I'll admit it, when I first read the gospel reading for this weekend, one of the first images that came to my mind was one of those little clown cars. It's been a long time since I've been to a circus, but I still have a pretty vivid picture in my mind: the tiny little cars, driving around in circles in the three-ring circus. Then when the car stops, you know what happens: the clowns start getting out, and they just keep getting out, and keep getting out, and keep getting out, and you start to wonder: how could they all get crammed into that tiny little car?
So when I think of this familiar Bible story -- very familiar Bible story -- after all, it's in all four gospels, I think that way: the bread and the fishes just keep coming out and being distributed, and where will it all end? How could all of those loaves and fishes get into that one lunch bag?
Now I think this way because I have a picture, only in John, of the source of the loaves and the fishes. Matthew Mark and Luke don't say anything about where the loaves and fishes come from, but John does: Andrew comes to Jesus and says, there is a boy who has five barley loaves and two fishes. So I imagine, for good or for ill, the boy with his bag lunch. He's been carrying it around all day, which I really don't want to think about too hard. But it's this boy -- I don't know his age -- it's this boy who comes forward with his bag lunch and like the clown car, the loaves and the fishes just keep coming out, and there were twelve baskets left over.
There was a boy ... just a small, but amazing detail in this story about the amazing abundance of God. There was a boy... who offered up his crummy lunch and the loaves and the fishes just kept coming out. Like the clown car.
But, there was more than one amazing thing that happened that day. It wasn't just the miracle of abundance, but it was the miracle of the boy, the boy who offered up his lunch. Because there's so much that gets in the way of that in our lives. When we look into the bag lunches we have, the bag lunches of our lives, it's easy to look into them and see five crummy loaves and two fishes and think, it's not much, it's not good enough, and I'm embarrassed to share it. In fact, I want to keep it shut so people don't see what it is. It's also easy to look at the small lunch and the big need and say, 'it won't do any good, so I won't share it.' During the school year I host a "bag lunch Bible study" here on Wednesdays. We get together and eat lunch and we read the scripture lessons for the next Sunday. And it has sometimes happened that I have forgotten my lunch for the "bag lunch Bible study", and I always find some generous soul who is willing to share his or her sandwich with me. But to look out at 5,000 people and open your bag lunch and say, I would like to share this with you -- it takes a different kind of generosity, or imagination, or even foolishness, does it? And then there's that niggling question that we can't help but ask, will there be anything left for me? When you are looking out at 5,000 people, it's a natural question to ask. There are so many things to keep that boy back from opening his bag lunch.
And yet, he did. That's sort of a miracle, maybe a miracle of innocence or imagination, or foolishness. But he opened the lunch bag.
But for us, maybe none of these things is the problem really. Maybe what happens is that we look in our lunch bag and see that there is nothing in there. It looks totally empty to us. and you can't multiply nothing. it's just dark in there.
But you know, it's not true, because Jesus has given himself for us and the life of Jesus is in us. The life of Jesus is in us, in us, even when we are empty. especially when we are empty. The life of Jesus is in there. Looking for all the world like five barley loaves and two fish, or something else just as unassuming.
We sent the youth out on their mission trip early in the morning, very early, actually. "Lord, make us instruments of your peace," we prayed. And he will. It may seem incredible, and it may seem foolish, but the love and grace and mercy, the bread of life will just keep coming out, will just keep coming out.
Like the little clown car, and by the grace of God, our lives are crammed full of God. And the bread of life just keeps coming out, just keeps coming out, to show the world, to feed the world, with the abundance, the abundance of God.