One night as I went through the Hooksett Toll booth in NH, someone ahead of me paid my toll and I was totally shocked and surprised, it made my day.  The people who are involved in Make a Difference Monday or Pay it Forward have been blessed beyond their wildest dreams.

I would encourage you to be available to God and when he calls, please answer.  If you need more fulfillment in life, go on line and look up Make a Difference Monday or Pay it Forward and see how you can be a blessing.

Let me close with this quote:

God does not begin by asking our ability, but availability and if we improve our dependability, He will increase our capability.  Noel Maxwell.