I love to entertain people in my home. I really do. When I know that people are coming I start making my plans, and the first question is always how many people will be there because the rest of my plans kind of revolve around the answer. It never seems to matter though if I am expecting a lot of people or just a couple of people, I always end up worrying that I’m not going to have enough food, and so I prepare way more than I need and end up with enough leftovers to feed myself for weeks.
You all ever do that? Do you ever worry about not having enough? Maybe not in the particular way that I described, but in some other way? I think we all worry about it in some form or fashion and it causes us to do crazy things like me preparing far more food than is needed and having massive leftovers. Maybe you worry that your retirement account or paycheck is not going to be enough. In an economy like ours, I think it’s pretty natural to worry about those things. Maybe you worry that you won’t have enough to pay for health insurance and still buy groceries, or have enough for gas for the week, or enough money to put in the plate at church.
Those are some real things to worry about, but then we go right on overboard bombarding ourselves constantly with the message that there is not enough. Turn on the television or your computer; go out to a restaurant or have a cup of coffee at the diner and it’s the same theme everywhere. There is just not enough. There is not enough time, not enough job satisfaction, not enough resources, not enough happiness, and not enough money to even think about retiring… We hear similar messages in our churches…there are not enough people coming to church, there are not enough young people in our church. We don’t have enough money. What if the air-conditioner gives out? How will we pay for it? Over and over the same track plays: “there’s not enough, there’s not enough…” Until our perception of life is that it is all about scarcity – not plenty – even when we truly desire to act compassionately.
It kind of makes me tired, and there are some days when I felt like I just have nothing more to give because if I do, I won’t have enough for myself… But then I wake up and remember that there are real people in the world who are genuinely without food; there are children crying themselves to sleep because they are hungry, and the ministry to which I am called doesn’t depend on how much I have or what I can give, but rather on how much God gives by multiplying what I have. Mother Theresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Small things matter.
As he gazed on the hungry crowd, Jesus asked the disciples to go and see what food they had. They went to check it out, and when they returned they had five loaves and two fish. Now the best part is what happened next, because Jesus took the loaves and the fish, and he raised his hands. He raised his hands and he blessed them… and in blessing them, he asked God to step in and help… bringing energy and grace and abundance. And when the bread was blessed and broken, and the fish was shared, all were fed!
There have been times when I have heard this story interpreted as a “miracle” or “magic.” Jesus took a little bit of food; held it up, and viola’! There was more than enough. But “the problem with miracles is that they “mesmerize” us and tempt us to just leave everything up to God” (BB Taylor, The Seeds of Heaven). If all this story has to offer is magic, then it really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the world we live in, because magic isn’t going to solve our problems. There have been other times when I have heard this story interpreted with intellect and common sense, explaining away the “miracle” as a lesson on right behavior rather than evidence of who Christ is… In other words, all the people started sharing food that they had been hiding. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if that’s all we believe, then we might as well be just another ethical society, teaching a secular humanism. What I hear in this story is that small things matter, small things get God’s attention faster than anything else; and if that’s true, then we are all little boys carrying around 5 loaves and 2 fish that will feed people who are hungry.
We cry out to God, “Fix this!” And God says: “I’ve given you more than enough; you feed them.” There is enough; all we have to do is bless it and start handing it out. But we’re overwhelmed, because in order for others to have some we’ll need to have less. And that’s not a fun idea. Don’t tell them to go away,” said Jesus. “You give them something to eat. God has made it possible.” I’ve laid a table before you. Come to the table when you hunger and thirst. Come to the table when you’re weary and heavy-laden. Come to the table when your heart is filled with joy. Here you will find there is enough, more than enough.” If we give whatever we have, together those little bits, the 5 loaves and 2 fish, will feed a multitude. Small things matter.
But there’s more. What happened that day on that hill was not just about sharing and caring. It was something more. It was Jesus doing something so unexpected, and so inexplicable, that it inspired hope. It was Jesus inspiring us to do more. To give more. To open our hearts and serve one another. What Jesus did that day with the bread and the fish is the only miracle besides that of the resurrection that is told in all four versions of the gospel. It is told consistently, and with a lot of detail. Why do we have such a hard time believing that Jesus did this thing? Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Jesus was not just a really great guy. He was God with us, Immanuel, sent here to transform us all.
I know what it is to think that there will never be enough – that it won’t make a difference – that it’s not worth even trying. It’s a pretty horrible way to live and be, and it’s extremely uninspiring. And the things that you hold on to, the things you keep to yourself out of fear, often become about as useless and unappealing as closets full of hoarded toilet paper. But optimism and hope come easier when we understand that it’s not all on our shoulders – when we believe that Christ will take the little that we have, maybe as little as a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and transform them into a feast. And it comes even easier when we know that those who witness that change, will be changed themselves. And so, we ask ourselves this question: What are the limits of our hope? What are we holding back because we do not believe God will bless it and make it enough? What are we reluctant to even try?
It is too easy to convince ourselves that we’re just not able, but we have to keep repeating that truth to ourselves until we can believe it. God has given us enough – enough time, enough money, enough energy, enough love… enough to share and still have enough for ourselves. 5 loaves and 2 fish – small things matter. We may be a small congregation, but we have an abundance of God’s gifts and blessings. God calls us to believe in abundance, to believe in the power of the Spirit, to believe that the church can be as alive now as in the time of the Apostles.
May each of us in our own way unlearn scarcity and open our eyes to the blessings before us and the abundance around us. Every person sitting here today has so much to be thankful for. When we focus on what we do have and what is there before our eyes it changes everything. Small things matter…Amen