Summary: A sermon for our once a year Giving Sunday
It was a hot long day … not the first hot long day. The crowds had been there three days now. The disciples could see their excitement as they listened to the master. You could see that look in their eyes as they just had to listen to every word he said. But after three days of listening and sitting and heat, that look was slightly gone. The people needed food.
Jesus challenges the disciples ‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.’
According to one of the other gospels - the disciples pre-empt this by trying to get Jesus to send the crowd away.
After all there only three possible solutions. Send the people away to sort themselves out. Fork out money that they don’t have to feed five thousand people. Or Jesus miracle food out of no where.
Jesus doesn’t choose ANY of these option. He most certainly does not miracle food out of no where, and he does not expect them to spend money they don’t have. Rather he takes what little they have … and it is very very little … just 7 loaves and a few small fishes.
It’s amazing something very very little can make a huge difference. One year Chad Rose ended up with a spare Christmas tree. Somehow he had ended up with a second real Christmas tree - where he was Christmas trees only cost $25 so he decided to give it away. He put an advert on the internet - free Christmas tree for a family that needs it. “I mean, it was just a tree,” Chad Rose told me, in recounting early on how he approached the decision to give the single tree away.
But with each e-mail he read from would-be recipients, it became clear to him how significant a tree can be in contributing to the holiday aura.
With every note he received, he was sobered at how an outlay of $25 or more for a Christmas tree is beyond the financial reach of so many in our midst.
“Hello,” began one e-mail. “My husband and I have 6 kids so you can imagine Christmas time is rough for us. We also have three birthdays at the end of the year.
“Having a real Christmas tree would be such a great blessing this year (because) usually we draw a Christmas tree on a large poster and hang it in the corner.”
From another hopeful, Rose received this: “You are a blessing! I was just getting ready to explain to my 6 year old daughter that Christmas is not just about a tree. In actuality, not being able to afford one this year was going to be more devastating for me. If you have one available…we would love to get one. Either way, what you are doing is truly incredible and I can not express how grateful I am for the impact you are having on people in your community.”
“I was overwhelmed,” he says of the response, which started streaming in just minutes after he posted his ad. A tiny gift like a Christmas tree, able to make such a difference. But what was he to do with so many people needing help…
I have been astonished at St Barnabas by the level of generosity here. You only had to look last week at our St Barnabas Day festivities at the sheer overwhelming quantity of cakes and other food you donated. Enough to last us not just for the day itself but for Sunday too. I know of individuals in this congregation who have been in financial trouble who have been helped out by other individuals - sometime with them knowing who was giving sometimes anonymously. And last year you showed this again - by the incredibly generous way you responded to our Stewardship campaign. Pledged giving went up by something like a third. So any Stewardship Sunday has to start with an immense thank you for all your generosity. Please turn to those around you and give them a round of applause to thank them for their generosity.
Your generosity does make a huge difference. Renting out the hall may bring in some money that helps with the building and stuff like that. But effectively what you give pay for there to be a vicar here. If you hadn’t consistently been so generous over the years St Barnabas would have been merged in with another congregation or perhaps even shut - but you over 6 decades through your giving have kept the work of God alive in this place, So thank you.
Now personally I am much comfortable with Paul’s approach in our second reading talking about “the abudent joy” and “wealth and generosity” than I am with the rather threatening approach of Malachi in our first reading “Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me— the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse,”