Acts of goodness are always significant
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" ~ John 6:9
As a machinist friend of mine, Eugene, often said (while chuckling): "Slow work takes time."
His quote came to mind as I opened a large envelope that landed on my desk recently.
Inside the envelope was my "Certificate of Ordination as Minister of Word and Sacrament" — dated Feb. 9, 2014! Apparently, it had been waiting for a needed signature, wound up being put into a desk drawer while waiting for that signature … and … well … hey, I understand how these things happen.
While I'm proud to display the fact that 4 ½ years later, I've been fully and formally recognized as the Reverend Michael Wilson, I've also come to realize something else which is that in providing weekly sermons, and presiding over communion, and being given the honor of leading celebration of life remembrances, and visits to people's homes and hospital bedsides — I wasn't any less of a pastor without the certificate.
I'd been doing all of those meaningful things a pastor does long before that envelope made its way to my desk.
More than that, I'd been doing lots of those things a pastor does long before I went to seminary at age 50 to become a pastor.
It's just that then I had neither the title nor the certificate.
Beth Brooke has had a distinguished career in the business world, and she writes: "Success is fine, but success is fleeting. Significance is lasting."
Throughout the Bible, we come across lots of people who have no formal title, let alone any name recognition, yet, they play a very significant role in helping us understand God's love for us in Jesus Christ.
Such is the case in the above noted passage. It makes only the briefest of references to an unnamed boy who we never hear about again.
All four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) record this event where a crowd numbering into the thousands had shown up to hear Jesus' teachings. As the day stretched into dusk, Jesus' closest followers appealed to Him to send the crowds away so the crowds would have a chance to eat before it got too late.
Jesus replied, "You give them something to eat."
And the disciples' response? It would take a fortune to feed them all, a fortune the disciples did not have.
Jesus told them to go see what there was, and eventually the disciples came up with five loaves and two fish, which lead us to a couple of interesting thoughts.
First of all: when faced with the need to feed thousands, five loaves and two fishes would seem to be very insignificant, and secondly, only in John's version is it significant enough to mention that it's an unnamed boy who provided this. Or another way to think about it: three of the four writers didn't feel it was significant enough to even mention it.
While Jesus' disciples (who are known by name and their title) gave in to their own feelings of insignificance, it's this unknown boy who "opted out" of all of that. Instead, he chose to offer what he had — regardless of what anybody else thought about it.
And beginning with these loaves and fishes, not only was Jesus able to provide for the crowd, but there was plenty left over. What started as seemingly insignificant resulted in abundant goodness for all.
I wonder what our understandings about God's goodness would be like without this boy, or the countless anonymous others in the Bible? Or the countless others around us today who offer whatever they have — regardless.
Wherever we think we are in the larger scheme of things, either as Christians or just in the world around us — all acts of goodness are always significant.
May we always draw encouragement from this and be ready to act upon it.
Mike Wilson is the pastor at Prineville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at 541-447-1017.