Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You Feed Them

My wife and I have both been working our way through 2nd Kings in our devotional times lately, and happened upon a great series of stories about the prophet Elisha, which parallel in some ways many of the miracles of Christ (although His decidedly out-class Elisha's). One in particular, which I don't think I had noticed before, was a miracle in which he makes 20 loaves of bread feed 100 men. (2 Kings 4:42-44) Not quite as impressive as Jesus feeding first 5,000 (Mark 6:34-44) and then 4,000 (Mark 8:1-13) with much smaller initial quantities. And let's remember, that's only 5000 guys that were counted. We don't get a count of the women and children, though we're told they are there. So figure more like 8K and 10K people. So Jesus' miracle is 1000 times more awesome than Elisha's, which it should be, But it is interesting as one looks to recurring patterns in Scripture, and what they tell us about the nature of God.

Depending on which version of the 5,000 story you read, you get various sources for the food. Some say it was a small boy, others just say the disciples have it collected somehow. Probably, one eye witness missed the boy, the other saw him. Anyway, this kid offers five loaves and two fish. And that doesn't seem like it would make it around the table at home, much less to a multi-thousand crowd. But as the story goes, Jesus makes it work, in such miraculous portions that folks can take home doggie bags of leftovers.

If you're familiar with the accounts of this miracle, it can get easy to gloss over it as one more story about Christ's power over the elements of nature. But don't miss the crucial detail of this incident... Jesus puts the initiative into the disciples' hands. He doesn't just pray to God and call down bread from heaven to feed the people, as God did for the Israelites in Exodus 16. He doesn't summon fish to jump out of the sea, which He seems to do for the fishermen to get their attention time and again (Luke 5:1-11, John 21:1-14). He says “You give them something to eat.” Tough words, especially since the disciples are the ones raising the concern to Him in the first place. You can almost hear their minds whirring and clicking with that one... ”Us? Feed them? Uh, Jesus, we haven't done that one yet. Yes, we cast out demons in Your Name, and even healed some sick people, but you haven't taught us how to feed people. Maybe you could show us how that one works next?” But nevertheless, despite the possible misgivings of the disciples, they come up with the food, and then the miracle begins.

Recently, our church has been partnering with a local ministry know as Gleaners Dispatch, or simply the Gleaners. This ministry does a lot in the way of food distribution in the area, from bread and produce on Monday afternoons, to Wednesday night dinners that are currently feeding upwards of 200 people each week, both up at the Nassau County Fairgrounds. (When they started this past May, they had 50 coming to the dinner. You do the math.) This ministry is a incredible benefit to our area during these hard economic times. Our work with them in June was an amazing time for all parties. And although we are not “officially” partnering with the dinners at the moment, I know several of our members have continued to help serve on Wednesdays, and we're considering some additional financial backing.

But let me tie back into the Scripture here. We pray for the economy. We pray for people's jobs. We pray for those who are unemployed, and we ask God to provide for them. And although He has been known to echo the miracles of Exodus, bringing food out of thin air for people who are earnestly in need, most often He calls to us as He once did to the disciples: “You feed them.”

It can be overwhelming to consider the needs in our community, especially as this downturn flows out to further and further layers of our population. And we look at the masses gathered before the table, and look at our meager food stores, and turn to Jesus and ask how. But if you are willing to offer what little you have, a few dollars, an hour of your time, a home cooked dish, then you will be amazed at how far Jesus can make that little bit go.

It doesn't take great acts of heroism to show Christ's love. Sometimes, all you have is a dinner-for-one to offer. But if you submit those things to Him, whether through ministries like the Gleaners, or our food pantry and contingency funds, or other outlets, then He can do great things with them. If you'd like some more information on these ministries, let me know. But I strongly encourage you, if you have something to give, even if it's only a little, offer it to Christ. It could feed 10, 200, or 10,000. But it will, as we pray during the offering, be more in His Hands than it could ever be in ours.