Some of you may not realize this about me- I don’t flaunt it. But I am a brilliant baseball player. My husband calls me “Natural Nan”, because I am a Natural for the game. As a matter of fact, he gave me two presents on our wedding day: His mother’s pearl necklace, and a beautiful new, full-grain leather mitt.
Why, at the very mention of the game, my pitching arm just sort of relaxes into a natural curve ball. Rarely has there been anyone with as much heart on the field. Why, if God hadn’t called me into the ministry, I would be in the Major Leagues today. God’s call to be a pastor… plus the fact that I can’t see. Or hit. And when I run I tend to waddle. Like Danny Ozark said about Mike Andrews, an infielder for the Phillies: “His limitations are limitless.”
If I were honest, I have only 2 talents on the field: I have heart, and I have a voice, with which I give great encouragement to the other players. There are 5-talent players, and there are 2-talent players. Yes, it’s true that we are all created equal in the sight of God- we are all equally loved. But we are not created with equal talents. Some of us can pitch, and throw, and catch, and run, and jump; and some of us are really good at cheering and wearing our team’s baseball caps.
You know what? Jesus needs all of us: the 5-talent disciples AND the 2-talent disciples. We see both in today’s story of “The Feeding of the Multitude” Jesus’ disciple, Philip, is definitely 5-talent material. Jesus, surrounded by a great crowd of hungry people, calls out: “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”
Philip quickly calculates the number of people per square yard, multiplies it by the number of square yards on the mountain, divides it by the number of slices in a loaf, and multiplies that times the cost of bread… and whips back the answer: “Two hundred denarii ($50) would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a slice!
Andrew is tagging along behind Philip. Peering from behind Philip’s cloak, he adds the inane comment: “There’s a boy here who has 5 barley loaves and 2 fish!” Definitely a 2-talent remark. This guy has no idea how much food it takes to run a church supper.
Andrew. He’s such a 2-talent guy that he needs further identification. Throughout Scripture, he’s always just ‘Simon Peter’s brother.’ Andrew- you know, Simon Peter’s brother. (Oh, so that’s how he got on Jesus’ team. He’s Simon Peter’s brother…)
Simon Peter was one of those naturally talented guys, a leader that people just naturally looked to. Rev. Peter. Rev. Peter Marshall told of how Peter and Andrew must have grown up together. If they were playing a game, it would be Peter who’d pick the sides, Peter who’d be the pitcher, Peter who’d be first up.
Andrew would be there all right… they’d need him to fill in at right field.
He’s the one who would lead the cheers when Peter got a home run. Andrew was that kind of person. Andrew, you know… Simon Peter’s brother…the one who pointed out there was a kid in the crowd with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish.
Let me ask you: how would Andrew know about that boy? It seems the boy was by himself. He had probably been at the market buying the 5 loaves and 2 fish for his family’s supper. Curious about the famous prophet everyone was talking about, he slips away out of town with the crowd.
When Jesus shows up, he wiggles his way up to the front of the crowd. They all quiet down as Jesus begins a long sermon. Boy, what a disappointment! The little guy becomes restless, but he’s trapped there up front. Andrew goes to him. He doesn’t say, “Be quiet and sit still!”, or he won’t have learned anything about the boy. No, Andrew sits and whispers important things that boys want to know about: how professional fishermen hook their bait, where the good fishing spots are, what it’s like out there in the middle of a storm. He shows interest in this boy, the least important person in the crowd: “How old are you? Where are your parents? And then… What are you going to do about lunch?” And Andrew finds out about the 5 barley loaves and the 2 fish.
Brother Peter can preach great sermons. Philip can act like a human calculator. But it takes an Andrew to sit with a wiggly little boy and find out about 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. You see, the Andrews of this world are absolutely essential to Jesus, for no great movement can succeed without human warmth and individual recognition.
It is the Andrews who make community and bring that sense of belonging– the sense that someone actually notices and cares. The Andrews are the glue of the Kin-dom of God. Without them, the community- the intimacy, the trust, the caring- falls apart.
Andrew does something else, too. He brings the boy to Jesus. “There’s a boy here…” Do you know who it was who first brought Simon Peter to Jesus? It was Andrew. Andrew heard John the Baptist call Jesus ‘The Lamb of God’, and Andrew sought Jesus out. Then he ran home, and he found his brother Simon Peter and said, “We’ve found the Messiah!” And he brought Peter to Jesus.
Later on, some Greeks asked Philip about Jesus. But who took them to Jesus? It was Andrew. You have to know: Andrew never died. Church tradition has it that he was crucified in Achaia, but I believe Andrew is still alive. He just changed names. His name is now Lorraine.
Lorraine Lowy is a shy, unassuming woman up at Sussex United Methodist Church. Get Lorraine in front of a group of people and she just wilts. Does not want to be there. But Lorraine has single-handedly brought more people into the church than any other vehicle: Direct Mail. Newspaper. Signs. Church Functions. Nothing compares with the power of Lorraine.
What does she do? Shy, unassuming, 2-talent Lorraine? She listens to people. She tells people what she loves about her church. And she invites them to come. And lets them know they’ll already have a friend when they walk in, because she’ll be there.
You know, Andrew and Lorraine can’t do a lot of things. They’re not good with figures. They’re not ‘salesmen’ types, and they’d die a thousand deaths before they’d preach. Probably not good baseball players.
But Andrew sat down and talked to insignificant little boys, and Lorraine cares enough about people to tell them about a place that brings her life. And for Andrew and Lorraine, every Sunday is Bring A Friend Sunday, as one by one, people are brought into a living, life-giving relationship with God. And that is a miracle, dear friends. 5 loaves, 2 fish, 2 talents, and God’s people are fed unto everlasting life. That is a miracle.
If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus, and say He died for all.
In the Name of the One who seeks us out, and will never let us go; even Jesus the Christ. Amen.. Amen.
Aug. 5, 2018 (selected portions from the Gospel of John)
John (the Baptist) was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard this and they followed Jesus… One of the two… was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah”… He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called…Peter.”
(John 6: 1-14)
After this, Jesus went to the other side of the sea of Galilee… And a multitude followed Him… Jesus went up on the mountain and there sat down with His disciples… Lifting up His eyes, and seeing that a multitude was coming to Him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” This he said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a boy here who has 5 barley loaves and 2 fish; but what are they among so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”… Jesus then took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them along withthe fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, He said, “Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled 12 baskets…
(Later, at the feast of Passover, there were some Greeks.) They came to Philip… and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them… “Whoever serves me must follow Me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves Me, the Father will honor.”
Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.