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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 14:13–21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (NRSV)

Having worked in the nonprofit sector for almost ten years, I’m very familiar with the feeling of not having enough to share. When I operated a soup kitchen, I remember having to cut our morning pastries a little smaller or fill up the coffee cups a little less when we had a higher-than-expected attendance at 8:30 on a Tuesday morning.

Even now, though our Social Service Center receives generous donations of food, clothing, and hygiene items, the demands often exceed the supply. We have had an increasing number of days where we see more than fifty individuals coming through our doors, asking for things to meet basic needs, things that every human should have access to on a regular basis.

The days can get hectic, and sometimes compromise or another agency referral is the best we can provide. However, at the core of our service is engaging with guests and acknowledging the dignity and respect each person deserves.

The genuine relationships we build not only address our guests’ basic needs but go far beyond in feeding our community’s spirit with acceptance and hope.

Today’s scripture is one of the most iconic stories about Jesus’ miraculous ministry and one with the most varied interpretations. Theologians often cite the idea that Jesus did not miraculously create more loaves and fishes out of thin air.

Instead, as Jesus and his disciples shared the baskets they had with the crowds, the crowds in return shared with one another. They found compassion and community among themselves to share more with their neighbors in need. We as a society can follow this example and share the smallest abundance we have with those who have nothing to share in return. We can be disciples to one another, and share much more than we ever thought possible.

Christ, your blessings are abundant, and you model a true sense of generosity to all who follow you. Guide me to take a little less and give a little more so all our sisters and brothers may be cared for and loved. Amen.

Written by Jackie Lorens Harris, Director, Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

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