Der Vasken’s Sermon on September 3, 2023

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“The more we give of ourselves to others, the better off everyone will be.”

This morning’s Bible reading is about serving others in a biblical sense. It is one of the most well known stories of the Bible. All four Gospels tell the story. It is the story of the multiplication of the loaves of bread and fish. There are many interesting details in this story. We could spend all day talking about each one of them, but, today, being Labor Day Weekend, I want to focus on one of the details.

In this famous story there is an important detail found in the contrast between Philip and Andrew. We know that Philip and Andrew are two of the disciples and they play a big role in this story. Jesus told these two men to feed the growing crowd that gathered to hear Him speak that day. Philip is overwhelmed by the size of the crowd and he does not know what to do. He imagines that nothing can be done to feed so many people. Andrew, meanwhile, sees things differently. He sees a solution and he points to the few loaves of bread and fish a boy in the crowd has and presents them to Jesus.

Philip was overwhelmed and intimidated and like Philip, we can be overwhelmed and intimidated by the size of the challenges that we face every day. Philip was raised in a world that was moving away from God. Our world is not much different than his. Many of us feel lost or hopeless or even paralyzed by the problems we face from time to time.

Some say that the world is too complex now or too secular or too closed off for the message of the Bible to relate to our lives or to be of any help to us at all. That is what was playing in the back of Philip’s mind, but then there is Andrew. Like Andrew, we can give God what we have and let Him work His miracle.

Sometimes we doubt the power of the simple gifts we each possesses. We live in a world that now doubles its technology every two or three years. However advanced technology may be, the simple gifts of friendship and concern and personal conversation and prayer can be extraordinary ways for God to bring about change and help us face the world around us with all its problems and challenges. However overwhelming our lives may be, each of us has simple but powerful gifts to give back to God, and like Andrew, He will use them to better the world. He will use people to better the lives of other people.

There is a story I will end with of a father who takes his three children to volunteer at a clothing drive in a poorer part of town. At first, his children do not understand why he brought them there. He explains to them that they are going to spend the next few hours volunteering selflessly giving time from their day to help those in need. The four of them organize clothes and pass them out to those who need them. After an hour or so, the children begin to notice the joy on the faces of those who receive the new clothing. Because of their volunteer work, these people will have clothing that will keep them warm in the coming winter. In turn, the children feel good because they have a part in improving the lives of others. Noticing his children’s excitement, the father says to them, “It feels good giving to others, doesn’t it? Remember this feeling. The more we give of ourselves to others, the better off everyone will be.”

One of the messages of this famous story is not only about what Jesus gives us, but also about what we give Him. It teaches us to give God what we have. He will work a miracle with it. May we always remember that it is the simple gifts of friendship and concern and personal conversation and prayer that matter to God.

What is the gift God gave you and how are you giving it back to God?


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