Fear and scarcity are in the air. The headlines are full of them and we can find ourselves living in a place of fear, doubt and scarcity. It’s easy to do. But it isn’t how Jesus calls us to live. In the feeding of the five thousand, one of many stories of bounty in scripture, Jesus is confronted by the disciples who tell him to send the crowds away to find food and lodging. Jesus’ response is direct: you give them something to eat. But! But! But! You can hear them stammer even some 2,000 years later, echoing our own skepticism and doubt. You’ve got to be kidding, Jesus. But Jesus isn’t kidding.
He has the disciples gather people into smaller groups and sit down together. Then he takes the measly five loaves and two fish that had been produced by the disciples as proof that there wouldn’t be, couldn’t possibly be, enough. Looking up to heaven, Jesus gave thanks and broke them, before sharing them with the disciples to distribute to the people. All ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketsful of broken pieces that were left over. There is enough and more, when we lean into God.
The dilemma—the gift and challenge—is that we must choose how we are to live. We can live in fear and go running off to find security and safety on our own. Or we can believe—as in trust with our lives—in Jesus and the promise that there is already enough within the community gathered. As Bishop Lee reminded us a year ago when he gave a talk on this passage, the real miracle is that those present began seeing themselves in relationship to each other rather than in isolation. As that bond grew, the people gathered together and shared what they had, willingly and joyfully. I can hear the laughter reverberating through the years overcoming the fearful ‘buts’ with a resounding Yes!
In truth, we want to be part of God’s unfolding miracle but our own fear and hesitation, fueled by the world around us, causes us to draw back rather than leaning in. “I don’t have enough time, money, talents so I have to hold tightly to what I do have.” When we put our focus and energy into that conviction, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And we miss the Kingdom of God in our very midst. Jesus invites us to be a part of something larger, to see ourselves in relationship rather than isolation and to believe in him, to trust—and to act on that trust—that there will be, already is not only enough, but more than enough. When we believe that, and act according to that conviction—looking to heaven, blessing what we do have and offering it—amazing things happen. But we cannot experience the miracle without taking the risk to trust God enough to make up the difference.
Our giving, whether we realize it or not, is a spiritual practice and stretching ourselves beyond what we think we can do is a tangible way we lean into the promise of God to do miracles in our ordinary, everyday lives. As you discern what to give and how to be involved at St. Simon’s this year, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this 2016 pledge my/our highest priority among all the organizations we support?
- Is this 2016 pledge a first and best gift rather than what’s left over?
- Is this 2016 pledge a stretch from where I’ve been before realizing that all we have is God’s?
Come, enter into the joy that awaits as we follow Jesus in coming to the table to feast and as we partner with God to invite others to join the party. There is room at the table for all.