Matthew 14:13-21
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
August 2, 2020

The anthem just sung proclaims a biblical truth: Jesus provides more than enough for the fulfillment of His good plans!  If we put into His hands all we have, though it may not be all that much, our small “all” becomes plenty.  If we give over to Him everything we have, though it may be next to nothing, He makes it something wonderful!

All four Gospels record how once, in open country far from any city or town, Jesus preached to a large crowd late into the day.  The disciples, aware that it was getting past dinner time, urged Jesus to wrap things up and send everybody off to buy food while they still could.  Jesus, however, rejected this common sense suggestion and instead threw it back on the disciples to solve the pressing problem before them.

Jesus floated the absurd notion that the people could stay put and the disciples would feed all five thousand of them.  No doubt in bewildered consternation, the disciples protested it would cost a fortune to underwrite a meal for so many – especially when all they had on hand were five loaves of bread and two fish from a little boy’s lunch bag.

Jesus pushed the absurdity.  He told them that little snack was all that was needed.  Then He instructed them to give Him what the boy had given them, organize the crowd for a group feast larger than a Long Beach Iowa picnic in its heyday, and leave the rest up to Him.  They must have shaken their heads in perplexity and then growing dismay as they watched what Jesus did next.  He thanked God in prayer, broke the bread and fish into pieces, and passed on the pieces back to the disciples to pass out to the crowd.  With begrudging obedience, I’d bet, they went through the motions of carrying out Jesus’ crazy assignment; but at some point they must have started to wonder whether they had gone crazy and were walking through some waking dream.  For, to their astonishment, everyone seemed to be eating their fill and, at the end of it all, they found themselves holding twelve large baskets of leftovers, all from a stone soup’s start-up of bread scraps and tiny morsels of fish.

In a World War II Japanese prisoner of war camp along the Thailand border, a soldier named Ernest Gordon met a living Jesus and committed his life to serving Him.  He started that service right there in that hell-hole of brutality and constant hunger.

One day, a friend of Ernie’s named Dodger sought him out.  Dodger was emaciated, sickly, and gray with the look of imminent death.  Dodger had lost all hope, and was plummeting into the dark depths of depression. Ernie tried hard to lift Dodger’s spirits.  He gave him what words of encouragement he could think of; but, as Dodger turned to leave, Ernie felt he’d failed his friend.

Racking his brain to find some way to cheer him up at least a bit, Ernie remembered that someone had given him a novel which he thought might provide Dodger some diverting entertainment.  When Ernie offered it to him, Dodger said he’d like to read it; and Ernie left to get it.  As he walked back to Dodger with it, Ernie was praying, and he sensed God’s nudging him to put, between the pages of the novel, all the Thai currency he had, in bills known as bahts. Its value didn’t amount to much, but Ernie knew that in the prison’s black market it’d buy Dodger a little extra food from time to time.

From the day Ernie gave Dodger the book and the baht until the day of his death a few months later, Dodger looked like a new man. With bright and positive energy, he volunteered in the prisoners’ makeshift infirmary.  There he took on the job everyone else avoided, and did it with a cheerful smile.  Every day he’d go through their “hospital” made of bamboo and palm fronds, and collect the foul-smelling, vile-looking rags that caregivers used in order to scrape off patients’ skin ulcers.  Dodger would in turn scrape those disgusting rags as clean as he could, and boil them for disinfection, to be used again the next day.

Dodger would also somehow procure eggs for those sick from malnutrition.  He’d create home-made mess kits for those whose kits had been damaged or lost.  He’d construct buckets built of leaves and vines to enable men to wash themselves when water was available.

So what had happened there?

Ernie had given Dodger the little he had, and it had made a big impact on Dodger.  And Dodger in turn gave all he had and it made a big impact on many others.  This process of one domino knocking forward another, in a chain reaction of loving kindness, began with a few baht slipped into a dirty, dog-eared dime novel.

Whenever we are generous with whatever we have, even when it’s not much, we set loose the miracle-working might of God’s grace.

Many of us often, and maybe all of us sometimes, doubt we have a contribution to make.  Someone shares a problem with us, and we don’t know what to say.  A good cause is desperate for financial support, and we can’t see how we can help given our debts.  A worthy program begs for volunteers, and we can’t imagine how we have any talent to assist.

But what if what matters is not what we have to give, but to Whom we give it first?  What if what matters is not how big our gift is, but how big is this One in whose hands we put it so as to make of it something magnificent?

Let us then give all we’ve got to Jesus; and believe that, even if our all seems small, Jesus will multiply it and enlarge it into more than enough!

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