June 23, 2019

Harvest Thanksgiving Sunday

John 6:1-15
Matthew 25:31-40


One thing that set the Roman Catholic Church apart from the Protestant churches is sacrament. The Roman Catholic Church acknowledges seven activities in the Church as sacraments: Holy Communion, Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the sick, Marriage, and Holy Orders. But, the Protestant tradition acknowledges only two: Holy Communion and Baptism.

 Both traditions, however, agree that sacrament is the outward expression of inward spiritual truth. God is revealed through sacraments. People can experience God’s presence and grace through sacraments.

 Obviously, both traditions do not acknowledge Offering as a sacrament. But, Offering cannot be separated from sacraments completely. We can see this in that moment when Jesus fed 5000 people in the mountain.

 The miracle points forward to Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. The Greek word that is used to describe Jesus’ act of giving thanks for the bread is ‘eucharisteo’. The word is the root word for today’s word, Eucharist. John saw Jesus’ act of feeding the 5000 as a Eucharist, a Holy Communion, a sacrament. The miracle revealed who Jesus was.

 But, this sacrament would never happen without the five loaves of bread and two fish from the boy. This sacrament would never happen without the boy’s offering.

 Likewise, our offering is a part of the Church’s sacraments. It works to reveal who God is in our life and in the world today.

 Now, we like to think that sacrament is the time when we receive spiritual gifts. In Communion, the bread and juice symbolize Christ’s presence and sacrifice FOR us. In Baptism, water symbolizes the Holy Spirit given FOR us. But, in both Communion and Baptism, we are also called to go out and serve the world. We are called not only to receive, but to give.

 Through his parable of the final judgment, Jesus teaches us one very important truth: our act of service to the least amongst us reveals God. As such, our act of service, through our giving, is a fundamental part of the Church’s sacrament.

 Friends, the feeding of the 5000 invites us to look back into the past and forward into the future. It takes us back to the moment of the Passover; the moment when God delivered the people of Israel from slavery. But, it also takes us forward to the ultimate Passover in the fullness of time; to the moment when God will ultimately deliver all people into God’s Kingdom.

 Our offering serves that purpose. It offers a glimpse of God’s Kingdom on earth. It offers us hope in the midst of despair.

 Friends, poverty, especially in Rockingham area, is a big and complex issue. Facing such a daunting problem, we may feel discouraged. We may feel that there are not enough resources to solve the problem. We may feel that we are not wise enough to deal with it. We may feel like the disciples when they were faced with the challenge of feeding 5000 people on a mountain. We may want to say, “No amount of money in the world will ever be enough to solve the problem!”

 But, Jesus does not ask for all the world’s money. He asks for whatever we have. We are to offer what we have to God and let God do the rest.

 Most of you would know Mother Theresa. She worked tirelessly to care for the poorest of the poor in India. But, there were too many poor people in India and Mother Theresa would not be able to serve all. If you met with her, however, you wouldn’t get the impression that she tried to save all people. She once said,

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” 

At another time, she said,

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

 Indeed, a wise person says that our charity can feel like planting a tree in a desert. Alone, the work is futile. But, if we can inspire more and more people to follow our example, perhaps, one day, the desert would turn into a forest.

 Friends, the work of help agencies, like that of Coastal Care ER, may feel like a drop in the ocean. But, this drop can turn into rain if we all join hands to do the best that we can to support them. Mother Theresa once said,

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean ...
But, the ocean would be less because of that missing drop ...”

 Jesus could use the five loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5000 people. Why do we think that he can’t do the same thing with our gifts today?

Toby Keva