Food For Thought
Most of us have felt inadequate to some task at some point in our lives. Maybe we didn't think we had the skills necessary. Or maybe we were just wore out and not sure we had the energy to go on. Even Jesus felt the need to rest and re-energize. The gospel of Matthew tells us that after hearing of the death of his cousin John the Baptist, Jesus tried to escape into the wilderness where he could grieve, rest, and pray. But the crowds followed him, wanting to hear him teach and to experience the healing they had heard about. I imagine that Jesus probably wasn’t feeling up to dealing with the crowds that day but he found something within himself and had compassion for them.
I suspect that what kept Jesus going was his trust in God. He doesn't trust that God will take care of the crowd and then leave. No, he trusts that God will give him the strength to care for the people and he, despite his grief, spends the entire day teaching and healing until the evening meal. At that time, the people were hungry and needed food and the disciples looked at what food they had and said “it’s not enough.” So they went to Jesus and asked to send the crowds away so they could go home and eat. But Jesus says no, we'll feed the people. There's no need to send them away. And in response, the disciples complain that they only have five loaves of bread and two fish for thousands of people. Jesus tells them to bring their nothing, bring whatever they have no matter how meager they think it is. And he turns to God and trusts that their nothing will be enough. Trusting in God, nothing becomes something. And the people were fed with much food left over.
This story asks us to turn to God in trust. Trust that when things seem hopeless, hope can be found in God. Trust that miracles are possible. To live like Jesus is to live an active trust. Not to trust that God will have someone else take care of the problem, but to trust that God will give us the wisdom and strength we need to do it. To trust that God can make something out of what looks like nothing, that with God the seemingly impossible becomes possible.
Do we, like the disciples, find ourselves falling prey to thinking in terms of scarcity? Saying things like: I’m not smart enough, I don’t know how to do that, we’ve never done that before, we don’t have enough money, we’re too small of a group, we’re too tired… Many of our world’s problems are also based on this fear that we don’t have enough. We fear immigrants because we think they’ll take our jobs and we don’t believe we have enough to share. We focus so much on wealth because we think there will never be enough. No matter how much money we make, we always think it’s not quite enough. We see this in churches too. Whether it’s a church of 20 or 200 or 2000 it’s not uncommon to find churches thinking we’re not big enough or we don’t have enough budget to do what God is calling us to do.
But what could we accomplish if we trust that what we have IS enough? If we trust in God’s abundance? Maybe, just maybe, everyone gets fed and we find ourselves transformed into the loving children of God, a people who never give up, a people assured of God’s love, who give that love freely to the world. Within each of us lies untapped and overlooked potential. We may not see it ourselves, but God can see it. And with God, nothing becomes something – God sees abundance where we only see scarcity – and the impossible becomes possible. Let us put our hope and trust in God, an active trust that God will give us the strength and wisdom we need for our ministry, that we need to make a difference in this world.
Rev. Ken Arthur
Note: This reflection is inspired by the sermon, “God’s Abundance,” from August 2, 2020. This and other sermons can be heard at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.