I have a confession. I have to confess that I did not make it all the way through school, elementary through graduate school, on my own. I realized early on that I could not do it on my own steam. This may come as a shock to you but I am not very artistic. I do not have an artistic bone in my body. For some reason my mother still has the painting of a seal I did in fourth grade at her office. It is a picture of a seal on some ice with mountains in the background, however it looks as if the seal could easily eat those mountains, and then easily take over the world. This seal made Godzilla look small. I had not quite mastered the techniques involved with depth perception. While artistic ability and craftiness were not emphasized at Princeton Seminary, they were at Pine Street Elementary. It seemed like every 6 weeks I was expected to do some shoebox diorama of a book, or make some three dimensional model of our solar system. Many of you are parents and many of you have had children come home with these kinds of assignments. I was a perfectionist kid and didn’t want to do a bad job but a bad job was all I was capable of doing. I did not have the resources, the talent, or the creativity to create a beautiful shoebox scene of Stuart Little.
In Matthew’s story of the feeding of the five thousand, the disciples are in a similar predicament. They are given an assignment they cannot possibly complete. Jesus had tried to find a little ‘me’ time, to take a rest, have a small sabbatical, but the crowds would not let that happen. The gossip train was up and running in Ancient Israel just as it is today. The ancient Paparazzi had discovered Jesus’ location and word got out and so everyone rushed to the place Jesus was. Of course, Jesus was trying to find an out of the way place where he wouldn’t be discovered so when he was discovered; thousands of people were now out in the middle of nowhere. Jesus could not resist the needy, demanding, crowd and so he taught and he healed all day. As the sun was going down one of the more astute disciples suggested to Jesus that he send everyone home because there were no Taco Bell’s, McDonalds, or anything else for that matter within miles.
I thought it was a pretty good idea. To be honest I was a bit surprised a disciple thought of it. Usually the disciples only come up with highly rash and highly illogical ideas. This one actually makes sense.
“Better send everyone home Jesus, because it is getting late and they are going to need food and we don’t have any here.”
Perhaps the disciples have learned that there is little worse than a large hungry and cranky crowd. But Jesus does not take the disciples’ advice. Instead, Jesus gives them an assignment.
“They do not need to go anywhere.”
“Why not? Don’t you think they should get some food?”
“As a matter of fact I do think they should be fed.”
“Well how’s that going to happen?”
“You give them something to eat.”
After hearing that assignment I feel bad for complaining about my Stuart Little shoebox scene. All I had to do was make a miniature bed, and a little mouse, and all that. The disciples had to feed thousands of people. Matthew says that 5,000 men ate, and that wasn’t even counting women and children. I’ve had enough trouble feeding 15 hungry youth group kids on Sunday Night, let alone over 5,000 people who haven’t eaten anything all day!
Whenever I brought an assignment home like the Stuart Little one, my mom or dad would say the same thing.
“Well what ideas do you have?” When I tried to convince them I had none and it was a stupid assignment anyway, they pushed me until I started brainstorming.
“Well, I guess I could do the scene where Stuart has made a little canoe for himself and sails down the river.”
And then my parents would get me to think about how I could go about making that scene. What did we have at the house that could be a canoe? How could you make the river? What about the riverbank in the background? And each time I’d resist but eventually I realized there was something I could use.
I was a lot like the disciples when they got their assignment. They couldn’t believe it. They thought Jesus had to be kidding. “We have nothing here, but five loaves and two fish.” The disciples emphasized the nothing part of the phrase, but Jesus heard that they did indeed have something.
We so often think we have nothing to offer. We have no good ideas, no talents, no resources, and no money. The church thinks like that a lot. What can we really do for the world, we’re not like one of those big megachurches with their millions of dollars, all we have is a few elderly couples and a couple kids.
Jesus ordered the crowds to sit down and he took the loaves of bread and he took the fish and blessed them. Then he gave them to his disciples to pass around to the people who were sitting.
Somehow, with what I thought was no artistic ability, no ideas, no creativity, no resources, I made a pretty good shoebox scene. I still don’t really know how. My parents didn’t do the work but brought the work out of me. It still amazes me how it happened. Somehow my mom and dad could take what little I came up with and were able to make me create something wonderful. I thought it a miracle when I got an ‘A’ and maybe it was.
The disciples brought Jesus 5 loaves and 2 fish and then passed those same 5 loaves and 2 fish out to thousands of people. And you know what? Every person ate his or her fill. Five loaves and two fish. Not much to start with really, but somehow Jesus took what little they brought and it was more than enough.
Why don’t we trust that can still happen today? We don’t think our idea could make a difference. We don’t think the little we could give could possibly make a difference. We don’t think the few lives we could affect could really make a difference. So often we think that a small church can’t change a community let alone change the world. We hear Jesus’ assignment to feed his sheep and baptize the nations and we think it is impossible for us. Maybe Jesus only expected the rich, the large, and the eclectic churches to do that. But deep down we know better. We know those assignments were given to us. It requires faith, faith in the sense of trusting God not just ‘believing’ in God. We have to trust that we can bring our ideas, our talents, our money, and our very lives to Jesus and that he will transform them into offerings that are enough.
I couldn’t make it through school on my own. There were always subjects I struggled with and projects I needed help with. In fact there is very little of life I could do on my own. How is it that I have something of value to say every Sunday to you? The truth is I don’t on my own. I just have to trust that if I bring what I have to Jesus he will make it enough.
We each have to trust in that. We have to trust that what we bring to Jesus will be enough. When our loved one gets diagnosed with cancer we have to trust that the strength we bring to Jesus will be made enough to get through. When we know there are children who are hurting, rebelling, and dying inside we have to trust that the love we bring to Jesus is enough to reach them. When the church seems to be stagnant and running on empty we have to trust that the passion and ideas we bring to Jesus will be made enough to spark new life into an old church.
This is not an excuse to think God will do everything for us nor is it an exhortation to go out and do everything yourself because no one will do it for you. God gives each of us a vocation and a calling but he does not leave us to accomplish it alone. Bring what you have to Jesus, and he will make it enough. That’s my message in a sentence today. That’s my constant hope for a lifetime in a sentence. That is our only hope for a broken world in a sentence. Bring what you have to Jesus, and he will make it enough.