Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Take These Few Fish and Crumbs of Bread

When I got my recent good news from my scans, and learned that there is indeed some healing beginning to take place in my body, this is the song that began to play in my head: Michael Card's "Make Me a Miracle."

The song is from his recording "Close Your Eyes So You Can See," which we used to listen to a lot when the sweet girl was little. The songs are all written about, or sometimes from the perspective of, children in Scripture. In "Make Me a Miracle," he imagines these words coming from the boy with the loaves and fishes:

"Take these few fish and crumbs of bread,
It's all that I can do.
But most of all, Lord, take my life,
and make me a miracle too."

I sang that the other day while I cried a little over the miracle God is doing right now in my body. I don't even feel I've got anything on offer really, not even what the little the boy had, but God is able to work with nothing as well as with very little. So thankful.

I was thinking of the feeding of the five thousand this morning as I read the scene in John 6 for my morning quiet time. As much as I love Michael Card's song -- I love imaginings based on Scriptural scenes, especially when they are as creative and faithful as Card's imaginings always are -- the boy doesn't really feature much in the story. It's not much of a stretch to imagine that he did interact with Jesus that day, and that his life was forever changed by what he saw Jesus do with his lunch. But it's the disciples that the text is concerned with here, especially Philip and Andrew.

I find this intriguing because neither of those disciples gets much attention in the gospels, at least not nearly the amount that the big three (Peter, James, and John) get.  Of course we know from the gospels themselves that Jesus defines greatness very differently from the world, so ranking the disciples in terms of importance isn't what I'm going for here, though I think we have a tendency to do that sometimes. All of the people chosen by Jesus were honored and blessed to be chosen. They had a unique place in his mission and were given the opportunity to be trained in his service by staying "up close" with Jesus for the years of his ministry.

Still we don't hear much from or about some of them, and it feels significant when a gospel gives us a story in which some of the lesser known disciples feature. In this story, Jesus first "tests" Philip by asking him "where are we going to buy bread for all these people?" even though, John tells us, Jesus already knew what he was going to do. Philip offers a pragmatic answer that isn't really an answer. He just points out the impossibility of feeding them given that they don't have enough money to buy food so that each person can get even a little.

"And speaking of a little..." is what Andrew seems to say next. He jumps into the conversation feet first with "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish...." It doesn't take much imagination again to picture the rest of the disciples looking at him like he's crazy for opening his mouth and making such a suggestion. I can practically imagine at least one of them frantically shaking his head at Andrew, sort of behind Jesus' back, as if to say, "Be quiet, don't be stupid!"

But I also love Andrew's finish. Again, I sort of picture him seeing the incredulous looks on his friends' faces over his dumb observation, and I think of him trailing off lamely as he adds "...but what are they for so many?" The question in the second half of what he says seems to call into question the beautiful boldness of the first part of his statement. Because Andrew was on the right track with that first part, wasn't he? He was pointing out, to Jesus, what they had -- not focusing like Philip on what they didn't have.

I relate to Andrew here. Sometimes I see the possibilities, small as they are, and I want to offer them in great excitement to my Lord. Then I hear the audaciousness in my own voice and I get afraid of looking silly, I get afraid that whatever is on offer can't possibly be enough. I doubt myself and I doubt God. Offering our little (or pointing out someone else's little) can be so hard sometimes, because what if God doesn't come through? What if a little stays a little?

It helps when we remember that God can work, even from nothing, to bring about what needs to be. It helps if we keep our eyes on Jesus and not on our own fears or even at the well-meaning friends frantically mouthing at us "don't say that, don't go there, don't be so bold, are you crazy?"

It helps if we remember that Jesus is the one who can literally set a table in the wilderness.

And so he does. Andrew's question turns out not to be rhetorical (as it looks at first glance) and it turns out not to be crazy. "What are they for so many?" directed to Jesus becomes a solid answer. They are enough. They are more than enough. Give them to me, Jesus essentially says, and watch what I will do.

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