By Caitlin White
Communications, First Presbyterian Church
On August 29, 2005, I remember watching the news with my parents and learning that Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Soon we understood that one of the most destructive natural disasters in our nation’s history had occurred. Just a few hours from me, the flooding leveled whole neighborhoods in New Orleans and swept away charming coastal towns. Families were forced to find new lives in strange cities, and my school welcomed students who had lost their homes in the storm.
As I grew older, I made friends whose lives were forever changed by Hurricane Katrina, and I was able to help with the rebuilding effort on several trips to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans. For me, these beautiful beaches and historic city are made even more remarkable by the stories of families, schools, and churches that faced tremendous hardship and together returned and rebuilt.
For instance, Trina Davis was born and raised in New Orleans and owned a hair salon there before the storm. She had always enjoyed arts and crafts in her spare time, so when she returned after the evacuation to find her old neighborhood in ruins, she found a creative way to respond to the brokenness of her hometown. With her son Max, she began collecting broken bits of glass, nails, wire, and keys from the debris, and together they transformed these pieces of trash into beautiful mosaic windows. Now her salon also serves as an art gallery, and their work serves as an inspiration to their neighbors.
When I consider the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, I am reminded of spirits like Trina’s who are able to see abundance and possibility when others are overcome by scarcity and fear. All that was needed for a miracle were little pieces, just a few loaves and fish. Jesus can take these blessed, broken pieces and transform them into something more than they are.
Sure, he could have probably created a huge feast before the disciples’ eyes, shocking everyone watching with his power and skill. Yet, for Jesus, the magic is in the sharing. He invited his followers to offer what limited means they had and take part in joyful giving and the fullness of God’s grace. Likewise, we are reminded at tables of fellowship with friends and family, at tables laid out in welcome for those in need, and, most of all, at the Communion table that the broken pieces of ourselves are sufficient, blessed, and necessary for the modern-day miracles of God.
Prayer: Generous and infinite God, just as you brought the universe into existence, so you formed each of us as your unique and beloved children. You provide all things and all possibilities. Yet, we confess that we covet and complain, failing to appreciate your bountiful blessings. Teach us your mercy, justice and creativity. Open our minds to the limitlessness of your grace and goodness, and help us to share your abundance with those in need, through Jesus Christ our Lord who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1. When are we like the disciples, unwilling to share what we have for fear that there is not enough for everyone to enjoy?
2. What do you have to offer, no matter how little, that might fill a need in someone’s life, in your community, or in your church?
3. What areas –perhaps socially, financially, or spiritually- have you discovered surprising abundance when you were previously convinced of scarcity?