I know exactly where I was. I was sitting in the quire of Canterbury Cathedral. It was March 1976. To be more exact, it was the Fourth Sunday in Lent. With a little detective work, I know that it was 28 March 1976.
I know that it was the Fourth Sunday in Lent, because the gospel that day was this story of the boy with the five barley-loaves and the two, small fish. I remember to this day the experience of hearing, as if for the first time, the story of the young lad who shared his lunch. Now, every time I hear this passage, I find myself sitting in Canterbury’s quire.
This story opens chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. The chapter begins here, which is part of the larger feeding story, and then moves on to the Calming of the Sea, and finally the Bread of Life discourse. It’s an incredibly rich and significant chapter, full of possibilities. Because it is so rich, the story of the boy is often lost. It’s easy to overlook him, or to lose him altogether. In fact, the other three gospels, all of which record this miracle, fail to mention the boy. And John fails, or has other reasons, not to name him. It is this nameless boy who has held my attention for over forty years.