The seminars that I have attended thus far here at Oxford have a tendency to be a bit unpredictable. Of course, this may have more to do with my own patterns of choice than it does with anything inherent in the seminars themselves. :)
However it may be, last week I ended up in a New Testament seminar, listening to a paper on the Venerable Bede. Bede was an early Medieval monk, as well as a prolific author and translator. My favorite part of the presentation, however, came at the end in an off-handed comment about the last days of Bede’s life. On his death-bed, Bede was working on the first-ever English translation of the Gospel of John. Apparently, the last words he got to were those of John 6:9: “But what are they among so many?”
It took me a bit to recognize the gospel story that this quotation comes from, but if you look back at John 6, you’ll find that its context is the Feeding of the Five Thousand. When Jesus asks the disciples where they can buy bread to feed the crowd, Andrew responds by bringing forward a little boy “with five barley loaves and two small fishes.”
“But,” he says, “what are they among so many?” You know the rest of the story.
Hearing this quotation completely out of context in a seminar on the Venerable Bede, I was struck with how well it sums up one of our most typical responses to the call of our Creator. Called to be salt and light to the world, we respond in fear: “What are we among so many?” Called to reject the “little” unChristlike habits of thought that seem so harmless, we scoff: “What are they among so many?”
As we see from the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes, however, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth has a real tendency to blow out of the water our precise little scales of size and proportion. In His eyes, the dwarfish elements of our everyday lives—whether for good or for ill—carry within them the potential for gigantic, even eternal significance. What are they among so many? Only 5,000 times greater than they at first appeared.
~ LaRae ~