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‘The Little that Becomes Much’
From scarcity to abundance
By Monroe Saunders Jr.
This article originally appeared in the September 2010 Newsletter.
While pondering the issue of our faith and its connection to the condition of hunger, I was drawn to Mark’s gospel and the feeding of the 5,000:
“Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them …. Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it is already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.’ But Jesus said, ‘You feed them’” (Mark 6:34-37).
There are times in our lives that we become overwhelmed with challenges that confront us in areas we feel so inadequate. The prospect of attending to what appears to be impossible often leads us to dismiss our opportunities to minister to the needs of others.
We make the assessment based on time, place, scope of need, and lack of personal resources that we cannot help the hungry masses we encounter in the course of doing ministry.
We are quick to minister the Word, but we are not prepared to minister food to those around the world who, weakened through hunger, are not able to nourish themselves in a “remote place in the evening” of the day. Many people find themselves detached from marketplaces, and in too many cases they have not the resources or the physical strength to get the food they need.
Too many others are ready to dismiss the hungry and impoverished as problems they are not prepared to handle. Without genuine compassion, there can be no real capacity to serve holistically the needs of people.
There are times when we become overwhelmed by the situations of need that present themselves to us. During those times, we must turn from calculating the realities to increasing our faith. Impossible challenge affords opportunity for faith development. The disciples, who appeared to be concerned for the people who had traveled far and who had no provisions, were told, “You feed them.” We must at times stretch our perceptions of lack—and lift them beyond ourselves to the One who can make our little into more than enough.
Some months ago, I wrote in an article that “[T]here is a dimension of life and being that we are to discover and grow in .… It is a place where spiritual continuity intercepts the incongruity of present circumstance and exposes us to the heart of God. At this place, we find sacred essence revealing itself to us even as we wrestle for meaning and understanding of the what, the why, and the how. The sacred becomes more pronounced through dilemma. We become more like the Holy when we come to grips with the fact that God’s grace is the true essence of who and what we are to be. Our work is to surrender the urge of self-interest to the operation of the Holy Spirit within us.”
We have more than enough to eliminate world hunger, but we must replace indifference with compassion and re-assess our personal capacity to serve the needs of the world by presenting our perceived little into the hands of him who makes “little, much!”
Monroe Saunders Jr. is presiding bishop of the United Church of Jesus Christ (Apostolic).