Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity Easter (Mark Simms)
25th July 2021
2 Kings 4.42–end
There is a story that has become well known in popular culture. It is based on an essay called The Star Thrower, which was written in 1978 by Loren Eiseley. It has been adapted in many ways at many times. In its popular form, it goes something like this:
Once upon a time, an old man was walking on the beach after a big storm. He found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see.
The old man noticed a small boy bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled, and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
At first sight, this story appears to have a lot in common with our gospel reading this morning, the story of the feeding of the five thousand. There is a very large crowd of people, about five thousand. The resources to share among them are small, five barley loaves and two fish. How could the needs of all the people possibly be met?
Yet there is a fundamental difference between the feeding of the five thousand and the star thrower. When Andrew found the lad with the lunch, he didn’t simply say that there was enough for a few people, so let’s feed those we can. Andrew took the resources he had to Jesus. It was by taking them to Jesus that the meagre resources led to the whole crowd being fed.
Andrew had been with Jesus for at least a year. He had seen that, when people go to Jesus, wonderful things happen. He may have suspected that Jesus already knew what he intended to do. Most significantly, he trusted Jesus. He had faith.
And the rest, as they say is history.
There are many needs in the world today. From global issues, such as climate change, to very local ones, such as food poverty. It may feel that we are like the star thrower, merely doing our little bit and not really making a difference.
But, as Christians, we know that there is a bigger picture.
God wants the poor and the vulnerable to be treated with justice and equity. He longs for the hungry to be fed and captives to be set free. He desires peace and reconciliation between people and between nations. He challenges the rich and powerful to use what they have for the benefit of all.
What is more, God calls us to join with him in his mission to share the good news, nurture faith, care for those in need, challenge injustice and protect the environment. We do not act alone. We work with God, who can do more than we can possibly imagine. It is when we place our actions in the context of God’s mission, that we realise, like Andrew, that we do not need to rely solely on the resources we have. We can rely on the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. We can have faith.
This is why all our activities are grounded in prayer. As those who have been involved with our café services this year will have discovered, prayer is not simply bringing our shopping list to God. It starts with pausing to focus on God and rejoicing in who he is and what he has done. It ends with listening for God’s response to our requests and yielding to it. It is in this way that we can be reassured that we are not alone, and God is with us in what we do.
From the Summer Family Café to the way we welcome people in church, from the church fair to the way we choose the products the church buys, rooting our actions in prayer keeps us on the path that God has laid out for us and reminds us that he is with us.
So along with Andrew and the lad with the lunch, let us bring to God what we have to offer in his service. Let us bring it with a sense of generosity based on our ability to give. Let us bring it with a sense of humility, knowing the limits of what we can give and what we can do. Above all, let us bring it with a sense of faith, knowing that God can and trusting that God will do more than we can possibly imagine.
Let us pray
Father God, open our eyes to your ways and our ears to your call. Give us generous and humble hearts to give in your service. Show us that you are with us and will bless our efforts, and that you will accomplish more than we can ever hope for.