Sermon for Pentecost 7, Year B
Based on Jn. 6:1-15
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
In today’s gospel, the author teaches us a great truth, which we would all do well to remember. He underscores that people who appear unimportant and unknown have an important and known part to play in the work of God’s kingdom. It’s rather interesting that we don’t learn too much in the gospels about the disciple Andrew. However, today, the writer reminds us that Andrew is doing God’s work by bringing an unnamed boy to Jesus.
Elsewhere, in the Fourth Gospel, it’s Andrew who brings his brother Peter to Jesus. Andrew appears to be “a minor disciple” ~ away from the limelight. But in today’s gospel, it seems that Andrew was a very loyal, faithful disciple of Jesus. He may not have been as well known in the public eye as Peter, Paul, John or James, but in God’s eyes, he was as important and so was his work.
Too often society ~ and yes, the church too! ~ falls into the trap of placing its emphasis on being successful, well-known, famous; of being on centre stage in the limelight. This obsession is often at the expense of people like Andrew and the unnamed boy in out text today. Such a focus on being successful, great and famous, causes people like Andrew and the unnamed boy to feel and believe that they are not important ~ or even worse, that they are not needed and wanted. Those who think that they’re important, great and famous, need to be reminded that if it were not for people like Andrew and the unnamed boy, along with their contributions, they would not be where they are today.
As William Barclay observed: “It was Andrew who brought that lad to Jesus, and by bringing him made the miracle possible. No one ever knows what will come out of it when we bring someone to Jesus. If a parent trains up their child in the knowledge and the love and the fear of God, no one c an say what mighty things that child may some day do for God and for humanity. If a Sunday School teacher brings a child to Christ, no one knows what that child may some day do for Christ and his church.”
“There is a tale of an old German schoolmaster who, when he entered his class of boys in the morning, used to remove his cap and bow ceremoniously to them. One asked him why he did this. His answer was: “You never know what one of these boys may some day become.” He was right ~ because one of them was Martin Luther.”
Apparently John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, was brought to Christ by overhearing three unnamed women talking seriously about Jesus. William Carey, a famous leader of the missionary movement became a Christian through a fellow apprentice shoe cobbler, John Warr. Who knows what miracles Christ is able to work when we bring someone to him?
Albert Stauderman has noted that: “Early Lutheran missionaries in the West Indies served the Danish landlords who ruled the islands which, today are known as the Virgin Islands. One of the pastors asked, “What of the black slaves in the fields? Who ministers to them?” He was discourteously told, “If you want to preach to them, go out in the fields where they work. We don’t want them in our church.” The pastor did so, and today large Lutheran congregations in the Virgin Islands testify to the pioneer preacher who went into the fields and into the slaves’ quarters to preach the freedom that Christ brought.”
It’s often people like the disciple Andrew who bring others to the Christ. And, just like Andrew in our text today, such people don’t realize the outcome. Andrew never knew, nor did he plan that a miracle would happen as a result of bringing the unnamed boy to Jesus. Nor do we know how that encounter between Jesus and the unnamed boy transformed the latter’s life. It may very well have changed his life to such an extent that he too, may have become a loyal, faithful, lifelong follower of Jesus and brought others to his Lord.
As Albert Stauderman instructs us: “Never underestimate what you are doing for our Lord and his kingdom. In your home a tiny candle can prove more useful than the most brilliant star in the sky. In your kitchen the faucet at the sink is more useful than Niagara Falls would be. Our own small gifts, rightly used, are sufficient to accomplish whatever is needed. We don’t need the strength of Hercules, the knowledge of Einstein, or the silver tongue of an orator. We do need to make the best possible use of the endowments we have.”
The unnamed boy in our gospel wasn’t strong, wise, or great and famous. He was an anonymous, humble, willing servant of God. He only had five loaves of bread and two fishes. He could have refused to give any of it to Jesus. He could have given only a tiny portion of it to Jesus. But the author tells us that he gave it all to Jesus. As little and humble as the boy’s gift was, Jesus received it and made a miracle out of it.
How might we follow this unnamed boy’s example in our giving to Jesus and the work of his realm? We may not think that we have much to give. We may feel inadequate and say “I can’t do that!” We may find all kinds of excuses and rationalizations not to give to Jesus and his realm. It’s then that we need to remember that even our most humble gifts can be given to Jesus and the work of his realm. And, like the boy’s small, humble gift, our gifts, however small or large, can also turn into a miracle. Jesus needs our gifts. Think of how many miracles Jesus could work if we willingly gave of our time, talents, our possessions and wealth to Christ and his kingdom.
Over the years, the mass media has been quick to criticize and point out the scandals and mismanagement of church personalities and church-run benevolent organizations. Yet, in truth, likely the majority of church personnel and benevolent organizations are managed with great responsibility, care, love, commitment and generosity. For example, according to all the reports of our Canadian Lutheran World Relief and Global Hunger and Development Appeal; food and other material needs, as well as other appropriate training and resources are working to benefit the local people around the globe. In most cases, self-help projects are encouraged to enhance peoples’ sense of dignity and independence, trusting that the people in any local area of need know best what they need and how best to implement projects which will be tailored to their particular socio-cultural, economic-environmental values and traditions.
It’s now up to us to trust the work of our church agencies and continue to support them. We are called to respond to our Lord as the unnamed boy in today’s gospel. Christ needs our gifts and no matter how humble they may be, he can work miracles with them.
May each one of us have the dedication of Andrew and bring other people to Christ. And, may each one of us be like the anonymous boy and give willingly and generously, trusting that our gifts can and do make a difference in the work of God’s realm. Trusting that with our gifts, Jesus can create marvellous miracles.
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