But what are they among so many people? As if to say, such a small, paltry amount of food, such an insufficient amount, could never feed and satisfy these people. And Jesus, as he always did and as he still does, surprised his disciples with what he could do. 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. Though anyone who was present would have naturally assumed that such a small amount of food could do nothing, absolutely nothing, to satisfy the hunger of the people, Jesus gave thanks and began to break the bread and pass around the fish. And John is quick to say that the people were able to feast on as much as they wanted. There was no rationing here, no paltry amount of bread and fish. This became a feast that knew no bounds, that was overflowing so much it filled twelve baskets. This feast, then, is a witness to the way Jesus Christ can take even the most insignificant of things, things assumed to be nearly worthless, and bring forth from them a bounty, a feast, that satisfied the hungry with some left to take home.
Taking things assumed to be broken and insignificant and using them to transform the world is a hallmark of Jesus’ ministry. He joined up with a tax collector, one of the most hated classes of people in the ancient world. The word around first-century Palestine was that Jesus was “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” People that the world assumed were worthless and broken, Jesus looked deeply into them and saw the potential to transform the world and the beauty inherent in them as people made in the image of God. So what at first glance is a recollection of a miracle can take on greater significance. Jesus took such simple things as bread and fish, in this case assumed to be insufficient and worthless, and used them to satisfy the hunger of five thousand people. Imagine, then, what he can do with us.
I spoke last week of ‘showing my cards’, of letting you get a sense of what I’m passionate about. And I’m passionate about this…about declaring the grace and mercy of God in Christ that takes things that might be easily dismissed and showing the world their inherent dignity, power, and beauty. As Bishop Carder says, You are a beloved child of God, beautiful to behold. So, I don’t really know what to tell you if you ever get tired of hearing me say to you, “You are a beloved child of God, beautiful to behold’. But, if I were a betting man, I’d be willing to bet that many of us need these affirmations time and time again. I know I sure do. So let me say it one last time, “You are a beloved child of God, beautiful to behold.’ For you bear within yourself the fullness of God. Don’t forget this truth, and shout it aloud any chance you get.
*A sermon preached at Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church in Los Alamos, NM on July 26, 2015. The texts were 2 Kings 4:42-44, Ephesians 3:14-21, John 6:1-21.