Philip or Andrew?

I am indebted to the fine homiletical work of our pastor Don Johnson for the thrust of this reflection. His sermon this morning was dead on, and so very important. Please read the gospel lesson, the Word of the Lord for the saints in Santa Barbara this morning:

John 6:1-15, NLT

After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked,“Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples,“Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

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It was hot, dusty, flies and people milling about,
buzzing, buzzing.

Over 5000 folks climbed that hillside with the water view,
oldsters and children, men and women,
seekers and hangers-on —

wondering and wandering and wanting to see
what the rabbi might do,
to hear what he might say.

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Jesus was the newest ‘show in town,’ and everyone was curious.
They had seen (or heard) about the healings, the ‘signs,’
and they wanted to see a few for themselves.
So they hoofed it, out into the countryside, hiking up the hill by the lake,
hanging around, waiting for the show to begin.
The star of the show, however, gathered his closest friends and went to
the tippy-top of that hill and . . . what?
Gathered the props for a magic show?
Laid out a careful plan for crowd management?
Discussed what the format for the day should look like?

None of the above.
None of it.
Oh, there is a sign coming —
and a doozy of a sign, too.
And the crowd will be pleased,
so overwhelmingly convinced that Jesus
is the latest hot number,
that they will succumb to mob mentality
and try to force the guy to become
their next Grand Poobah.
(Something which Jesus will have NONE of.)

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No. There is no talk of technique or teaching,
there is a simple lesson in faith, told to two particular disciples.
Rather than a story about the crowd.
or even a story about a ‘trick’ or a sign,
this is something else entirely.

This is a story about 
contrasting worldviews,
personal invitations,
scarcity and plentitude,
faith and doubt.

This is a story about possibilities
and whether or not those who follow Jesus
are open to them.

This is a story about Philip and Andrew.

IMG_3602 And this is a story about giving what we have,
no matter how small it might look to us,
to the gentle, prayerful care of Jesus the Christ,
and then waiting to see
how too little
becomes more than enough.

That is a barley loaf in the pictures above.
Poor people’s bread in 1st century Palestine,
the bare minimum for a day’s calories.
Crumbly and salty, even tasty, when you get used to it,
what a mother might pack for her son
for a picnic by the lake.

A far cry from Philip’s anxious bean-counting,
(“Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough to feed all these people!”)
and the only small thing that Andrew could dredge up 
in his cursory survey of the crowd.
A boy’s lunch basket.
That’s all he had.

And it was more than enough.

Neither Philip nor Andrew could see that more-than-enough
when they looked at that little lunch.
But Andrew had a hunch, just an inkling,
and he wasn’t all that sure about it, either.
But he brought that small bag of food,
and he gave it to Jesus.

What small thing can I bring to the top of that hill today?
What paltry gift can I bring?
Can I take my eyes off of the need that seems to 
surround and overwhelm,
and look only at Jesus?
Only at Jesus.

Can I resist the attitude of scarcity that oozes out of Philip,
can I turn away from my proclivity for anxiety rather than trust,
my inclination to look at the crowd rather than at Jesus,
my unholy need to control outcomes
rather than let the Holy-Spirit-power-of-my-Redeemer
have its way with the little, the last, the least and the lost?

Ah, Jesus. Have mercy on me, a sinner.
Help me to be an Andrew.
Not quite sure, but willing.
Wondering about outcomes,
but handing it over,
no matter how small it looks.

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After church,
after lunch,
after a deep breath and a deep sigh,
we piled my 92-year-old mom into our car
and headed 80 miles east toward her 90-year-old sister,
who is dying this week.

When pastor Don asked us to write down the small things we have,
the things that we find when we search our hearts
and our calendars and our commitments,
the things we need to bring to Jesus —
these two were on the top of my list:
my writing
my mother.
And today was a day for my mother.

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It was a hard day, a tiring one, filled with confusion
and fear and grief.
It was a day when I had to pray for grace and for patience
every second of every minute of every hour.

I had a hard time looking at Jesus
in the midst of this particular crowd.
I had a hard time sitting down on the grass
and partaking of the bounty that comes
from not enough when it is given over to the Savior.
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But there were glimpses.
There was beauty.
There was grace.
My beautiful cousin, looking at her mama with so much love.
My beautiful aunt, rousing just enough
to grab her sister’s hand and cry, “Ruthie! Ruthie! It’s you, it’s you!”
My beautiful mother, having to meet her grief
over and over and over,
as she forgot who the woman in the bed was,
and then remembered when I gently repeated,
“This is Eileen, your sister, your best friend.”
And the beauty of old songs, sweetly sung.
“On a hill far away. . .”
“For God so loved the world. . . “
“Away in a manger. . .”
“I come to the garden alone. . . “
Every word sung by the sisters and the cousins,
every word an offering of love to each other,
and to the God who gives us songs to sing.

Every word, a reminder that when we give it to Jesus,
the little things are more than enough.

An update, late on Tuesday night: my much-loved, delightful, charming, fun-loving Aunt Eileen
moved into the arms of Jesus at 9:46 p.m.
Thanks be to God and peace to her memory.

Offering this small thing to Laura, Michelle, Jen, Jennifer, Ann and Emily this week, grateful for the ways in which they each point me to Jesus and away from the crowd.




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Comments

  1. Ah, Diana! Just when I was forgetting words that I too heard this morning… words about giving and selflessness… and was resenting a commitment for tomorrow, being ‘commanded’ by a neighbour, cranky and irritable at 92, to take her to a medical appointment an hour’s drive away, I come upon your words.

    Giving what we have, waiting to see
    how too little
    becomes more than enough.

    And THEN reading on to find your Sunday afternoon account. Well, it about does me in, this prod that God has sent my way in your words. Bless you for sharing this difficult day. You’ve ministered to me all these miles away. (I pray for your aunt, and your mother, and your cousin, and you.)

    • Oh, Carol. It’s never fun to be ‘commanded’ to do anything. Praying for your tender heart as you help. This stuff is not easy, is it? Trusting with you that we will meet Jesus in he midst of it. Thanks for your prayers, friend. We are all ‘standin’ in the need’ of it.

  2. Jonathan Schofield says:

    Thank you for sharing these words. I especially like the idea that some of the “small things we have” that we need to bring to Jesus might be our relationships.

    • Thanks for these encouraging words, Jonathan. And yes, I think we do need to bring our relationships to Jesus as a gift for his blessing, looking at him and not at the difficulties that may or may not be present in said relationship! Thanks so much for coming by.

  3. This beautiful picture of your cousin, your mom and her sister/best friend … it makes me long for heaven. And not in the picture, you, serving your mom in this hard space. As you offer your loaves and fishes (your mom, your writing) I pray, Diana, that you will find God to sweetly be enough. I am asking God to bring you some wonderful reminders/surprises this week that you are enough, because He is so much.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful/hard day.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

    • I found myself longing for heaven yesterday, too. Especially for these valiant old women, who have loved us so very well. And I thank you for your prayers on my behalf, Glenda. I surely do need them. And so does my mama.

  4. I cried reading this. Did you cry writing it?
    Lovely. Just lovely.

    • I cried writing it, I cried living it, I cried thinking about it, I cried getting ready for it. Yeah, Marilyn. I cried. I still do.

  5. Thank you for this Diana. I deeply love the boy with the loaves and fishes story, such an invitation to trust in what is, offering it in love to be blessed and broken by God. Thanks.

    • EXACTLY, Kelly. An ‘invitation to trust in what is.’ Thank you for those good words, and for coming by and commenting.

  6. Ro elliott says:

    Oh Diane…this is beautiful…and how you are loving and honoring your mother…a living sacrifice of active Love…offering what you have and letting God multiple …and these are the moments in life…hidden from most of the world that God speaks these words…well done my good and faithful servant…and there will be a day that your labor will be over…and you will be able to enter your rest…and peace will be your comfort because you loved her well.

    • Thanks so much, Ro. But, believe me, this day wasn’t about me being faithful. Too much of it was spent with gritted teeth for that. But it was about GOD being faithful in the midst of my own ‘not enough.’

      • Ro elliott says:

        Yes…aren’t we so blessed…it isn’t about doing it with perfection…but a willing heart…giving our least…and He can multiple…and make beautiful that which may even be ugly…He is the great Redeemer indeed !!!!

  7. This got through down into to me. Not much else has, for a long time.
    Thank you.

    • Honey, you are welcome. There are stretches of time where it’s just tough to be gotten into, you know? May you know that Jesus takes whatever small thing you bring and makes it (and you) more than enough. Blessings, Kim.

  8. Tears here my friend. I have so little right not to take up the hill. This gives me hope.

    • I was thinking about you, and others I know, who are dealing with ailing parents right now and how painful it all is. And how hard. Hang onto hope wherever you can find it, Dea. I’m glad you found a little here.

  9. Diana,
    Such grace and beauty in your words today…holding onto “when we give it to Jesus,
    the little things are more than enough.” Praying God continues to sustain you and your family…you inspire me 🙂

  10. Oh, Diana. So much truth and beauty and sorrow in these sacred words. I send you much love, as you walk with your mother through these days, and I rejoice with you, as well, in the many “little things” that are more than enough in the hands of Jesus.

  11. Diana,

    First, thank you for you sharing something so private and personal and beautiful!

    Second, I love this line, “waiting to see how too little becomes more than enough.” How full of hope – Amen and amen!

    Kind regards to you and your family!

    Kristina Skepton
    Founder, SeeingGod Ministries
    http://www.themoreyouseegod.blogpost.com
    http://www.Facebook.com/SeeingGod

    • It was a very personal day, but this story has some pretty universal pieces to it, too. And every experience I have had with a dying loved one has been such holy ground and so many beautiful things happen around the whole experience, that I tried to capture just a tiny piece of it here. The medical team thinks my aunt has a week or two left on this journey. We’re all praying her home – and singing a little bit, too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  12. I can hear you in my imagination, singing the old songs together–memories stirred with every word, and bonds of love strengthened with each note. I pray the sweetness of such moments softens the bitterness of sadness and grief. You ARE an Andrew, Diana–wondering about the outcome, yes, but handing over these difficult times to God just the same. He is using you and this blog to minister to many, even as you struggle on the home front. God bless you, Sister.

    • And this morning, I found a you-tube version of the old, OLD song that these two sisters used to sing together at family gatherings. We kids made fun of them, but you know what? It was a sweet song. I found a version of Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae (2 oldies!!) singing it – “Whispering Hope.” I sent it to my cousin and she played it for her mom tonight. I’ll play it for my mom on Wednesday when we go to lunch. Thanks for your kind words, Nancy. I so appreciate your encouragement.

  13. “when too little becomes more than enough.” Wow, wow, wow. I don’t know why that is hitting me so hard right now, Diana, but those words are still playing in my mind. I’m so sorry for those hard moments–so grateful that your heart is so tender that it can see the beautiful ones. Loving you through this, friend. The ways you share this story makes me hold my breath sometimes. You shine God’s beauty, you know that?

  14. I love how you bring the gospel story right into Diana’s story. That’s the beauty of the gospel. Our pastor preached this passage last week and I was impressed that the bread and fishes multiplied one person at a time. Instead of a massive table with 20,000 fish, it was that one fish that turned into another with every interaction.

    That’s much easier for me to apply — simple actions.

    • Thanks so much, David. I’m going to try and do a bit more of that kind of writing – maybe not always in the same post, but alternating – biblical reflection/personal reflection. Time will tell, but I like the idea and have been encouraged to try it. I LOVE your pastor’s take = one person at a time. That’s manageable, sin’t it?

    • “… and I was impressed that the bread and fishes multiplied one person at a time. Instead of a massive table with 20,000 fish.”

      Thanks for this, David. I hadn’t thought about it that way before.

  15. Oh, Diana — what a tender and lovely reflection in the midst of a sad situation. Your heart is being made more beautiful day by day. We don’t always remember that the Bible says “If you suffer with Him you will reign with him.” Thank you for giving yourself to Jesus in the midst of the “hard”.

    • Thanks so much for these kind and lovely words tonight, kingfisher. I’m always glad when you drop by. (Just wish I knew your name :>)

  16. I am undone, my friend. How you bring that passage alive and then bring it home. And those tender photos of your mom and aunt and cousin. And your broken, wearing, loving heart. I’m undone. Love you.

  17. weary… not wearing. Although I know you wear it well, too.

  18. and He is enough, more than enough
    when we find we have nothing
    and can not take another step
    yet can not remain still
    then He shows us tiny slices of His glory
    and we breathe

  19. So beautiful… I have sat near three people as they were entering into a different place, leaving here forever and it is hard, so very hard. But the hymns are calming and the tears are healing and really the ones who are being touched the hardest are not the ones so ill, it is the ones who are watching and listening and waiting for that last breath and singing the hymns so quietly.

  20. And I love how Jesus instructs them to pick up the fragments and uses even those, because sometimes it feels like that is all that is left at the end of a day.

  21. Oh, Diana.

  22. Help me to be an Andrew.
    Not quite sure, but willing.
    Wondering about outcomes,
    but handing it over,
    no matter how small it looks.

    Diana, this spoke to my heart. I feel more like Phillip than Andrew, but I want to be an Andrew. It’s hard to be in a place where it feels like I have so little to offer outside my four walls where i need to be most of the time in this season of caregiving. and even though that time is not taken up with constant actual physical care, it is emotional care – and doesn’t leave us much to give. Thank you for sharing your journey. I am grateful for community and friends who care and carry through times like this for you and for me.

    • Carol, I’m so grateful this ministered to you, in the midst of the exhaustion you feel in caring for your dad. Will you hear me as I say this to you? You are doing an amazing thing here, my friend. The emotional wear and tear from this disease is immense – and I only see my mom twice a week (most weeks) and talk to her in between. I do not have physical care for her and I try to set limits around my emotional care, too – just because I am drained empty if I don’t. I do not know how you are doing this. Please, please find a way to get respite – a senior daycare center, a hired hand, a friend who will come and spell you for a few hours a week. I have witnessed caregiver exhaustion and even death – so this is not a small thing. You have to find a way to replenish. And you are very brave and generous, Carol. Yes, you are.

      • thank you Diana for your kind words. We do have someone now living in our house giving us 10 hours per week being with my dad (includes her taking him up the street to his church so we can attend our own church together again.) she does this in exchange for a free room. We miss our house. I also have a friend who comes by on Tuesday mornings most weeks. thankfully he still knows us. His has been a more slow decline with vascular dementia. but his short term memory and ability to interact on a deeeper level is very limited and he needs someone with him all the tme. So we are slowly finding our way. often I am fearful for the future. It is hard to stay in the present. The loss of retirement income (because of the company’s bankruptcy 6 weeks after I retired) complicates things. we expected to have to do this but with lots more resources. thank you for your words. As i write, I am away for 5 days – hubby is home with dad while i spend some time at our time share a couple hours away. it’s been hard to settle in, but I am breathing deeply.

  23. “And this is a story about giving what we have,
    no matter how small it might look to us,
    to the gentle, prayerful care of Jesus the Christ,
    and then waiting to see
    how too little
    becomes more than enough.”

    Just this. I needed this today. For my writing, my mothering, my marriage…all for His glory.
    My little becomes His enough.

    Thank you,
    Angie

    • You are so welcome, Angie. I think we all need to be reminded of this truth, probably most every day! Thanks so much for coming by and commenting.

  24. For any of you who may have subscribed to the comments, I just got a text from my cousin that my Aunt Eileen went to glory at 9:46 tonight (PST), on Tuesday, November 21, 2013, just 2 months short of her 90th birthday. I loved her so much and am beyond grateful she was in my life. I wrote about her a couple of years ago for a writing project over at The High Calling – here’s the link to that small piece: http://dianatrautwein.com/2011/10/family-portraits-1-aunt-eileen/

    • What a beautiful tribute to your Aunt. I had one like that and I adored her. Many of my mom’s family inherited the family trait of “no nonsense-ness” but not Aunt Verna. She adored us tright back and we knew it. She called us endearing names all the time and now I wonder just where that came from! It’s hard to lose someone even when it’s “time.” thank you for sharing your former post. It was lovely and I thought lovely things this morning and I am praying God’s peace to all of you this morning.

      • Thanks for all that loveliness, Carol. It was time – that much is clear, but the smart and strength of my tears as I read that text testify to the reality that this is final. And that is always hard. I’m grateful for your kindness.

  25. The little you gave became the songs which sang your dear aunt home, into the arms of Jesus.

    You gave much. And blessed much. And I am so very sorry.

    • Thank you, Nancy. I’m sure my cousin and her family (many of them came from out of state to be together right now) kept right on singing until she died. We are a singing family.

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