Alone, we are not enough. We are NOT enough.
But Christ said,
“Ego Eimi, I am.”
“Ego Eimi. I am.”
Christ’s words to the apostles lay the foundation for us to understand who Christ is in the weeks to come but more so, it is the claim for us, that Christ IS and that is enough right there- everything builds upon this and there is enough, in fact more than enough…suddenly we have abundance.
Let’s just clarify a couple of small facts before we get too deep though.
1) In verse 10 John says 5,000 MEN. Men. Now we know they were not the only ones listening. That means there were wives and children and servants present as well. So lets multiply by 4 on the very conservative side. That means that more than 20,000 people needed to eat.
2) Five small barley loaves; how do we feed 20,000 at all, and no less with the nastiest, least tasty bread available. Barley was the 99 cent wheat bread of the day. It was the cheapest option and tasteless. It functioned to fill a stomach, but little more. And worse, they were 5 SMALL loaves of it. Of course, they did have 2 fishes, which would feed one hungry teen male in my household. That whole meal would only feed ONE teen male in my household, how could it feed 5,000, 20,000? How could it be enough?
Last week, ELCA youth from all over the world visited Detroit. When the 2015 meeting city was announced 3 years ago, the shock was palpable. Parents and fellow parishioners alike wondered, “Why on EARTH would we send our youth there? I wouldn’t go there myself!” It was a cry that could be translated to this: “Detroit is dead, there is not enough to save it and I am NOT sacrificing MY child or our youth to try. We just don’t have enough.”
So for 3 years we worked on educating people about Detroit, showing the stories and faces and humanity to make it real and worthy. And then last week, not only did we prove that we sent our children to the right place for ourselves, we proved it for the youth, and we proved it to Detroit as well. A city that simply does not have enough right now for themselves, how could they host over 30,000 people at one time? What could they give? What could our youth really give that would be lasting, would be ‘enough’?
Well, our youth gave effort, over 100 blocks of urban blight was cleared and repaired and abandoned houses were boarded up. Community gardens were planted and tires removed. But the gift given was a reminder to Detroit of hope and to our youth, that when you give what you can, it can be enough.
Let’s stop though and consider; What if our youth gave up when they asked, “What about the rest of Detroit?”
“Won’t they let the grass regrow?”
“What if they burn this house?”
In other words, “we don’t have enough to make a permanent change.”
As they looked at the house another group had cleaned the day before and was torched hours later, they asked Bonnie, Lance, and Bob, “Why bother?” They did not have enough money, time, or energy, even at 30,000 strong. They were not enough against a huge tide of debt, failed infrastructure and the ugly side of humanity. They did not have enough to fix the whole problem in one fell swoop and their hard work might be undone. So why bother?
How do we respond to that? One might say, “well why do you build a sand castle when you know the ocean will reclaim it in a few swift waves?” The answer is the joy in the task, to be sure but there is more to it. The readings of this week all come together to remind us that it is not about how much we bring to the table, or whether our effort will go down in the annals of history, but simply that we come, with what we can and we do what we can with what we have.
And let’s be real. Some days we just don’t have enough. We don’t have enough tears when a child’s classmate dies by suicide, or enough safety when our protectors are gunned down in their work place, enough hugs to sooth the pain over a deadly medical diagnosis, or enough money when the job disappears. Some days we don’t have ‘enough’ when the 6 year old drowns, our loved one can’t whip an addiction, or the food pantry is empty AGAIN.
Don’t shy away from difficulty or belief that what we have to offer is not enough though. Our reading in 2Kings is our reminder that what we bring, can be enough. We alone do not make it so, but Christ comes with us, to us, and for us, and becomes enough, providing for all our needs. Just as Elisha’s servant wondered how the food would be enough in 2Kings 4:43, (1st Reading today), and Elisha was proven right because the offering was complete. When we give what we can, we give complete offering and we can be confident that what is offered is made enough in Christ. what is insufficient is multiplied, and overwhelming is calmed.
Earlier we sang, “Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus.” I want to say clearly to you, Jesus is all around you in the eyes of every person you meet, and even more so, in the eyes of every person you don’t “see”; the lost, downtrodden, and alone. The storms are NOT calmed, but the person is. Detroit is NOT fixed, but the people are uplifted. Our children were not harmed by their effort, they are multiplied, they are quantified and qualified and blessed because they gave what they had, meager as it may have seemed.
It is not our duty to quantify or qualify God’s plan, it is our duty to respond in love and thankfulness, to do
God’s Work, with Our Hands and when we join, giving what we have, even when it feels like it is not enough, we embody the meaning of community. We suddenly ARE the “one bread, one body” in Christ as we commune. In those moments, our communion becomes very real. This bread is the symbol of Christ, the reminder that we are commanded to be a community and to know one another. We know one another when we listen to each other’s stories, when we carry their burden for a while, when we look in their eyes and SEE them.
I am not enough. You are not enough. Alone, we will never be enough, but we can be and bring the meager share offered up that through Christ becomes abundant Grace and mercy in the world. And then, 20,000 doesn’t seem like too much.