Ellen Romer Niemiec
Today is my 6th wedding anniversary. We’re still early in our marriage and God willing we have years to go. Two kids, job changes, health challenges, pandemic, and buying a house in that span of six years seems like we’re doing enough. Yet if there is one thing I have learned over and over again in these six years, that one word - enough - seems to be the basis of a lot of trouble.
Are we doing enough for our children? Are we making enough money? Are we doing enough in our careers? Are we giving enough time to each of our families? Are we present to our friends? Are we doing enough for one another in our marriage? Enough. Enough. Enough.
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.”
I can see a young child standing with just a few barley loaves and a few fish. Did the child’s mother pack it lovingly, hoping her child would be well fed while going to hear the Messiah? Was it all she had to give? Did she worry whether or not it would be enough to last him?
“...but what good are these for so many?” We are so quick to see what we don’t have. That can’t possibly be enough so why even pay it any mind? It’s just bread and fish. It’s just ________.
God creates what we cannot imagine. Were people perhaps generous? Of course. Did Jesus perform a miracle, turning scarcity into overwhelming plenty? Why can’t we believe that when we believe we have so little God may provide great abundance and make something out of what appears to be nothing? We can offer God what we have - maybe it’s just a moment. Maybe it’s a deep prayer of anguish or frustration. Maybe it’s joy and gratitude. Maybe it’s a request for forgiveness for those we hurt. Maybe it’s a tight budget and the worries over the bottom line.
It is deeply tempting to look at the past 18 months and feel swallowed up by the loss and struggle we experienced, pandemic and beyond. And there is much to be grieved and mourned. In the midst of a crowd of hungry people, this gospel reminds us that God remains in our midst, however humble and quiet that presence may be. We can look at what fragments we have left and see them as that - just the leftovers, what we don’t need or want anymore. Can we walk with one another to pick them up and gather them together? To see that when we share our broken pieces with each other, we find we have far more than we had at the beginning. It’s not the same shape - the baskets are full of mismatched pieces of partially eaten bread and fish. But together they remind us of how good it is to come back together.
What fish and loaves do I have? Is it tempting to keep them to myself because I don’t see them as enough? Not out of selfishness but I simply don’t see them as enough. God isn’t asking us to have all the answers - just to take a small step. To see the humble things we have as good and worthy of offering. To trust that humble beginnings can grow into a feast of abundance, where instead of seeing crumbs we can gather the seemingly small fragments until they overflow.
“How can I set this before a hundred people?”
“Give it to the people to eat.”