Yesterday I listened to a colleague who was reflecting upon the story told in John 6:1-14 where Jesus fed the 5000+ people with the boy’s five loaves of bread and two fish. He compared the different responses of Philip and Andrew to the same challenge observed by the Miracle-maker in v.5-6:
“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”
(Note to self: Remember that both Philip and Andrew had drunk the wine that Jesus had made from the bath water at the wedding in Kana.)
Philip – probably a type A person – makes a quick analysis of the situation, checks the available petty cash and announces that it will take more than a man’s annual income to give everybody at this picnic something to eat. In layman’s terms: “It is impossible.” Another fellow mortal, Andrew – the background character who invited his big-mouth-brother Peter to meet Jesus at the beginning of this revolution – looks at the same conundrum but sees something else:
“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9)
Andrew sees a ‘little’ bit that could become enough when it is placed in the hands of the Miracle-maker. Here he passes the test that Jesus was putting to Philip. Actually when Jesus thanks his heavenly Father for providing the ‘little’ he turns it into more than what was needed to satisfy the crowd of people. But this is not where this lesson ends.
A bit later in the training of these twelve men, Jesus gives them the same test recorded in Mark 8:1-8 where there are 4000+ people who need to have a meal together:
“I feel sorry for these people. They have been with me for three days, and now they have nothing to eat. I should not send them home hungry. If they leave without eating, they will faint on the way home. Some of them live a long way from here.”
This time all of the disciples fail the test and Jesus needs to make the observation of the ‘little’ that they have in their possession in v.5:
“How many loaves of bread do you have?”
In this story they find seven loaves of bread and Jesus needs to repeat everything all over again. Why did Jesus do this? Did he perhaps expect his disciples to see the seven loaves and pray over it and see it multiply the same way that it did when he had asked his (our) heavenly Father to bless it? Did Jesus expect that they would recognise the fact that he was still the Miracle-maker and at least have enough faith in him to multiply the seven loaves like before?
I don’t think there is a single right answer to these questions. I do think however that the repetition implies that Jesus was expecting them (and me) to recognise what he was modelling here.
Do I see the need in…(complete the sentence with your own challenges at the moment)…the world/my immediate family/my job etc…like Philip who frantically wanted to make a plan with his own and God-limiting understanding? Or do I see my current crisis like Andrew did who used his human eyes to find something that he could entrust into the safe and super-natural hands of Jesus?
Today, I want to introduce another voice on the spirituality of fund-raising namely that of well-known author Henri Nouwen. I have in my possession* an eight page unedited transcript of a talk** given by him to the Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Service Foundation held on 16 September 1992. I would like to share it with you in tiny bits over the next few weeks.
“I must say at the outset that fund-raising is a subject I seldom speak about. But I was invited to say a few words about it to the directors and some of the board members of L’Arche, and that it is how I came to talk to you about it.
In a way the whole subject came up in our community because quite often, fund-raising is something that happens as a response to a crisis – you don’t have enough money – you’re in trouble somewhere, and so you say, “We need some money, how are we going to get it, we have to start asking for it.” And suddenly you realise that you aren’t used to doing this, and you feel awkward about it, and you feel a little embarrassed about it. So you start thinking: “Gosh, how do you do that?” It’s interesting that most people I have spoken to about fund-raising feel somewhat uneasy with the idea that they have to go out and ask for money.
By a way of introduction, I want to say that fund-raising, if you think about it from the perspective of the Gospel, is not a response to a crisis. Fund-raising is first of all, a form of ministry. It is a way of announcing your vision, and inviting other people into your vision with the resources that are available to them.
Fund-raising is proclaiming what you believe in and proclaiming it in such a way that you offer the other person an opportunity to participate in your vision. So it is precisely the opposite of begging. It’s not saying, “Please, we have a problem, could you help us out because lately it’s been hard.”
It’s saying, “We have a vision that is so exciting that we are giving you the opportunity to participate in that vision with the resources that God has given you.”
Today both Francois and I received out formal letters of invitation to serve in our distinctive roles in the field office of OM South Africa. More details about this to follow later. Consequently, we are both so excited about the vision that the Lord has entrusted to us through this opportunity for the next two years. May He reveal something fresh and challenging in your own life today, which you can place in his hands and see it multiply to His glory and also invite others to participate together with you?
*I have no idea who gave this to me but I am so grateful!
**reprinted with the generous permission of L’Arche Canada Foundation