“Celebrating the New Abundance”
And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.
In the Gospel of Mark, in chapter 6, Jesus does one of his most impressive miracles, that is, a transformative event to exhibit the saving power of God that is present in and through his life. It is the narrative of feeding the five thousand people. Mark tells us that Jesus had gone with his disciples apart to pray, but huge crowds followed him. Jesus saw the crowds and reacted in kindness to them. He saw their need, and he was moved by compassion for them. He wanted to make their life better. First he taught them the good news of God’s generous love. And then he fed them … all five thousand of them.
The disciples didn’t understand, of course, and thought he couldn’t feed such a big crowd. So he took the five loaves and the two fish … that is one man’s lunch. He took what was there, but then he acted on what was there in his lordly, compassionate, generous way. He turns ordinary food into a sacramental sign of God’s massive goodness and generosity. Mark reports:
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. (Mark 6:41)
The words sound familiar, do they not? His prayer consists in the four big verbs of Holy Communion: “He took, he blessed, he broke, he gave.” Jesus takes the ordinary stuff of life in all its scarcity—two fish and five loaves—and transforms them into God’s self-giving generosity. The outcome was that “all ate and were filled” (v. 42). But that is not all: there were twelve baskets left over, enough bread for all the tribes of Israel.
The church—the disciples—are always a little slow, unwilling to learn what the new data of Jesus means, unwilling to recognize that the world is changed by Jesus, unable to act differently in the new world of Jesus. The disciples seem often to act as though Jesus did not really matter; they act as though the world were still bound in scarcity and anxiety and fearfulness and hoarding.
But let me tell you the news that is proclaimed in Christ’s coming, about which we are reminded at every Communion service: Jesus has turned the world into abundance. God is the gift who keeps on giving, and the people around Jesus are empowered to receive abundance and therefore to act generously.
Every day, all day: it’s still true! “He takes, he blesses, he breaks, he gives.” And we are astonished about the surplus. It is all there for those with eyes to see, with ears to hear, and with hearts to remember. We are recipients of enough and enough and more than enough, enough and enough and more than enough to share. And to be glad in this Giver who keeps on giving … endlessly.
God whose giving knows no end, make us glad recipients of your generosity. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to remember your abundance, that we might share it with the world. Amen.
Throughout Advent we invite you to join us as we prayerfully prepare for Christ’s coming at Christmas with daily readings from Walter Brueggemann’s Devotions for Advent: Celebrating Abundance. They will be posted here daily with permission from the author, but we invite you to click the link to order your own copy.