Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More Than Enough

Jesus looks out at a crowd numbering in the thousands and tells his disciples that they can't send them away without first feeding them. It's easy to make the disciples the bad guys in this story, but the fact is they don't have the resources. The story tells us there are 4000 men, besides women and children. The crowd might have numbered 8 or 10,0000 in all. Clearly the sparse supplies the disciples had on them were nowhere near sufficient for such a huge undertaking. And yet, Jesus takes those meager supplies - 7 loaves and a few fish - and feeds them all. "And all of them ate and were filled."

Sometimes in my work as a pastor I find myself facing situations I feel ill equipped to handle. I see a spiritual problem in the church or a need in the community that begs to be addressed, but I think, "I don't have the gifts to do this. We don't have the resources to pull this off."

I suspect that the disciples in today's gospel had compassion for the crowd just as Jesus did. They saw those hungry people who had been with Jesus for days in an area where there was no food to be had. They felt bad for them, but what could they do? They had so little. The did not have anywhere near enough resources even to make a small dent in the problem.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann once wrote an article entitled "The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity."  Our faith is rooted in the promises of a loving God who provides in abundance, but in practice we more often live out of the myth of scarcity. There is not enough to go around, and we need to protect our share. We do not have enough to respond the the needs we see around us, and so we say, "I don't have the gifts to do that. We don't have the resources to help."

One of my own recurring faith struggles is trusting that God can do more with me than my own gifts and talents might indicate. Doing a faithful job as pastor of a congregation is not a simple matter of doing the best I can with the abilities and gifts that I have. Christian faith insists that God can take my gifts and abilities and do far more than would seem possible based on those alone.

I think congregations need to struggle with this same faith issue. Just as I am tempted to think I can do no more than my gifts allow, congregations are often tempted to say, "We don't have enough talents, volunteers, money, space, etc. to do that." But Christian faith insists that God can do far more with our talents, volunteers, money, space, etc. than a simple accounting of those resources would indicate.

So where in my life or yours or our congregations is Jesus saying, "I have compassion. Let's do something about it." And where is he saying to our protests that we can't possibly do that with our meager resources, "What do you have?.. With my help, that is more than enough."

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