Link to live-streamed service:
A Child’s Gift
Meditation on John 6:1-21
The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4 St., Coshocton
Pastor Karen Crawford
July 25, 2021
It’s finally here-after being postponed for a year! The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo have begun! Anyone watching the Olympics? The International Olympic Committee says that this is the first gender-balanced Olympics, with almost as many women as men competing! We do seem to be hearing more of the women’s voices speaking up about issues specific to female athletes.
More than a dozen mothers are competing at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics for Team USA (Today). The list includes gold-medal sprinter Allyson Felix and her talented teammate Quanara Hayes , marathoners Sally Kipyego and Aliphine Tuliamuk , soccer player Alex Morgan, Team USA basketball star Skylar Diggins-Smith, long jumper Brittney Reese , softball pitcher Cat Osterman, fencer Mariel Zagunis, and others.
Quanara Hayes said of returning to track after giving birth, “Coming back, it was tough. It was like I had to learn how to run all over again. I couldn’t come out of [the blocks], my stride was different.” Mariel Zagunis said that training was frustrating after giving birth. But with four Olympic medals under her belt, her 3-year-old daughter, Sunday, gave her a new sense of purpose as she prepared to compete in Tokyo. “Now I have a new motivation—doing this for my daughter and trying to make that work…I’m really excited to go to my next Olympics with her to show that anything is possible. If you put your mind to it, you can make your dreams come true.” (Today)
“Long jumper Brittney Reese won Olympic gold in 2012 and will be making her fourth Olympic appearance at the Tokyo Games, her second as a mom. Reese adopted her godson, Alex, before the 2016 Rio Games, when a friend was no longer able to raise him. … ‘He’s a good motivator,’ she said. ‘He’s at the end of the runway saying, ‘Let’s go, Brittney!’” (Today)
Alex Morgan, a U.S. women’s soccer star, “gave birth to a baby girl, Charlie, in 2020, just months before the originally scheduled Tokyo Olympics. She says that her daughter is one of the reasons she’s fighting for equal pay for women athletes. ‘I never want to become someone who puts down a dream whether it’s realistic or not,” she told Prevention magazine. ‘I had a dream when I was 7 years old of playing professional soccer, and there were absolutely no avenues to do that at the time. (My mother) encouraged me to live out my dream, so that’s what I want to pass along to Charlie.’”
What stood out to me in the account of the feeding of the multitude in John this week was that the inspiration for the miracle was provided by none other than the gift of a child! A child! How can this be?! Women and children were practically invisible in Bible times. We often encounter unnamed women and children in the Bible who rarely play important roles. This child is nearly invisible, but not quite. The passage speaks only of the 5,000 men in attendance—and nothing of the women and children—not until the unnamed boy is singled out for his generous gift! Scholars think that had John counted men, women, and children there may have been 10,000 people gathered for the meal of loaves and fish!
The crowd has followed Jesus because of the “signs”—how he is healing the sick. They follow him because of their need and Christ’s unusual compassion, not shown by earthly rulers. No wonder they want to make him their king, and he has to flee to a mountain for safety! They are hungry and have no food to eat or, presumably, the means to buy enough food so that they are full.
In teaching mode and posture—seated on a mountain with his disciples—Jesus asks Philip when he sees the crowd approach, “Where will we get enough food to feed all these people?” He says this to “test Philipsince he already knew what he was going to do.” Notice the assumption—that Jesus and the disciples have a responsibility to respond to the needs that they see.
Do you wonder why Jesus chooses Philip for this test? Raymond Brown says it was logical to ask Philip because he was from Bethsaida, and the scene probably took place in Bethsaida. Resident expert! But then, Andrew and Peter were from Bethsaida—and he didn’t ask them. I think he asked Philip because of his personality; he already knew what Philip was going to say –that he would be the voice of reason and logic. He would tell it just like it is. Do you know anybody like that? They are that one person who will quickly analyze the situation and, without declaring it impossible, will let the facts speak for themselves.
What he actually says to Jesus is, “Not even with 200 denarii could we buy enough loaves to give each of them a little.” Ordinary workers made one denarii a day; therefore, 200 denarii is the wage for 200 days of labor. Obviously, Jesus and the disciples didn’t have that much money on them, for they were ordinary themselves.
Philip, a fisherman with a Greek (Gentile) name, had answered the call to follow Jesus without hesitation. He didn’t need extra coaxing when he found Jesus in John 1:43, who said, “Follow me.” Next thing we know, Philip is reaching out to his friend Nathanael and saying to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
His remark now about how even 200 denarii—if they could ever scrape together that much money—wouldn’t be enough to feed the crowd moves Andrew to find his voice. Andrew was the first disciple to be called in the gospel of John; he had been a follower of John the Baptist when John says about Jesus, “Look, here is the Lamb of God.” Andrew follows Jesus to where he is staying and remains with him the entire day before bringing his brother, Simon, to Jesus, saying, “We have found the Messiah.”
Now, responding to Jesus’ question and Philip’s unbelieving answer, Andrew, also a fisherman with a Greek (Gentile) name, turns the conversation to a little boy he has met. The unnamed boy must have overheard Jesus’ question and approached Andrew. He is ready to give away all the food he has brought with him to eat because he trusts in Jesus. He is anticipating a miracle. The boy’s gift grows Andrew’s faith. He says, “There is a boy here who has five small loaves of barley bread and two fish. But what good is that with all these people?”
Barley bread was less common than wheat bread, if you are wondering. “Barley loaves were cheaper and served for the poor.” (Raymond Brown) Luke 11:5-6 confirms that these three small loaves are the normal portion for one person: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’”
Jesus takes the bread into his hands, gives thanks to God, passes it to the people—and then does the same with the fish. And for perhaps the first time in their lives, everyone has plenty to eat!
And there’s still more, revealing a glimpse of the abundance of God’s Kingdom of which Mary sang in her song in Luke 1:52-53:
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things….”
This year, while I always look forward to the Olympics, the stories of young mothers on the USA Olympic Team have especially touched my heart. May they inspire us to never give up on our hopes and dreams for ourselves, our families, the church and for a more just and peaceful world, no matter how impossible that may seem. A world where no one goes hungry, and there is PLENTY for all.
That child who gave up his entire lunch wasn’t thinking he was going to starve! With his barley loaves, he was definitely someone who came from a low socio-economic background, but wasn’t thinking he was “poor.” He wasn’t counting the money that was needed, that he didn’t have, like Philip, for everyone to have just a mouthful. He was investing in the Kingdom with all that he had—because he had seen the signs—and knew Jesus was and is the Messiah for the world.
I leave you now with some questions to consider.
What would you do for our Lord—the One who walked on water and fed 10,000 people with a couple of loaves and fish —right now, if you believed in ABUNDANCE, rather than scarcity? If you had NO fear? What would you do for Jesus if you allowed yourself to be moved by the faith and generosity of a child to invest in the Kingdom, anticipating the wondrous works of God?
Let us pray. Holy One, we are inspired by the boy who offered all the food that he had brought with him to Your Son, so that a multitude could be fed! Father, give us the faith of that child. You know his name, Lord. Help us to listen to children, see them, and learn from them, encouraging them in the good things that they do. Strengthen us to let go of the things of this world that have their hold on us so that we might share with others so desperately in need—and all may be fed. Lead us to works of generosity and compassion so that we may truly live lives as witnesses to the Messiah and the abundance of the Kingdom Your Son ushered in. In the name of our Triune God we pray. Amen.