Let us pray: Almighty God, may your Word speak to us, your promises reassure us, and your Spirit work some miracle in us that we might accomplish your purposes in and through our lives. Grant that we may understand that you are always sufficient to meet our needs, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
One of my favorite all time movies is “Simon Birch” which came out in 1998 and takes place in 1964, in a small town in New Hampshire that could have had Grandma Moses as its city planner. From the day he was born Simon Birch was different. He was no bigger than a baby bird, and the doctors predicted he’d never last the week. But he did. Weeks turned into months and months into years, until Simon grew into a boy. Simon at the age of 12, is so small that he still plays the Baby Jesus in the church Christmas pageant. His friend Joe has a small sidecar on the side of his bicycle that carries Simon around on their adventures, because his legs are too short to ride a bike. Now, it’s apparent that Simon is the smartest boy in Sunday School and possibly the smartest person in town. He’s very short and very cute, and very wise and accepting of the fact of his dwarfism. When his friend Joe tells him a girl finds him cute, he sniffs, “She means cute like a baby turtle is cute. Girls don’t kiss baby turtles.” “How do you know,” asks Joe. “I just know. If you were me, you’d know too.”
Simon uses his size as a license to say exactly what he thinks on all occasions, loudly and clearly, as when Fr. Russell is asking God’s help for a fund-raiser, and Simon jumps up on his pew to announce, “I doubt if God is interested in our church activities. If God has made the bake sale a priority, we’re all in a lot of trouble.” At that point I found myself wanting to cheer, “YESSSS!”
The most amazing faith and love is demonstrated by Simon Birch in a belief that God has a special mission for him. Simon has an unwavering belief that God had a special plan for him—that he had made him small for a reason. One day he approaches his priest on this very question, “Do you believe God has a plan for our lives?” Simon asks. Unfortunately, the priest responds with an ambiguous “I don’t really know.” It is not the answer Simon hoped for. But even in the face of the older man’s doubt, you could see the gleam of faith in Simon’s eyes. For HE believed, and that is what mattered. He believed that even though he was small and insignificant in the eyes of those around him, that God had a special plan and a purpose for his life.
In our Gospel the disciples interrupted Jesus, as they often did. Jesus was teaching and they came to him and said something like this, “It’s growing late. Look at how many people are here. There’s no food. We need to send them off to the villages to buy food. If we don’t send them quickly, it will be to dark. In your wonderful teaching way, you’re obviously not paying attention to what’s going on.” Sometimes, I think many of us pray with the same sort of outlook. Sometimes we pray with the assumption that Jesus doesn’t know what’s going on.
To their surprise Jesus turned their concern back to them. “You give them something to eat.” Now, they probably had mixed motives for bringing this problem to Jesus. On the one hand they may have been genuinely concerned for the people. The people were hungry. It was late in the day. That was a genuine problem. But I think they were motivated as well by the desire to get their retreat back on course. Something like: “We’ve spent a whole day being compassionate to these people. Let’s be done with them and go back to our time of fellowship and be gathered together in intimacy with you, Lord. Let’s get back to what you promised us in the beginning. Let’s just do our own thing and forget about all of these people.” Did you ever feel that way?
Jesus taught them and us two lessons by calling on them to feed the people. The first is this: Jesus says, “You feed them,” to people like us as well. Our tendency is to look at only what is humanly possible: the money, the conditions, whether we have the right computers, the right building. Whether we’re set up to do it, whether we can really make it happen, and so on—and we conclude that it’s impossible. We just don’t have what it requires. How easy it is to say, “Send them away, Lord.”
The tendency further, is to leave people to their own devices. After all, it was they who had chosen to stay there late, listening to Jesus’ teaching, so now they needed to go solve their own problems. They were going to get hungry, so they needed to go do something about it.
The second lesson here is that Jesus didn’t do the miracle without their cooperation. He could have. Previously, he had done miracles without their assistance. He had cast out demons, healed the sick, given a lame man strength to walk, brought back a little child from the dead. But now he was training those who would serve him, and he called on them to offer what they had. And what little they had became that which he used to bless the crowd, and as we can learn from him, he can use what we have to bless the world. Now, that sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? That we can bless all the world?
Five thousand people probably looked overwhelming to the disciples too, don’t you think? “Go and make disciples of all the world” sounds impossible. But instead of seeing that as the assignment, maybe we can see “Share Christ with the folks in front of you” as an assignment that possible. It’s still risky and difficult. It still requires the power of God, but it’s not impossible.
How many loaves do you have to offer? What do you have to offer? What house do you live in? What bank account do you own? What place do you work? What friendships do you have? What has God given you that he can multiply or expand in his service? What loaves do you have that he could turn around and use, through you, to bless and challenge and change and give life where there is no life? When we become his representative in the world, he intends to use us just as we are. There’s no difficulty in qualifying for this responsibility. You don’t need a degree. You don’t need the approval of some organization. You don’t need a title. You don’t need to be tall, or short, or thin and beautiful or even clever. To become a disciple is to become willing to offer him what you have for him to use in His plan.
Just as small Simon Birch found out and realized God’s plan for his life (I’ll not give away the end if you haven’t seen it) God will take the small loaves we have and make more of it.
There is a wonderful joy in Christian service to others. Being a disciple is the most wonderful thing in the world. Our God has, in a peculiar way, limited himself to using people like us. We are the Body of Christ, God’s incarnation, now. He needs our willingness to offer the loaves we have. He needs us to take up the gifts we’ve been given, offer them in the realization that no matter how small or insignificant we may think our loaves are, they will be used mightily.
A story is told about Mother Theresa who, upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, was questioned by a puzzled young reporter. He said to her, “You only reach such a few people here and there. Don’t you feel badly about the fact that there are so many who you cannot help?” She looked up at him with a smile on her craggy face that is recognized around the world and said, “I do what I can, where I am, with what I have.”
“I do what I can, where I am, with what I have.” Members of this small part of Christ’s Body, what do we have? Go and see….Hmmm…Five loaves and a couple of measly fish.
“I do what I can, where I am, with what I have.” Members of this small part of Christ’s Body, where are you? ---In the midst of a lot of needy people, sheep without a shepherd.
“I do what I can…” Members of this small part of Christ’s Body, what can we do? They brought the five loaves and two fish to Jesus. “Taking them, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; And ALL ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.”
“I do what I can, where I am, with what I have.” ~What we can do—comes from God. ~Where we are—comes from God. ~What we have—comes from God. And it is enough.
Let us pray: Let us pray: Heavenly Father, we pray that your truth might guide us in our every action and thought. Let us be vigilant to the daily appearances of your miraculous touch. Help us to understand that only you can multiply the small loaves that we bring. As people seeking to grow in faith, we offer this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.