Loaves and (Gold)fishes
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 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. – John 6: 9-11
A few years ago, I was walking across the quad of a large university and noticed a group of inner-city elementary school kids on a field trip. Just as I came upon them, they paused to take a break, and the teacher began to pass out carrots. Being in a playful mood, I smilingly reached out my hand too. One of the little boys turned to me with a very concerned look on his face and asked, “Are you hungry? Do you want some goldfish?” And he reached into his pocket.
I think sometimes the greatest gift we can give another is to receive graciously their heartfelt offer of hospitality. So I accepted his crumpled bag of crackers with sincere gratitude (since I really was kind of hungry too!).
But I felt that his gift was greater than that. I felt as if I had just witnessed firsthand a modern-day miracle. The multiplication of the loaves and fishes right before my eyes!
Maybe the Bible’s stories are alive all around us, and it’s our job to find ways to tell the old, old stories in beautiful new ways. You’ve heard of rose-colored glasses. Well, what if churches’ stained glass windows were lenses that colored the way we see the world through what’s depicted there?
Then our theology just might help us view those biblical figures as regular people revered not because they are different, but because they are like us and still somehow managed to serve God in ways that changed history and society.
Dear God, help us to recognize you in the ways you appear all around us—and especially in those seemingly meager yet astonishingly abundant offerings that just may feed both our bellies and our souls. Amen.
Elizabeth Griswold is the Pastor of Parkside Community Church UCC, Sacramento, California.