Every so often, I pack our grandchildren’s lunches for school. Little boys can get hungry, and so we pack cheese sticks, sunflower butter and jam sandwiches, little carrots, cut up apples, a cookie, and a thermos of water. And, when we pick up the boys in the afternoon, every last item has been eaten, not even a crumb remains.
In today’s scripture, Jesus and his disciples were facing a crisis. After a long day of preaching, the sun was setting and the crowd was hungry. The only problem was that nobody on Jesus’ team planned for such a multitude. In fact, they were hungry themselves. “What are we going to do?” they anxiously asked. “There are no caterers around and even if there were, it would cost thousands of dollars to feed everyone and we haven’t budgeted for this.”
Someone in Jesus’ leadership circle notices that a boy has a knapsack containing five barley loaves and two fish. But, such a meager amount can’t feed this group. Still, Jesus says, “Bring that boy to me. Let’s see what we can do here.” The boy marches up, joyfully willing to share his lunch. Jesus shows the five loaves and two fish to the crowd, says a prayer, and everyone eats.
We honestly don’t know the mechanics of this miracle. Did Jesus really multiply the loaves by some sort of quantum energy? Perhaps! After all, scientists claim that our universe of 125 billion galaxies emerged from a flash of energy no larger than a walnut. Or, did members of the crowd, once they saw the boy’s generosity, pull out their own lunch boxes and bring them to Jesus? In either case, a miracle occurred! From a few morsels, a great crowd was fed.
It’s easy to focus on what we don’t have and to complain about what we lack. I know this personally. I’ve been anxious about money and I’ve worked hard to cultivate a spirit of generosity. You see, when I was 11 years old, my father lost his job and for a while our family received food baskets from a local church. I’m prone to become anxious when we have an unexpected expense. My childhood fears threaten to overwhelm me. It is at such moments that the story of loaves and fishes inspires me to trust God and let go of my feelings of scarcity. In such moments, I choose to be generous, even if I’m a little anxious, and God always comes through. A way is made, the mortgage gets paid, the utilities are paid, and food abounds, and more importantly my heart opens.
I have discovered that when I trust God with my time, talent, and treasure – and despite what looks like too many things to do, big challenges, and unexpected expenses – I always have enough to flourish and share with others.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, we remember the bounties of life and the gifts of our congregation. We have made it – no, we have flourished – for over two hundred years. We have survived tough times and yet we have built a lovely building that serves the community, we are active in mission, we have inspiring worship, a loving fellowship, excellent programs for children, youth, and adults, and a steeple to guide pilgrims on their way. We are a home for people at every stage of life’s journey, and there is more to come.
Today, we continue the journey and so let us be guided by this young boy and his small gift of loaves and fish. Let us be part of a miracle, feeding people in body, mind, spirit, and relationships, and let us trust God’s abundant bounty, letting go of our fears, and placing our future as a church in God’s ever-inspiring care.