Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"Giving into the Lord's Hands"

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

John 6:1-15

     A group of elementary Sunday School students were asked to each share their favorite Bible

story.  As the teacher expected, among the stated favorites were Noah and the Ark, David and

Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, Jonah and the big fish – all Old Testament stories.  Then she

asked, “Does anyone have a favorite story from the New Testament?”  One of the boys in the

class jumped up from his seat: “I know!  I know! The one about the crowd that loafs and fishes.”

Allow me to read for you now that very story from John’s Gospel.

          (John 6:1-15)

    In our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus is evidently trying to withdraw from the crowds

which followed Him incessantly.  Yes, even Jesus needed some down time on occasion.  So He

boards a boat – in all likelihood, a fishing vessel – and crosses to the other side of the Sea of

Galilee.  But He cannot outrun the crowds.  When He reaches land, a great multitude is waiting

for Him.  According to Matthew’s account of this same episode, Jesus has compassion on them

and heals their sick.  John tells us that Jesus and His disciples took their position on a mountain-

side from which they saw the masses that were streaming toward them.  So Jesus sets up a

little test for one of His disciples, asking Phillip: “Where are we to buy bread for these people

to eat?”  I wonder if Phillip muttered under his breath, How is it our responsibility to feed them?

So he voices an argument of practicality:  “Six months wages would not buy enough bread for

each of them to get a little.”  I suppose this was Phillip’s way of saying, Now Jesus, I know you

want to be helpful.  But let’s be rational about this.  Andrew has an idea.  We don’t know if he says

what he does as a way to support Phillip’s argument that this is a silly notion, or if he wanted

literally to pass around what little there was.  But he says to Jesus in effect, Well Master, here’s

some grub right here.  This boy “has five barley loaves and two fish.”  But how do you expect

that all these people can be fed with just this?  At that point, Jesus is put to the test.  And of course,

He knows just what He’s going to do.

      I find the boy’s role interesting here.  It’s not evident that he’s asked if he’s willing to give up

his food.  And after this, he just seems to vanish into the crowd. We assume that the boy packed

his lunch for a day of activity.  Yet he apparently hands it over to Jesus without complaint; with-

out question; without wondering what he was going to get out of the deal.  For all he knows, he

has given away his lunch and might end up with nothing more than an empty and growling

stomach.  At any rate, the boy didn’t have much to give.  The fact is, we’re not talking here

about five jumbo loaves of Wonder Bread and two five-pound Walleye Pike.  Quantity-wise,

what the boy carried was more the equivalent of a few Norcia’s dinner rolls and some sardines. 

      But in the hands of Jesus, what is small and seemingly inadequate and insignificant becomes

enlarged, and even more than enough.  John tells us that after having the people sit down –

“about five thousand in all” – Jesus took the food, blessed it, and had it distributed.  And some-

how, the people ate to their hearts’ and stomachs’ content.  Moreover, there were leftovers!

The fragments alone were enough to fill “twelve baskets.”  The people were understandably

astonished by this sign of Jesus’ power; so much so that we’re told in verse 15 that they were

ready to “take him by force to make him king.” It is important to note that from the standpoint

of John’s peculiar theology, this sign of the loaves and fishes is an affirmation of Jesus’ very

identity.  Jesus is recorded later in this 6th chapter declaring of Himself:  “I am the bread of life. 

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never

be thirsty.” 

      This story begs very important questions for us as modern-day disciples.  What happens

when we place what we have in Jesus’ hands?  Can the Lord work a miracle with our offering,

which sometimes feels small; seemingly inadequate and insignificant?  In response to these

questions, we are called to consider an important spiritual principle which we see operative

throughout the witness of Scripture, and evidenced in the lives of believers.  We might call it the

“law of harvest,” or the principle of sowing and reaping.

      Before we go any further, it should be stated clearly [or perhaps we should be cautioned]

that this law or principle – as with any law or principle, spiritual or otherwise – is liable to abuse.

It appears that no small number of media-driven evangelical ministries misuse this legitimate

spiritual maxim for illegitimate purposes. I think there are some televangelists who have become

wealthy convincing their viewers that sowing into their particular ministries guarantees huge

harvests for the Kingdom of God.  And it does yield enormous harvests, certainly for those mini-

stries.  But the intent of those who sow is not to reap a bumper crop of high-living preachers,

but to aid in the proclamation of the gospel and outreach to those in need.  Nevertheless, folks

who sow into ministries with a right heart and right intent – in spite of how the recipients

choose to use those funds – will certainly reap a harvest of God’s blessing.  The blessings may

not necessarily be material blessings of wealth and prosperity, although that appears to be the

selling point of much so-called “prosperity preaching.”  God’s blessings are far deeper and far

more substantial than money and things.  And those who give from the heart can testify that

what they receive back – their “harvest” – has nothing to do with money, and everything to

do with the far greater wealth of inner-joy and peace they feel in knowing that their offerings

have made a difference in people’s lives – like feeding the hungry; sheltering the homeless;

helping the sick; protecting the weak and vulnerable.

      That having been said, the spiritual principle is that when we sow into God’s work – when we

plant seeds through the offerings of our hands and hearts – we can expect that it will yield a har-

vest which is rich and bountiful.  And from that harvest comes more seed to be sown.  That’s

how the Kingdom of God spreads in its influence and its activity.  Sometimes we will witness the

harvest.  At other times, we will not.  But in faith, we believe in the principle.

      That day near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus challenged His disciples, and did it through a boy and

his meager lunch, to have faith in this principle of harvest.  The lad offered, willingly we assume,

a very small seed in light of a very large field.  Jesus’ hand received the offering in faith, and mul-

tiplied it many times over so its influence and activity went beyond what the boy or the disciples

could have ever dreamed or imagined.

      In this season of stewardship emphasis, we consider what offering we are able and willing to

place in the Lord’s hands.  And we ask, what seed do we have to sow, with the belief in faith that

it will become more in service to others?  Do we have a couple of fish and a few loaves we can

send forth which, given from a heart of love, hold within them the potential to feed the multi-

tudes?  Or witnessing such an offering as the disciples did that day, do we believe that it can

make a Kingdom-shaking difference?  And these offerings, these seeds, are not all from packets

labeled with dollar signs.

      Can we, for example, offer a little more time into the Lord’s hands?  To teach or mentor a

child?  To visit someone who is sick or shut-in? To help with the work of one of the many mission

or outreach efforts at Central Presbyterian?  The Lord can take this time and multiply its influ-

ence beyond anything we could dream or imagine.  Might we give a little talent into the Lord’s

hands?  Oh, I don’t sing very well.  I’m not a good public speaker.  I don’t think I’m a very effect-

tive leader.  I don’t have much experience working with youth.  I’m a bit intimidated by the

technology.  Let’s cast forth seeds, even of self-doubt; seeds which seem to us inadequate and

insignificant, yet which hold within them great potential.  We’ll be amazed by the harvest of

ministry to others the Lord brings forth.  So you see, this principle or law of harvest is not just

about money.  It’s about anything we hand over to the Lord from our hearts and hands to be

used to the glory of God’s Kingdom and the proclamation of the gospel of Christ.

     In closing, I’d like to bear witness to what’s going on here at Central, now almost nine months

into this ghastly pandemic.  Early on, we, along with most all churches and other non-profit orga-

nizations, wondered how the offerings of people’s time, talent and treasure might be affected.

How would we survive with doors closed and programs halted?  Speaking for this church, your

response and your devotion have been phenomenal.  Throughout this year, you’ve given gene-

rously of your time and talent, adapting programs and outreach efforts to this COVID reality,

continuing to feed the hungry and care for the needs of the weak and vulnerable; continuing to

reach out and assist members of our church family who have special needs; continuing to pro-

vide Christian education and spiritual nurture to youth and adults; continuing to keep the work

of our committees and ministry teams vital and strong; adding technologies to our church such

as live-streamed worship in order that the word be proclaimed and the love of Jesus shared.  On

the treasure side, your giving toward the ministry of Central Presbyterian has remained strong

and consistent; so much so that we may end the fiscal year with a nearly balanced budget in spite

of our projection of a substantial deficit.  Throughout this time of crisis, you have demonstrated

the level of your commitment as you have placed into the Lord’s hands the best of your offerings

of time, talent and treasure.  And in the Lord’s hands, those offerings have been multiplied be-

yond what we could have dreamed or imagined, especially in this most challenging season. 

      The principle of harvest.  I don’t know how.  But I do know who.  It’s Jesus!  And praise be to

Him alone for the seed being sown in this field, and the loaves and fish being multiplied in our

midst.  We anticipate the day when the crisis of COVID has passed, and when we will fully

repopulate this sanctuary and again bring up to full power the outreach and ministry of this

church.  In the meanwhile, we can rest assured that the Lord remains at work in and through us,

taking what we might believe is meager, and turning it into everything we need, and more.  We

neither take this for granted, nor presume it as our deserved lot.  We simply give thanks, and

remain faithful. 


Lord our God, Your blessings have been more than abundant.  We praise and thank You for

Your provision, especially in this season of struggle and uncertainty.  All that we have

placed into Your hands, You have graciously multiplied.  May we continue to distribute

our resources to those with great needs, even as we sow into Your work.  Let the harvest

be bountiful.  This we pray in the name of Jesus, who inspires our generosity.  Amen.