Sermon – October 16, 2005

I am going to lay on all of us a few statistics this morning with regard to world hunger. About 24, 000 people die each day from hunger or hunger related causes. That is a thousand people an hour, or about one every three point six seconds. Three-fourths of the deaths are kids under the age of five.

We have the productive capacity in the world to supply an adequate diet for every man, woman and child in the world, with some left over. We have the technological skill and resources to provide clean water for every man, woman and child. We have the medical resources to prevent the majority of disease and conditions that take lives. We have the agricultural skill and resources to develop sustainable agriculture in every place that crops or livestock or other commodities can grow. Yet the problem remains.

These numbers and facts and a litany of others I will spare us of, settle down on us like a weight. And that is as it should be because these numbers are about people, about moms and dads and children, and old folks and neighbors and strangers.

When we think of these numbers as people, we can calculate that this is the same as the death by hunger of every child enrolled in the Champaign-Urbana
schools every 14 hours. We lose the equivalent of every school child in
Champaign Urbana, every 14 hours.

It’s a heavy weight. And because it is such a massive problem, we can become paralyzed by the weight. Considering the magnitude of the problem, we are almost at a loss.

Bear with me as a share an illustration that I may have used before.

The story goes that one day the radio reported that an unusually high tide was coming and the consequence would be that the starfish which fed in the
shallow waters near the shore would be washed up onto the beach. And when
the water receded, they would be left to die in the sun. A little boy
heard that report. He ran down to the beach after the tide went out and
sure enough, there were the starfish all scattered along the shore. He
began to pick them up, run into the surf and hurl them into the ocean. He raced back to the beach, grabbed another and threw it as far as he could,
and another an another. An old man stood watching him. Finally he
walked up to the boy and said, “Son, look down the beach. Don’t you see all the starfish?” The little boy looked down the beach and he saw there were thousands of starfish lying on the beach, drying in the sun, dying. The old
man said, “You just can’t make a difference.” The little boy looked at
him. Looked down the beach. Looked again at the old man. Then he leaned
down and picked up a starfish and hurled it into the ocean and said, “Well, I sure made a difference for that one, didn’t I.”

Today we are privileged, we are blessed to throw a couple of starfish into the surf. Today we are celebrating the harvest of 38 acres of corn and soybeans that will go to benefit two remote villages in the Peruvian Andes
as we try to alleviate hunger and poverty in one corner of creation. WE
expect the harvest to yield about 12 or 13 thousand dollars. That money will be matched by the U.S. Agency for International Development, so double
that to about 25 thousand dollars. We have done this in cooperation with
the ecumenical Christian organization, Foods Resource bank along with a
number of local partners. We are celebrating today because we can make a
difference and these numbers don’t feel quite so heavy and our sense of despair quite so acute.

As you know, this is a community project, with the congregation providing start up funds, Golden Harvest provided the seed, Farm Service gave us a break on chemicals and fertilizer, the Meijer Corporation provided the land south of the church and developer Carl Hill made available 13 acre for soybeans. Today we will harvest this crop and the money, every dime, will be sent to these communities, providing resources that they may survive as communities and families.

That is what and how we are doing what we are doing. But the bigger
question is why we would do this. We could do something else. We could build something or buy something. This has taken a lot of work and energy and money and prayers. We have a little festival planned, and I hope that you will all come to celebrate

But the why of this has everything to do with what we believe about the God to whom we are accountable. We believe that things done in Jesus’ name will not return empty. We believe that God blesses the work of God’s people and that God will accomplish what God intends through these things. We believe this shows the people we are assisting, and the world and each other that this is how God works in the world, how lives are saved, how grace is conveyed. This has everything to do with Christ’s love for creation. And we believe that this is what we should do.

Our gospel story today was the story of the multipication of loaves. What
happens in that story is that Jesus lifts up these meager gifts that have been gathered, blesses them and breaks them, and by the time he is done, everyone is fed and there is plenty left. This story gives us confidence and hope to do such things, knowing that the purpose of Jesus love and compassion and intention for the healing of the world, for the reconciliation of humanity, for the saving of his people will be accomplished.

As privileged as we are to share these resources, as excited as we are that we have managed to pull it off, the more important thing is the realization that God has called us to this task and empowered us for his work.

We are stewards, friends, not just of the land, though certainly that is important, we are stewards not just of one another, although that is terribly important, but above all things, we are stewards of hope. Today we reap a harvest of hope to be shared with strangers, that lives can be changed, that this hope would we shared and that it might burst out and grow and sustain a community that none of us will ever see. Above all, we are stewards of hope. We come here to have it renewed, we come to this table to have it fed, we come to have this hope blessed by his word, and by the grace of God we are called out to share it with the world.

God bless everyone who has been a part of this, God bless those who receive, and Thanks be to God that he has allowed us to do his work in our time.