3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages[b] would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” (John 6:3-9 NRSV)
We can’t afford it.
We don’t have enough.
In spite of the fact that Jesus is standing there with the disciples, they can only think in terms of scarcity. Philip the numbers cruncher looks out on the crowd and clearly sees that six-month’s wages wouldn’t be enough to feed this crowd. He’s right. They don’t have enough.
Andrew, the one who finds people to bring to Jesus, finds a little boy with some bread and fish. “I don’t suppose this would make a difference, would it?” No, Andrew, it’s not enough.
You’re not enough.
But, Jesus stands there smiling knowing that he has enough; that he is enough. And that day 5,000 people are fed.
The Good Shepherd makes them sit down in green pastures and prepares a table before them: bountiful baskets of food; enough to fill everyone until they’re full. And then he makes a point to have the extra food collected.
Jesus permits nothing to be lost. This food is precious. We don’t waste food that endures forever. Nothing and no one are so insignificant that Jesus will abandon them.
Many a church treasurer worries about having enough money to pay the bills. Many an elder in charge of mission and outreach has said, “We’re budgeted for only this amount of money. If we spend all of it now we’ll have nothing more for the rest of the year.”
The building and grounds folks are always in need of providing for the new roof or a new door while trying to figure out how to keep the carpeting looking decent for another year.
And we’re right. There’s not enough. There’s not enough food or money or carpeting or anything else. There’s not enough for emergency groceries or emergency utility bills. There’s never enough to reach out to others.
Many a church has hunkered down, deciding to hang onto what they have for as long as they can. They spend the money on keeping the building open and being able to worship. The last one left alive turns out the lights on her way out the door. And God has not been glorified.
We don’t have enough if we’re depending on ourselves. We have abundance when we turn to Jesus who is standing there testing us as he tested Philip. Jesus is the one with the plan to feed 5,000 people. Jesus is the one who knows how we’ll reach out into the community. Jesus is the one who will use what we have and multiply it over and over again.
We live in the most abundant nation in the world, and we worry about scarcity and lack. We don’t have enough to fund wars in the Middle East and the war on poverty and the war on drugs. We don’t have enough police or fire fighters. We don’t have enough. Scarcity gets in the way of dreams and visions.
Our Session has decided to launch a neighborhood outreach program. Another congregation is joining us in this endeavor. We will meet this week to finalize the first part of our plans. They will include prayer. Each one of us are urged to pray daily for our neighborhood, using your own prayer or one that we have printed and ready to distribute.
It may entail knocking on doors and introducing ourselves. We don’t know what those next steps will look like at this point in time.
And if you’re thinking we’re not enough, you’re right. There won’t be enough of us to spread the word. There won’t be enough money. There won’t be enough of anything. In fact, we’ll stumble and we’ll make mistakes.
We’ll see change and we won’t like it. We’ll be disappointed at the rate of growth. It’ll be slow. It’ll be difficult.
We aren’t enough to make this outreach work.
That’s what those disciples said when Jesus asked, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” It was a test question. And Philip answered from a human perspective. “We can’t feed them. There’s not enough.”
Yet, Jesus took the simple offering of a child and multiplied it to feed thousands of people. Jesus can take our simple offering and multiply it so that his outreach will take place in the neighborhood.
The disciples worked hard and prayed hard. We will have to, as well. The disciples had doubts and so will we. The disciples saw great things happen when Jesus showed up and so will we.
I’m proud of those disciples who got in the boat and rowed towards the other side. When Jesus joined them, though, they tried to take hold of him and bring him into the boat with them. Jesus doesn’t work that way. And he probably won’t let us take the lead in our Neighborhood Outreach.
We’re called to move forward, with five barley loaves and two fish. It’s ridiculous until we realize that we’re not doing it: Jesus is. And by the power of Jesus, things will happen. Not necessarily where we expect and when. But, keep your eyes and your heart open to the abundance of God’s grace.
For these are the signs of Jesus’ Power.
All glory and honor be to God.