Pledge Sunday – Sunday, November 12, 2017

November 12, 2017  

Matthew 14:13-21

I chose the readings for today.

I was researching online for bible passages related to stewardship and this gospel reading was one that was suggested. As I read the verses, I was struck by a couple of things.

  1. Jesus didn’t feed the 5,000, the disciples did.
  2. The disciples didn’t think they had enough. Jesus showed them what they had was plenty.

Jesus was in the wilderness grieving the death of John the Baptist. Matthew makes is quite clear: Jesus wanted to be alone. The crowds wouldn’t let him. The crowds “followed him on foot from the towns” (Mat. 14:13b). A huge number of people gathered, 5,000 men plus all the women and children (Mat. 14:21). We could be talking about 10 – 15,000 people!

A commentator on the text wrote “The disciples are concerned for the crowds, who are not pictured as hungry and destitute, unable to purchase food, but as being so enthralled by Jesus’ healing activity that they are reluctant to leave” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 8, p. 324).

Thousands of people followed Jesus into the wilderness, captivated by the miracles he performed. By his healing touch. By his compassion.

Thousands of years later, millions of people around the world continue to be captivated by Jesus. We join the ranks of the billions who have, over time, turned to Jesus for salvation, moved by his healing touch, empowered by his compassion.

We follow Jesus, and like his first disciples, when we see the real needs of those around us, Jesus turns to us and tells us: feed them.

In the New Revised Standard Version of the text, Jesus said “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (Mat. 14:16).

In the contemporary version I read today, he said “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper” (The Message by Eugene Peterson, p. 39).

We have taken those instructions literally here at Our Savior’s. For 20 years we have been feeding people. I imagine, 20 years ago people were thinking “How can we do this? Where will the food come from? Will we have enough?” But there has always been enough. There have been enough people to do the work that needs to be done. There has been enough food to serve. In fact, there has always been plenty, with food left over, enough for people to take a second serving home.

When congregations plan budgets, a common theme emerges. Financial planning has been this way for centuries: people see need and want to respond. But people fear there won’t be enough money to do what needs doing.

We are like the disciples of Jesus, who look at five loaves of bread and two fish and realistically say “All we have are five loaves and two fish” (The Message, p. 39). In The New Revised Standard Version of the reading is more dramatic “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish” (Mat. 14:17).

How do we turn our thinking around? How do we see plenty rather than seeing ‘not enough’?

What you have to give to God, in service of God’s church, is plenty. And we are grateful. We are grateful for your gifts of time. We are grateful for the talents you offer. We are grateful for the financial support you provide. Wonderful things are being done here! We ‘feed the hungry’ because Jesus has called us to. We ‘clothe the naked’ because Jesus has called us to. We provide emergency assistance. We visit the sick, praying for healing and hope. We visit the homebound, offering a meal of bread and wine blessed at this table, bringing community to our church family members who are unable to come here to be with us. We teach children about the triune God. We worship together, singing our joy, singing our sorrows, singing our hopes and our dreams. We comfort those who grieve. We pray.  We root ourselves in scripture, in the Word of God as that Word is made real in our hearts and minds and lives. We make quilts and we send cards. We give what we have to others, supporting ministries in our region and around the world.

We do all of those things because you give. Because you come to church. Because you give to church. Because you ARE the church!

Lest I boast too much about all that we do, let me remind you. There is more to be done. There is always more to be done.

Jesus will always be turning to us and will always be saying “You give them something to eat. You give them something to wear. You give them comfort. You give them community. You give them hope. You share your joy!”

I have always given to whatever church I belong to. Like you, I give what I am able. I give time, talent, and treasure. I give because I am so deeply grateful for all that God has given me. I give because I have confidence in the power of the Risen Christ. I give because I trust this congregation’s determination to be a living, hopeful, joyful steward of God’s gifts.

I’m pledging to give more next year than I am giving this year. I’m increasing my gift to this church because I am grateful to be alive. I’m increasing my gift to this church because I believe the world needs more from us, because I believe our church, our neighbors, our region, our world needs more from this congregation.

I pray we all give more, do more, share more, sing more, hope more—knowing we have plenty to give, plenty to do, plenty to share, plenty to hope in.

Thanks be to God.