Message 2/26/17 More Than Enough
Scripture: John 6: 1-13
One of my favorite spiritual disciplines (although I’m not as consistent as I’d like) is to spend a few moments every morning creating journal entries. Sometimes my entries are devotional in nature. I spend some time thinking about God and pondering theology. But more recently, my entries have been mostly about you. One of the coolest things I get to do is think about you and the fact that God has put us together to accomplish some pretty amazing work. What we’re doing together as a parish is pretty phenomenal, although it’s not easy. We’ve had and will have our challenges, hiccups and changes but most importantly, we’ve had and will have our God-given potential. And when we allow God to use our God-given potential, miracles happen. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today, allowing God to do the unthinkable through us.
I hadn’t been in this world much longer than a decade when I was asked to think about going on my first mission trip. My parents had been on previous trips, but this time they thought it would be a good experience for the entire family. Now, I had a profound list of interests as a 10 year old. And suffice to say, helping others wasn’t one of them. I was a backyard kickball star and could outrun anyone in a good game of Capture the Flag, but I didn’t even know what mission was! I had heard of poverty, but had never seen it. I had heard adults talk about rebuilding homes, though I had barely ever lifted a hammer. Yet somehow my parents convinced me to go. We pulled up to the church on takeoff day, and I found myself surrounded by men and women three times my age who had “made it” in life. They were full of valuable life experiences and resources. And they came prepared. They loaded up the vans with toolboxes and tool belts, power saws and drills, ready to rebuild homes that had been destroyed over the years. And I came with nothing… except a sleeping bag, a pillow, some extra clothes…and the awkward feeling that I had nothing substancial to offer.
That must have been exactly how the disciples felt that day when Jesus asked the question, “So how do you think we can feed this large crowd? You know, they’ve been listening and following all this time, and we can’t let them go home without a bite to eat, so what do you say, guys? How can we make this happen? “ Well the truth was, they couldn’t. And Jesus knew it. Nobody had planned for this crowd to emerge, or else they would’ve been better prepared. And so they looked around and there were no fast food restaurants in sight, nor was there any way the crowd could make it home before the marketplace shut down for the evening. Finally, Philip said what was on everybody’s mind: “Six months wages would not buy enough bread to feed these people even a little bit!” In other words, “That’s impossible! We simply don’t have the resources to solve a problem like this.”
Interestingly enough, we still find ourselves in a world where finding enough for the crowd continues to be a formidable challenge. According to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, almost 12,000 Indiana County residents are defined as “food insecure.” 3,300 children in our back yards go hungry every day. And over 14,000 of our neighbors live in poverty. That’s a pretty sizable challenge, and they’re not the only ones. You know that we are involved in various ministries such as GriefShare, which strives to help people grieve, Family Promise, which strives to help families with children find their way out of homelessness, and Connect Church Recovery, which seeks to help people struggling with addiction discover freedom and release. And there are hundreds of other challenges we could talk about- depression, job loss, marriage problems, poverty, cancer- and they all lead me to the same conclusion: We live in a tremendously broken and hurting world that needs to know the love and grace of God.
There’s not one person in this service who hasn’t experienced a desire to do something about our world’s brokenness. Desire is never the issue, at least that’s the impression I get. The issue has to do with resources. Like the disciples, we often examine the problem and we see what we don’t have. We don’t have enough bread to feed every person. We don’t have enough money to help every person who lives in poverty. We don’t have enough time to care for every person who needs our attention. We don’t have the right tools to get the job done. We don’t have enough…until Jesus reveals what we do have. And that’s a game changer.
As the disciples continued to question how they could possibly find enough food to feed the crowd, Andrew came back to the circle and said, “I don’t know what good it is, but there’s a boy here who has five loaves of bread and two fish.” And that’s all Jesus needed to hear. It didn’t matter that this boy’s offering wasn’t enough; it didn’t matter that his resources weren’t enough to feed a small family let alone a crowd of thousands; it didn’t matter that Andrew and the others placed little significance in these gifts; what did matter was that the boy had something, and when we place our something into the hands of Jesus, that’s enough. Jesus takes our something and makes it enough.
Now, one thing we must relentlessly believe is that we do have something to offer. And what we have to offer is pretty good, but we need to believe it. There are times that we too easily fall into the trap of what is known as a theology of scarcity, where our minds are focused on the resources we don’t have, as opposed to looking closely at what we do have. And the most important resource you have stares back at you every time you look into the mirror. You! You are an extremely valuable resource (but of course, you are MORE than a resource), and when you allow God to use your life and your story, beautiful things happen.
Think about this for a moment. You have a life filled with ups and downs, traumatic experiences and mountaintop joys. And you’re the only person who has experienced those moments in those ways. And you might be the only person who can get through to your neighbor down the street, or the child next door, or the crusty old man who says, “I’ll never believe.” Here’s just one example: Over the past year, my mom has signed up to be a volunteer companion for hospice patients. After caring for my father during his hospice season, my mom learned the ins and outs and ups and downs of that journey, and is now taking that journey with other families. And because my mom is sharing her story, these families are not experiencing an often frightening and lonely season by themselves. Like my mom, your story is your biggest asset, and when your story is given over to the hands of God, it will lead to far more blessing than any of us could ever imagine. The biggest resource you have at your disposal is you. Don’t ever underestimate the impact of your story.
On New Year’s Day, I had the opportunity to worship in my hometown church. And every time I worship at Ohl, I’m reminded of the people who shared their lives with me. There was Lee, who pulls me aside every time he sees me and says, “I hope you know I’m praying for you Dinger boys and your families.” There was Deb, who always (and still does) wants to hear the latest happenings in my life. There was Denny, who routinely gave up a week in the summer to counsel 12-year old boys at church camp. There was Jean and Peg, who devoted their Sunday mornings to teaching rambunctious children. And I could go on and on an on.
None of these folks ever made it big time. None of them have a ton of money or lots of shiny toys. None of them changed the world or eradicated any of the major problems we encounter. They are farmers and teachers and stay-at-home-moms, and most live within 10 miles of where they grew up. Their names mean nothing to you and probably never will. But they mean something to the Lord and they mean something to me. I’m sure they’ve done what they could for their churches and communities. If I were to ask each of them if they tithed, I’m pretty sure most of them would say they do. And if I were to ask if they strive to use their spiritual gifts to bring joy to others, I’m guessing they would say yes to that question as well. Those are resources that God has given us, and expects us, to use liberally. But the one resource I don’t need to ask about is each one’s life. They might not have had everything, but they had something, like a few loaves of bread and few small fish, and when they willingly placed their something in God’s hands, their faith and inspiration somehow landed in the heart of young man who would end up hearing a new story, a story of Jesus Christ and his love. And that young would one day become your pastor.
I hope you know how important your life is for somebody. Maybe God has blessed you with tremendous financial resources or strong leadership gifts or keen visionary insight. Maybe you have time to visit and listen, skills to teach and to share with others or a strong desire to pray. And those are so important, and you should be using them as a means to bring glory to God. But the one resource you most definitely have is you: you with all your past, your pains, your victories and your lessons. And although it might seem like it’s “just a few loaves of bread,” it’s might just change somebody else’s life. At some point in time you’ll probably forget this sermon and doubt that God could ever use you. Sort of like a small boy on a mission trip who felt just a bit out of place. But my hope is that Jesus will take that statement and take that doubt and form within you a new, prayerful question that sounds like this: Lord Jesus, how is it that you plan to use me? Amen.