Sermon for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost


The boy did not have enough. The disciples didn’t have enough. No one had enough to feed all these people.

Jesus starts by messing with Philip. He says to him, “Where are we to find bread for all these people to eat?” You can just imagine Philip stammering and saying – um, um, we didn’t send an advance team. We didn’t do a count. We didn’t get people to sign up ahead of time so we could arrange for caterers. We didn’t go into the towns and villages to find out where the caterers were. What are we going to do?

And Jesus just smiles, knowing he thinks that way.

And Andrew – who has a little more faith, and knows how Jesus thinks because he’s one of those special four, with Simon Peter and James and John, who go off with Jesus from time to time alone in prayer – Andrew brings forward this little boy, not knowing that what he had would be nearly enough, but knowing that if anyone could do anything about it, Jesus could.

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many?”

A little faith but not a lot, but just enough to get him into Jesus’ presence. Maybe there were others in the crowd, also with food, but none of them with the faith and generosity of the little boy, enough generosity to sacrifice what he had. Enough faith to know that Jesus maybe could do something with it.

And Jesus takes the bread that is freely offered to him. He gives thanks to God – which must have blown the little boy’s mind, that this great teacher would give thanks to God for his poor little gifts, and “distributed to those who were seated; so also the fish as much as they wanted.” “As much as they wanted.” No short rations here. No making do with what little we have; but, after offering it to Jesus who gives thanks to God, having enough for ourselves and everyone else around us to eat as much as we want.

“When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten (Jesus emphasizes the small amount all this started from) they filled twelve baskets.”

Twelve baskets. Enough, symbolically, to feed the whole house of Israel. Twelve for the twelve tribes of Israel. Enough, maybe symbolically, to feed the whole world. Twelve, one for each apostle who would go out into the world.

All from the little boy who offered all he had with generosity and faith, and Andrew who didn’t have much faith, but had enough to know just whom to go to. For Jesus doesn’t demand the faith to do things for ourselves and for him, expecting his reward, but enough just to get to him, so he can do what is necessary to bless and use our poor gifts for us and the world.

God does not take our gifts for heaven’s use, but blesses it and gives it back to us for the earth’s use, of which we are the stewards – just as we offer money and bread and wine, and it is blessed and offered back as: “The gifts of God for the people of God.”

So, do you have the faith and generosity to offer what you have or – at least like Andrew – to bring it into Jesus’ presence even though you think you don’t have much faith, you don’t have much time, talent or treasure?

Bring it. And see what Jesus does. He’ll make it enough for you and all the people around you, with leftovers for more people after that.

Bring your poor power of speaking, and Jesus will bless it and use it to convert other people to the faith and bring them hope, comfort and love.

Bring your poor power of singing, if you don’t think much of your voice. Offer it up, and Jesus will use it as sublime, heartfelt accompaniment as people offer their souls to God. Some of the best hymns I’ve heard were by people who did not have much of a voice, but had a full heart and offered it with generosity and faith for Christ to use – which he did – to reach other hearts.

Do you not think much of your power to preach? I found two to go with Deb and Guy, whom we already know can preach. The two new ones – David McDonald and Connie Dioszeghy – have gone over their sermons with me this week and they’ve already given me good power and strength – because the words were first offered to Jesus and his help was asked for.

So knowledge of our weakness and scarcity seems to be a prerequisite of serving God in the world. For its only that that gets us to ask for Jesus’ help and strength, instead of, like Philip, relying only on our own. What little gifts do you have? What little gifts of money, what widow’s mite can you slap down on the altar – with all the bags of the rich people – knowing that God will do something special with it?

What gifts of prayer or love or food do you have to offer – as you satisfy all the needs enumerated in our new prayers of the people? Look on the back and you’ll see all the information that goes with all these missions of God in our midst, all these missions of God that start with one little person with one little boy’s faith, thinking that just maybe God can work through them; people who need a little help getting their gifts out to others, help like Jesus needed as he asked the disciples to distribute all that food to others, help that your fellow disciples can give you, help that you can give our other disciples.

Our prayers, many of them, start with the needs of the whole world and then narrow into our local needs. Our gifts address these local needs; but who knows, maybe with God’s help and blessing will fill twelve baskets full of bread, enough to feed the whole world or make a start.

You never know what God will do with your gifts. But you do know – based on this story, our Christian history – that once offered with even a little generosity and faith, they can do a great deal, a great deal in the hands of Jesus to bless and heal and feed and sanctify it. You just have to offer.