Sermon for Sunday, July 25,  2021  – “Gifts Multiplied”

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

The need is great. There’s a large crowd, thousands of people coming toward Jesus. They are poor and hungry and hurting. Jesus wants to feed them. He poses the question to the disciples: How are we going to get these folks fed? Jesus’ disciple Andrew is aware of some resources, five loaves and two fish. “But,” he asks, “what are they among so many people?” In the face of great need, what Andrew has to offer seems so lacking.

It’s so easy to feel the same way about what we have to give – thinking it’s just not enough, just not worthy of the great need.

Recently some dear friends came to visit my husband Matt and me. They came to pray with us, sing with us, and care for us as we continue to recover from Matt’s serious car accident this past May.   We had a wonderful time together. We laughed and cried, sang and prayed. It was incredibly nourishing. I felt so fed and healed and so grateful for their care. A few weeks later we saw these friends and one of them said to me, “I feel awful that we didn’t bring you any food that day.” This is a wise, prayerful, faithful person. Yet even after she had fed us so profoundly, she struggled to trust that her gift was enough.

There are so many voices in our culture telling us we have to do more and be more – more, more, more. There are so many voices telling us we will never have enough to give, never be able to make a difference in the face of so much need. With all these loud voices clamoring we diminish and deny the gifts God has given us. We get paralyzed by all the hurting, hungry people in our own lives, in the world.

Yet Jesus is not deterred. Jesus persists in using what we have to feed and heal this hurting world. Just as he did that day on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus takes what we have, gives thanks and distributes it. He uses what we offer to share nourishment and abundance widely, extravagantly for everyone.

A wonderful example of this is the Krumkake ministry of this congregation. People give what they can. Some bring eggs, some butter or milk or sugar, some give money for ingredients. The body of Christ here receives this all with gratitude. Then everything gets combined into batter that fills tub after tub. And then more people show up to bake. Some give two hours of time. Others return day after day. One man who worked a great many shifts this year told me, “This is all I can do to help around here anymore.” What beautiful loaves and fishes he offers.

Then the Krumkake is sold at Nordic Fest, bringing joy and connection. And then all the proceeds from the sales are given away. Well over $2000 each year is given to help others. This is such a vivid example of how Jesus takes our gifts and multiplies them. A similar thing happens when we each do our small part for people in crisis. Some bring meals, some plant flowers or send gifts, walk dogs or mow lawns, some help with driving, some send cards, some pray without ceasing, others offer music. My own family has been so healed and nourished by all these gifts and more.

Jesus works through everything that is offered.

The same kind of thing happens with our voices when we sing together. We bring all our different voices – some that are trained, some that are timid, some that are cracking, some off-key. Jesus re- ceives them all, gives thanks and multiplies them into a beautiful chorus that nourishes and heals.

This is what Jesus does. This is what we can trust that Jesus will do that with the big challenges we face, including antiracism work. Addressing and healing the racism that plagues us can feel so overwhelming. We can get paralyzed by the need and our limitations. Yet God has given this con- gregation much more than five loaves and two fish for the essential work of antiracism. We can share our willingness to listen, our experiences, our hopes, our prayers, our advocacy, our longing for healing, our human compassion. We can trust that Jesus will receive our meager, broken offerings and will work in and through them to heal and feed. We can show up for the work trusting Jesus to use what we have.

This summer our Anti Racism Task Force is working to create ways for this congregation to offer our gifts as we do the work of adopting a racial justice statement and committing to action together. We will have two gatherings this September and further opportunities for conversation about antiracism in different aspects of our ministry. Watch for more information in the weeks to come.

God our creator has given us such gifts.
We all have so much more than five loaves and two fish.
We can offer what we have, trusting Jesus will multiply it to feed and heal.

Let’s take a moment for silent prayer.