The idea for this summertime emphasis comes from St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Granby, Colorado, where my family and I have worshiped from time to time. They realized that donations of food and funds to fight hunger drop during the summer months while people are on vacation. Yet hunger never takes a vacation! Therefore, this is an important time of year to ask people to be mindful of our Lord's call to feed the hungry.
Our three-year Revised Common Lectionary includes the story of the Loaves and Fishes as told by Matthew in Year A and as told by John in Year B. However, for some reason, Luke's version (Luke 9:10-17) is skipped in Year C. So, in order to set this up as an annual emphasis, I petitioned the Bishop of Kansas to allow us to use the story of the Loaves and Fishes from the Gospel of Luke instead of the Gospel reading appointed in the lectionary for this Sunday.
The story of the Loaves and Fishes is the only miracle story that is recounted in all four of the Gospels and it carries a powerful message. Here's the gist of it:
• The disciples come to Jesus with a problem - the people need food.
• Jesus told them, "You give them something to eat."
• The disciples protest that there isn't enough food.
• Jesus told them to "Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each."
• Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, blessed and broke them, then gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
• All ate and were filled.
• There were twelve baskets of leftovers.
The lesson: When we place what seems not enough in the hands of Jesus, he transforms scarcity into abundance to fulfill his mission.
We place our contribution and our commitment into the hands of Christ. He adds his blessing and returns them to our hands, multiplied, so we can carry out his mission. Recognition of our inadequacy is the first step, but never the last. That recognition reminds us that God's work is always humanly impossible and prompts us to trust him to add everything needed to make us adequate to the task. Without him we can do nothing!
So, on Loaves and Fishes Sunday, we are aware of the immensity of the problem of hunger in the world, in our nation, and in our community. It is overwhelming to realize that in 3.8 million U.S. households, (3.5 percent of all U.S. households) one or more household members were hungry at least some time during the year because they could not afford enough food. We feel inadequate to even make a dent in the problem, Jesus. And yet he says, "You give them something to eat." So we bring what we have - food from our pantries, funds from our pockets, the work of our hands - and give it to him. He will take it, break it, bless it, and give it back to us to share, with the promise that because it is his work that is being done, there will be more than enough.
Let's try it and see what happens.