A boy wakes up one morning to the smell of bread baking through the windows of his home. He walks outside to see his mother working over a fire, preparing bread and fish for the day and sits down to have a small loaf for breakfast. He’s quiet, the way boys sometimes are with their mothers when they hit those awkward years between child and adulthood. Mom doesn’t want to sit in silence so she asks “well, what’s the plan for today?” Sadly the question doesn’t have the desired effect, the boy looks up and gives that non-committal shrug that adolescents seem to master about the time they turn twelve and mom realizes that she’s messed up. “The plan” for today is in fact an open question for our new friend, he’s too old to spend his day playing beneath the feet of his mother and the other women, too young to join his father on one of the fishing boats that covered the sea of Galilee or out in the fields preparing for the nest harvest. His friends are all still in school, they excelled at their studies where he, well, learning isn’t everyone’s strong suit. “We’re proud of you no matter what” his mother told him the day the other boys his age moved to the next level of training with the local Rabbi and he was sent home. “I wouldn’t want a son who stayed inside with the books when there’s work to be done anyway” his father told him with a reassuring squeeze to his shoulder, but that didn’t change the fact that what they did was hard work and the boy wasn’t quite big enough yet for all that.
Silence overtakes the boy and his mother again, mom racks her brain, trying to find the right words, and then she remembers what she had heard from one of the other women that morning when they went draw water at the well. “Hey, that miracle worker everyone is talking about is apparently nearby today. Why don’t you go see him, I’ve heard people really come away impressed when they hear him teach.” The boy perks up at this suggestion, he’s never been allowed to go to something like this by himself before. “I think hearing him will be good for you,” mom starts. “You know, he’s just a carpenter’s…,” she see’s the excitement start to leave her son’s eyes and changes the subject quickly. “Here, take a few fish and some bread. I know its not much but who knows how long you’ll be there, you might get hungry.”
So off the boy goes, out of town, up the mountainside, and almost immediately he’s caught up in a mass of people. Pushing, pulling, jockeying for position, he manages to get clear enough to see and he realizes why everyone is working so hard to press towards the front. The man isn’t standing up, projecting his voice to the crowd, he’s sitting down and talking to a couple of folks who are close by. Finally the crowd realizes the only way they’re going to have any idea of what’s going on is if they quiet down too and eventually everyone sits down and if the boy strains his ears he can pick up most of what the man is saying. But even though he can’t hear all of it he’s captivated. There’s something about this man. Hours pass. Morning moves into afternoon and starts to head towards evening and a murmur starts to go through the crowd. They haven’t really been acknowledged, they have no idea how much time they’re going to be there, and they’re starting to get hungry.
The man seems to be aware, because all of sudden the folks who were with him start moving through the crowd, asking if anyone has any food to share. They’re getting nothing but rejection, and a certain panic starts to make its way into their voices as they ask again, “does anyone have any food.” That just makes the mumbling from the crowd get louder, people are starting to get aggressive, the boy wonders if he should take his small bag and start heading home, but for some reason as he stands he finds himself moving in the opposite direction, toward one of the men asking about food. He walks up and he shows what he has “I know it isn’t much but…,” he trails off and his cheeks turn red as he realizes how foolish he must look with his two small fish and five barley loaves in front of a crowd of thousands. He starts to mumble an apology and turn around, hoping he can make it home without anyone he knows recognizing him and laughing at him thinking his tiny snack might help, but the man stops him. “Let’s go see Jesus.” If the boy was embarrassed before now he’s mortified, this teacher and healer is going to see that he thought his food could matter in the face of a hungry crowd this size. “No…that’s alright…,” he starts to protest but its too late, they’re on their way and now he’s right in front of this Jesus and the disciple who brought him says “here’s a boy with something, but how far will that go?” Jesus walks up to the boy. He looks at him. Really looks. The way that makes you want to look away because you feel like the person looking can see too much. But Jesus doesn’t let him break eye contact. He kneels down get eye lever with the boy. He puts a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you,” he says with a squeeze. “Tell the people to sit down,” he says as he takes the bag and pulls out a loaf of bread and stands up and breaks it an prays and then hands it to the disciples around him and they start to pass it out and the boy wonders what’s going to happen when two people get to eat and no one else does. And then he turns and looks at the crowd. And somehow the food isn’t running out. Somehow more food is showing up. And the boy doesn’t know what’s happening, maybe more folks had food than they’d admit and now they’re sharing but it sure looks like a miracle is taking place. And it started with him. Its his bread and his fish that’s being passed out. And he turns back around and Jesus is still looking at him. And Jesus puts his hand on his shoulder again, a little tighter this time. “Thank you. Thank you.”
I don’t know if that’s how it happened. I’ll admit I took some liberty with the story there. But I do know what its like to be a twelve-year-old boy who isn’t quite sure where you fit. And I know, and I bet a lot of you do too, what its like to look at your bread and fish and be embarrassed because the crowd is too big and what you can offer just isn’t enough. That in the grand scheme of things who you are and what you bring to the table can’t possibly be enough. Hear this this morning: in the hands of Jesus what you have to offer is more than enough. In the hands of Jesus your gifts will multiply. In the hands of Jesus your gifts will inspire others to action. In the hands of Jesus the things you look at that seem like they can barely be a snack can feed thousands. The people who can matter are not the richest or the smartest or the most popular or the ones who have it all together, when people meet Jesus they learn that the people who matter most are the ones willing to take whatever it is they have and lay it at his feet and trust that in his hands what they have to offer is more than enough. In the kingdom of God you matter. Your gifts matter. What you can offer matters. Don’t be held back by how big the crowd is. Don’t listen to the voices that tell you you’re not enough. Bring your fish and your loaves to Jesus, and watch what he can do. Because when we meet Jesus, we realize we can matter too.