August 5, 2012: Let Nothing Be Wasted

Let us pray: Dear Savior, every single gift or blessing from You, is precious. Our families are precious, our health is valuable, our wealth is useful, and our time of grace is simply beyond calculation because every minute is irretrievable. Today remind us not to waste anything, but to put all Your blessings to good use. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE MIRACLE WORKER!

TEXT: John 6: 1-16

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

One of the best investments I’ve ever made doesn’t pay me any money. It doesn’t matter. It’s still a tremendous investment. What is it? An outdoor compost bin! I kid you not. I think I paid about $90 for it 8 or 9 years ago. Unless the snow is too deep, I take all the vegetable scraps from prepping food and dump them inside.

Watermelon rinds, corn husks and cobs, potato skins, you name it. Within a few weeks they reduce to almost nothing, making really good compost in the process. Garbage wise, I’ll bet my little composter has consumed a couple of dump truck loads of garbage during its lifetime and it’s still going strong. Moreover, when you consider the lousy New England soil, it’s the ultimate in “green” technology!

I grew up with the saying: “Waste not, want not.” When you have little, generally, you don’t want to waste it. When you have much, somehow wasting comes a bit easier. Let’s face it, ours is a throw-away society. Our garbage dumps are filled up. Fresh water wars between countries will probably occur within my lifetime, hence water conservation. We buy fashions that soon change, go out of style, and then it’s throw away time. How many outmoded once-upon-a-time cutting-edge electronic gizmos have you thrown away over just the past 10 years? And then there is food waste. All I can say is: “Thank God many restaurants and bakeries have adopted food pantries!” Let’s just hope the liability lawyers don’t shut it all down…..

I

The story before us today is familiar to all. Who hasn’t heard of Jesus feeding the 5000? It’s a universally happy story, a feel-good story. It has hungry people, an amazing miracle that reveals the loving heart of our Savior, and it also has this line where Jesus tells His disciples: “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” This morning I want to especially key in on those words and explore the fullness of their meaning for us today.

Last Wednesday we had a delightful Vacation Bible Camp here at church. Since one of the stories touched upon God providing quail and manna in the desert for the Israelites to eat, I took some time with my class to talk about food—the physical and the spiritual kind. Today most city/suburban kids hear: “Food” and think” “Grocery store.” Very few of them have ever gone to bed truly hungry. Very few have raised a garden, planted seeds, waited for them to mature, and been upset when a woodchuck ate everything up! Up until about 100 years ago, most people raised much of their own food. Many slaughtered their own meat supply. Many struggled for food. In colonial days and back into time, people would give away some of their children because they could not feed them. Such was the situation at Christ’s time. Likewise, with no refrigeration, no canning, drought and plagues of hungry bugs—well, this crowd in Galilee didn’t have any sack lunches packed!

Have you ever noticed how grumpy people get when they are hungry? Any teacher knows their students don’t pay as much attention before lunch. Stomachs growl, fidgeting heightens. Jesus finds Himself in this situation with the huge crowd that has followed Him around the Sea of Galilee. He cares about them. His heart goes out to them. After all, He also knew what hunger pangs were like. Recall His 40 days without food in the wilderness. He quizzes Philip about a local food source. The money, however, is limited, the crowd too great, and all they can find is a little boy with 5 small barley loaves and 2 little fish. After Andrew comments: “but, how far will they go among so many?” Jesus performs His miracle. Somehow, someway, that modest amount of food is multiplied as they hand it out to the hungry mass. Everyone eats their fill—which meant they all ate a lot as food was hard to come by and they were perpetually hungry. It is then that Jesus utters His command: “Let nothing be wasted” and the disciples gathered 12 baskets of leftovers!—More than they had begun with! Yes, it’s a miracle!

II

Undue waste of anything is a sin against our good and gracious God Who doles out blessings. That doesn’t mean we have to be miserly. (I still recall the true story of the richest man in my town growing up who washed out paper cups and plates and hung them on a line to be re-used after a party because he was that cheap!) Obviously Christians should employ good, sound, sanctified common sense to each and every situation.

That being said, our throw-away culture has permeated our lives, too, and often caused us to disregard God’s blessings and not to really appreciate them. And now, I’m not just talking about food any longer, I’m talking about our spiritual riches, the Bread of eternal life—the means of grace, or the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Christ has poured Himself into the message of forgiveness and salvation via His bloody sacrifice on the cross. He has poured Himself into the water of your baptism. He has poured Himself into the bread and wine, His true Body and Blood, in the Holy Supper. Do we take these riches for granted? Do we sometimes waste them by not sharing the bounteous leftovers of His sacrifice to save us? Does America value its spiritual food supply as much as it values its physical food supply? Well, today’s attendance begs the answer—not just here but at literally every Christian church across our land. “Let nothing be wasted.” Those words are pregnant with meaning, aren’t they?

Perhaps the greatest earthly blessing we receive is God’s gift of time. We call it “our time of grace.” That means: our time to live under the umbrella of His forgiving love, bask in its safety, find shelter under its protective cover, and appreciate exactly what it means to be a beloved, saved, forgiven, heaven-bound child of God Almighty. Did Jesus waste His time in feeding the 5000? Of course not! He showed His power and His heart. Did Jesus waste His time in saving you? Of course not! He had and has compassion on hurting souls just like you and me. So, since He’s fed us so richly, let’s take His words to heart, follow the disciples’ lead, and gather all the leftovers of our blessing-filled lives to be used again. In thankfulness make those words: “Let nothing be wasted” into an active life-style of praise to the One Who graciously bestows every good and perfect gift. Amen