Sleep on This: The Bread Chronicles‚Äîscarcity (May 7)
Good evening, friend!
In support of my nascent bread-baking career, I went searching again yesterday for a dough scraper.
It’s just a wedge of silicone that you use to scrape clean the insides of your mixing bowl. (I borrowed one for the loaves I baked earlier this week and found it quite handy.) But even my beloved Ace Hardware failed me on this count: they are nowhere to be found—along with bread flour and yeast (and certain bathroom accoutrements that seem indelicate to mention in the same list.)
Unless you have visited a communist country (which I did—East Berlin in 1985), you may never have seen empty store shelves. We are unaccustomed to scarcity. It is antithetical to our American self-image. Shortages are something that happen somewhere else. We who buy our paper products by the ton are unused to being told, “Sorry, we’re out!” Yet now, we leave the store grasping our single carton of eggs with an air of triumph (especially if we didn’t have to pony up an extra $3 for organic, the only ones left!)
Here’s a Bible quiz for you. Aside from the resurrection, what is the only miracle found in all four gospels? Answer? The feeding of 5,000 men and their families. That is fascinating to me. Why THAT miracle? Why not the raising of Lazarus or the healing of a leper or walking on water? All of those seem more spectacular; a little less—mundane. I usually don’t even take pilgrims to the traditional site of this miracle because, well…it’s kind of boring.
Unless you were one of the 20,000 who lost track of time because you were engrossed in the teaching of this rabbi, had under-packed your picnic basket and were now starving. Then, you’d be more interested in food. We are told that all the disciples could scrounge up was five barley loaves and two little fish. John’s account adds that this was the sack lunch proffered by a little boy—enough to sustain an eight-year-old—but no more.
Yet Jesus took it, blessed it, and distributed it. And miraculously, everyone ate as “as much as they wanted.” In fact, there were enough leftovers to fill twelve baskets, a parting gift for each of the (still and always) dubious disciples.
There are at least two relevant lessons for our present moment. First, the supremely important reminder that Jesus provides for all the needs of his children. If you keep forgetting that—keep reverting to an anxious review of your assets—you are in good company. So did the Jews in the wilderness, even though God provided daily manna from heaven. And so did these very disciples, apparently! Because Matthew and Mark have ANOTHER miraculous feeding of a different multitude a few pages after the first. And by that time, the disciples had ALREADY forgotten what Jesus had done the first time. Sheesh, we have short memories. Jesus…takes…care…of…his…own!
Here’s the other point worth grasping: we won’t have scarcity if we share instead of hoard. I know, duh. But really, if instead of picking the shelves dry like a hoard of locusts, we bought only what we needed—and if instead of locking our flour in the gun safe, we shared a scoop—not only would we have more than enough, we would make more friends. The most valuable commodity in a time of “scarcity.”
Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, will you in these hours of rest purge from me my avarice and fear. Make me more trusting of you and more generous with my neighbor. Forgive me for my scarcity mentality and restore to me the confidence in your generous and faithful provision. Amen.