It is no big secret that I enjoy cooking, and one of the things that I find challenging is coming up with something on the spot. Last night, it was “clean out the fridge night.” What do you do for two people with one serving of Zarda ribs?
My creative solution was “Zarda Carbonara.” I pulled the meat off the bones, whipped up a simple Pasta with fresh pasta, Parmesan, and fresh ground black pepper and olive oil, tossed it all together and served with a salad and Viola’…dinner! And not just dinner, but leftovers– again!
I’m not sure how that happens, but it does. We experience it all the time in our own kitchens –food seems to multiply.
It’s not miraculous, to be sure, but it happens, and it happens mostly because we underestimate what we have to work with in the first place! What looks like too little, when combined with other things you find along the way, becomes more than you expected.
What we think we have to start with, ends up being more than we imagined in the end.
The miraculous feeding by Jesus of the multitudes is the only story that is included in all four of the Gospels. The details vary a little, but the essentials are the same.
You have one huge needy, hungry crowd.
You have what looks like too little food to even begin the task.
You have Jesus taking whatever they have at hand, breaking and blessing it, and serving it up.
And in the end, Voila’…always leftovers are gathered.
There was something very important about this event. Something happening here that not one of the Gospel writers wanted us to miss, and what makes this story so hard to preach on is that it is self-explanatory.
What you’ve got never looks like enough for the crowd before you, for the task at hand.
Whatever Jesus takes in his hands, when you give it to him, he will bless and break and multiply and somehow make it work.
In the end, you’ll probably find that you’ll have some leftovers, and you’ll have to figure out just what to do with them.
How this all happens is somehow always a mystery to us. It is something that we just can’t explain.
This story is as simple as that, and as hard as that for us to get, because despite all of our first-hand experience with this when we cook we are still reluctant to believe that this is how it really works with what we give to God.
Despite Jesus showing us directly what happens when we place what we have in his hands, we still find ourselves usually vastly underestimating what we have to work with.
It happens all the time. I hear it all the time. We talk about the needs of the congregation or the community and we start to talk about how to address those needs and the litany of “What are these among so many” begins.
“I have nothing, I can’t contribute.”
“I’m too old for this sort of thing.”
“I’m sorry, but I have issues.”
“I’m too busy.”
“I’ve already given, I’ve done my bit.”
“We should let the younger folks do it.”
“I don’t know enough about the Bible.”
We look at the challenges laid before us, in our community, in our schools, in our neighborhoods and in our churches and we find ourselves echoing the disciples.
Jesus’ point is clear: You give what you have, you place it in the hands of Jesus, and Jesus will take care of the multiplication and distribution issues.
The miracle, then, in this story is not just one about feeding.
The miracle is also about the opening of the imagination and faith of the Disciples. “What are these among so many?” they ask, as if Jesus were going to agree with them. As if Jesus was going to say, “Oh, is that all you have, five loaves, two fish, excuse me, I didn’t realize it was so small.”
Jesus knows that God is a lavish God. A God who deals generously, who entrust much to each and every one of us.
Jesus knows, and comes to show us, that God is a generous God, a God of great abundance, of unlimited resources and means.
Our God is capable of taking what looks wholly inadequate for the task at hand and somehow making it stretch to fulfill the need and then some.
But we’ve got to stop thinking, “We have nothing.”
If the child in this story had not opened his hamper, and said, “Here Jesus, take my lunch!” – Nothing would have happened. The opportunity to see a lavish God in action would have been lost.
This story begs for us to consider our own attitudes. What do we believe about what is entrusted to us? Do we believe that what we have is too little to share? Is it too little to put into Jesus’ hands for a blessing and a breaking and a multiplying?
Which of us will be the child of God who will open his or her hamper and say, “Here Jesus, take what I’ve got!” Instead of just lifting the lid and peeking inside and making the determination on your own, “I don’t have enough for myself?”
See, here’s the blessing we miss in this story. How do you think that little boy felt afterward? How do you think he felt when Jesus took what he had and made it go out to thousands? Can you imagine him beaming with pride?
Do we ever think of the joy that comes when we put something into Jesus’ hands, and then wait to see what Jesus will do with it?
This story is not just about miraculous feeding. It’s about the opening of the imagination and faith.
What do you believe? What do you find yourself saying? Doing? Are you peering into the hamper of your life and saying “What are these, my gifts, my abilities, my resources, among so many?”
Open the hamper to Jesus, and then you just wait. It will happen.
If you open your hamper to Jesus, and say, “here, take what I’ve got…”you’re going to have to figure out what to do with the leftovers, because they will always be there.