I presented the sermon at last Thursday’s Community Lenten Lunch service here in Clearfield. My sermon followed the reading of John 6.1-15.
A Group Workcamp is coming to Clearfield, June 20-26, 2010. Who would think that 430+ youth from all around the U.S. would want to come to Clearfield to home repairs, let alone pay registration fees ($432/person) to come?
Who would think that Clearfield could raise $19,000 to buy the building materials needed?
Who would think that there are that many people in Clearfield area that are in need of weatherproofing, handicap accessibility, etc. and without the volunteer efforts of this Group Workcamp, they otherwise cannot afford it?
Who would think that an agency such as Community Action and the Churches of the Clearfield Ministerium could partner and support one another in this effort?
Tia Lansberry has been attending our Ministerium meetings, keeping us informed of the progress and the needs associated with bringing this workcamp. She is always enthusiastic; she always has an abundant list of ideas, some necessity, some hopes. One of Tia’s current pleas is for “hospitality” — how are we going to welcome this group of 430+ youth plus adults to Clearfield. West Side UMC just completed a three-week study, not just on hospitality, but radical hospitality, a hospitality that welcomes the stranger and makes them feel as if they were home.
How do you make a group of 430+ youth who will be camped out on the floors of the Clearfield Middle School feel at home?
Well, one of things Tia would really like to do is serve hot dogs along with having a band and some other fun things for the group as they arrive Sunday evening. Hot dogs, we can do hot dogs! Then I get to thinking … 450 people. Hungry youth. Not just 450 hot dogs … maybe 900 hot dogs. How many hot dogs fit on one gas grill at a time? Hmmm … probably can’t build a bonfire on the lawn in front of the Middle School … And where are all of those hot dogs going to come from?
There is a story in the Bible about Jesus and his disciples. The crowds have followed Jesus, hungry crowds. Not of 430+ youth, but 5,000 men (plus women and children.) As this crowd is closing in on Jesus and his disciples, Jesus asks his disciples, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” It’s not should we or can we … but where shall we?
The Scripture reveals this is a test, and Phillip fails the test, for as Jesus asks “where”, all Phillip can think is “how?” How are we going to feed 5,000 people? “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each on to have a bite.”
And so I have failed the test this morning as I ask, “How are we going to feed 450 youth hot dogs?” And others have failed the test as they ask, “We have to raise how much money for this Group Workcamp?” … as they hear the figure, $19,000, Phillip’s question is echoed, “How?” “How are we going to do it?”
Then along comes Andrew. Andrew brings a child who has a lunch of five small barley loaves and two fish. Some surmise the fish a little more than large dried minnows; the barley loaves, the food of the very poor. But Andrew brings the child and the lunch with the commentary, “How far will they go among so many?” But yet Andrew brings him.
Perhaps it is the child who has stepped forward. That would keep with Jesus words, as Jesus once called a little child to stand among the grown-ups: “And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 11.3)
The test in this passage is “Do you have faith?” “Do you trust God?” “Do you believe that God will provide?”
Rarely does God lead us to do things that we can do all by ourselves. God leads us to do things that we have to depend on him. God is always seeking to stretch us; to deepen our faith; to reveal a little more of who he is; to display his great power in the midst of our meager offerings. He invites us out of our comfort zones and into a risk-taking ventures in the name of Christ.
Whether it’s manna and quail in the wilderness (Numbers 11) or barley loaves and fish. God provides. Whether it’s wine at a wedding in Cana or hot dogs at a Group Workcamp in Clearfield, PA, God will provide.
God takes what little we have to offer, but note it is the whole of the child’s lunch, not just part. And Jesus provides so that each has “as much as they wanted” and “all had enough to eat.”
All too often we worry if there will be enough; we wonder and ask “how?” And the answer of faith that God is looking for is, “Lord, you know.” Lord, if you want to feed 5,000 you know where, you know how. “Lord, you know.” “Lord, you are able to provide.”
And so each of us brings what meager offerings and gifts that we have and God blesses and multiplies them and uses them in ways beyond what we can ever think and imagine.
We currently have $13,482 of the $19,000.
And if you are interested to help in this Group Workcamp in any way, contact your Clearfield area pastor or Tia at Community Action.
As in any work of mission and service, you will blessed beyond measure.