Today's Lectionary Text
Matthew 14:19-20Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
I’m blessed to attend a United Methodist Church in the Great Plains Conference, and I’m blessed to attend a church in a town that also has a campus ministry program. Both Emporia State University and Emporia First United Methodist Church are blessed by the ministry of Rev. Kurt Cooper.
Last month, Kurt filled the pulpit at Emporia FUMC while our two senior pastors were celebrating an anniversary milestone. His message was on Matthew 14: 19-20.
Many people, Christian or not, know this story. It’s a miracle story. It’s the story of Jesus taking a small amount of food and providing meals for an entire crowd of people. As Rev. Cooper shared in his message, it’s the story of God taking something meager and turning it into abundance.
I’ve been at the Kansas Methodist Foundation for two years and was in the alumni and development world for 11 years prior. In my work, I’ve heard people share why their gift won’t matter. I’ve heard people say they aren’t the “right ones” to be talking to. They give me advice. “You really need to be talking to people with more money than me,” they say. “What good could my meager gift possibly make?”
Well, it depends. In the case above, an offering to God of merely five loaves and two fish not only fed a multitude of people but also created enough to generate leftovers. Why? Because God can take whatever we have and multiply it accordingly.
But the people I work with are smart. They know this story and they have faith, but they also know what things cost and how far their money may go. So, is this story practical or is it just a story?
I think this story is both practical and relevant. True, not every individual or family has the means to create their own endowment fund. But are we called to live independently? I don’t think so. Rather, we are called to live collectively. In fact, the Bible is written from a collectivist versus an individualist perspective*.
So, maybe we should be thinking more collectively. Maybe we should be thinking about how we can work together to pool our resources to make more impact. How much more can we do when we work together versus go it alone?
One of the ministries of the Kansas Methodist Foundation is to encourage churches to create long-term funds to support the ministries of their church. These funds are not given by one family or two families but are rather composed of many gifts from many individuals and families. One gift encourages another … and another … and another.
And what happens next? A loaf from one family, another loaf from a different family, and some more bread and fish from others combine to continue feeding the ministry of the church for generations to come.
This work takes vision.
This work takes intentionality.
This work takes faithful stewardship of God’s resources.
And this work takes all. Not just our most prosperous members but all of our members - all the people coming together to give what they can give. From there God will do the work to multiply those offerings.
There’s no such thing as a meager offering or a worthless gift. Every offering has worth and every gift has potential to produce good. While we are not called to do the part of others, we are called to do our part. And if we do, God will ensure our part leads to abundance for all. Amen.
-- Tyler Curtis
Director of development
Kansas Methodist Foundation
Prayer for Reflection
Provider God. Multiplier God. Abundant God. Thank you for the many blessings you have provided us. Teach us to understand all of our blessings - all of our resources - are yours. You are the provider. We are the stewards. Soften our hearts that we may utilize your resources to help your people. Remind us, God, to not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices you are pleased (Hebrews 13:16). Amen.
*For more on collectivism in the Bible, see "Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes: Patronage, Honor, and Shame in the Biblical World" by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James
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