When It’s Not Enough

By Elizabeth Baumann

A Reading from the Gospel of John 6:1-15

1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Meditation

Probably we’ve all heard or read or seen depictions of the feeding of the 5,000 more times than we can remember. But it’s so popular for a reason. This time, what strikes me is Andrew: What is Andrew thinking when he notices one little boy’s lunch? John tells us that Jesus knows what he is going to do and asks the disciples how to feed the people, in order to test them. Philip is dismayed. His mind goes right to the overwhelming economics. But Andrew notices one boy who brought some loaves and fish. His line can easily be read as though he anticipates what Jesus is thinking, only to dismiss it: “But what are they among so many?”

How often do we do the same thing? We see a problem in our lives, and look at the resources we have to meet it and just shake our heads. It’s not enough. Not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money. Here’s something — but not enough.

I think Jesus smiled at Andrew. Unlike Philip, he doesn’t turn right away to the impossible: he sees the little bit and wonders what can be done with it. I wonder if Jesus even used those particular loaves and fish because Andrew pointed them out. Jesus takes the “not enough” and makes more than enough. How we wish he’d do that for us, right? Take our little bits here and there that don’t add up, and make plenty. Sometimes he does, in his own ways, but only when we let go of even the little bits.  They’ll only add up in his hands, not ours.

The “right answer” to Jesus’ test question is “I can’t solve this problem, but you can.” It makes a pretty good prayer.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Kamango – Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo
Church of St. Edward the Martyr, New York, N.Y.

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