Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. – John 6:11
This is one of my favorite times of the year, when the tables at the Public Market are piled high with vegetables of all colors. My garden is showing off every day by giving us more zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes, than we ever imagined when we put those tiny seedlings in the ground in spring. I even saw on Facebook that this is “National Leave a Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch When They’re Not Looking Month.” Our family is part of a CSA, a Community Supported Agriculture cooperative. We buy a share at a local farm, paying in advance, then each week go to pick up locally grown vegetables and fruit. It’s wonderful in so many ways. We never have a shortage of fruits and vegetables in our house! We’ve discovered new veggies we never even knew existed, and have found new recipes and new favorite foods. But the best part is coming home on CSA day with bags and baskets brimming with the most beautiful vegetables. I love to spread out our haul on the counter and just see the variety, the colors, and the abundance.
Abundance is one of those words we use when we see food laden table surrounded by family and friends. Abundance may be what comes to mind when we walk through the farmers’ market and see table after table filled with produce. When we drove through Iowa and Nebraska last summer and saw cornfields stretching from horizon to horizon in every direction, the word abundance kept coming to mind. We may think abundance when we’re thinking about food. But when was the last time you thought about abundance and the church?
If you’ve scanned the internet for articles about churches lately, you’re bound to find plenty of them on church decline – doom and gloom articles about dropping numbers, fewer members, lack of funds, and congregations closing their doors. It’s quite depressing. And it causes a lot of fear, especially for those of us for whom the church has been a significant part of our lives and is very close to our hearts.
Even in our own congregation we acknowledge that we
may not have everything we would like. Our finances are a challenge. Attendance isn’t what it was years ago. And we may begin to live in fear that our beloved congregation will become another one of those internet statistics about churches struggling and simply fading away. It’s way too easy to look around and see the scarcity that surrounds us and begin to think that we need to protect what we have, reign in our outreach, start to save for a rainy day, and learn to do ministry more frugally.
But then we hear about Jesus holding up a miniscule basket of a few small loaves of bread and fish, and giving thanks. He gave thanks! How often do we hold up our meager resources and rather than giving thanks, bemoan that there’s so little? How often do we look around and see scarcity, missing the abundance that fills our lives? We have all been given so very much! Time, resources, creativity, talents, relationships, energy, and the list goes on and on. We live surrounded by great abundance! Even if what we have looks like just a few loaves and fish, in God’s hands, it is treasure! It is an endless feast! It is abundance!
My prayer is that as we look at the challenges that face us as the Church, we will look at what we have been given by a gracious God who never stops giving. Our congregation’s ministry touches so many – within our walls, in our community, and around the world. We are filled with amazing abundance. Our pews are filled with creative, generous, caring people. Our ministry is filled with ever changing ways of loving, giving, feeding, providing, learning, and sharing. We are truly a community of abundance!
I encourage all of us to take time to give thanks. To hold up the gifts God has given each of us, even if they seem meager to us, and simply say thank you. Then let go. Share those gifts. Share your time, your creativity, your energy, your resources. Then you will see the abundance! Then you will see that in God’s hands, even the tiniest gifts become more than enough for a multitude!
Enjoy the abundance of this beautiful season!