Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Five loaves, two fish

While reading through some passages in the Bible's book of Matthew, I got stuck on Matthew 14:13-21, the story that inspired our project's name and the pendants that each of us were given at our house blessing earlier this year (picture below).

In the story, Jesus seeks some time alone to process the violent death of his friend John. He goes away to a secluded spot, only to be followed by crowds of people who need healing. Jesus is moved in his gut with compassion when he sees the people, and cares for them physically and emotionally. It starts getting late, and the disciples get anxious. Being practical thinkers, they want to send the crowds away so the people can get something to eat. Jesus responds that the disciples should feed them. He takes the 5 loaves of bread and the two fish that the disciples have on hand, gives thanks for it, and passes it back to his probably incredulous followers. Then the disciples take this meager portion and distribute it out to well over 5,000 people. Afterward, they have to use twelve baskets to collect the abundant leftovers from the meal.

Two weeks ago, all of us interns underwent a couple of particularly stressful days. It was a time defined by worry about our project's future and its success, a time when our inadequacies and limitations became apparent. So for the past two weeks, I remained with this story, returning and finding new meaning in it.

What continues to strike me is that Jesus accepts scarcity, he even asks for it. He doesn't try to solve it by sending the people away. Nor does he ignore the people's need, continuing healing despite everyone's hunger. He accepts the poverty of what is offered, gives thanks for what he receives, and then gives the meager food back to the disciples to distribute, now transformed into abundance. This chain of giving and receiving - giving to God, giving thanks, then receiving back from God - seems so relevant to our project here.

Such an abundance of vegetables grow here, and yet I think we still feel the squeeze of scarcity. We interns are often poor in terms of our time, our finances, and just our ability to be up-to-par as new farmers in terms of production, knowledge, and skills! How will these things, our five loaves and two fish, become enough for hundreds beyond our imagining? How can we name our scarcity before God and others, and, I wonder, what will its transformation into abundance look like?


  1. The squeese of scarcity is such a descriptive phrase. As an Adult Child, I wrestle with this much of the time. It is valuable to name, understand and embrace this concept, envisioning the "cattle on a thousand hills"
    and the feeding of the five thousand as you mentioned. What a gem you have addressed here.