For Monday of Thanksgiving week, I’m sharing some narrative biblical snapshots of the many ways in which God answers the human fear of scarcity with the sacred promise of abundance. For some great extended reading and reflection, I highly recommend Walter Bruggemann’s “The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity.” Blessings as you practice gratitude this week, and “witness to the manna” of all God is doing in our lives, our families, and our congregations.
The people of God wandered in the desert. They called out to Moses, “Take us back. We are hot and thirsty, and we’d rather be slaves where there’s water. Did you bring us here to die?” Moses answered, “Didn’t the Lord provide bread for us in the wilderness?” They answered, “It’s not enough.” So Moses took his staff, and broke open a rock; and water poured out in the desert. And God said, “Look…there’s plenty.”
The Israelites wandered in the wilderness. The prophet said, ‘repent! Lay down your false idols. Our God all you need.’ And the people said, ‘look at all this wasteland. Look how far we’ve left to go. Surely, one guide, one provider will never be enough.” But God showed up…Again. And God said… “I Am plenty.”
Jesus took his mother to a wedding. The feast was laid, the songs were played, and there was great rejoicing. Just in time for the toast, the groom went to pour a glass of wine…but it was empty. And Mary said, “Jesus…fix this.” And he said, “mother, what concern is it of mine? I can fill that glass. I can show them an endless flow of blessing, and it’s not enough. It will never be enough. They will always want more.” And Mary said… “Do it anyway. Show them what mercy looks like. Show them what you can do.” And there was plenty.
Then Jesus stood on a hilltop, speaking to the masses…It was the biggest crowd yet. It was getting late, and people were restless and hungry. The disciples said, ‘you have to send these people home before dinnertime, or else WE’LL have to feed them.” And Jesus said, “You know…that’s not a bad idea.YOU give them something to eat.” All they found was a small boy with a piece of bread, a few small fish. And they said, “it’s not enough. It will never be enough.” But Jesus said, “I bet you it’s plenty.”
*The church group travelled south to Mexico, to encounter real need in the world; they went to see what poverty does to distort God’s creative intention of plenty—and to counter that scarcity, bearing witness to the love of Christ. They called for a truckload of food to be delivered, so that they could distribute bags of staples… flour and rice; beans and tomatoes; the simplest of things. The truck arrived, and it looked HUGE—it looked like enough to feed the whole world… Until the whole world showed up.The church people looked at that long, long line of hungry people, who’d come to be fed…who they’d invited! And they looked back to their food supply and said, “it’s not enough. It will never be enough!” But…somehow, there was plenty.
The family gathered for the obligatory Thanksgiving potluck. The sisters were angry over some hurtful word, flung about the table some holiday past, long forgotten in detail but powerful still in presence; the brothers were wishing for football, and post-turkey sleep; the mother stewed in sheer anticipation over the excuses they would all produce to miss Christmas. And over it all…over this whole tableau hung a deep sadness; it hovered around the empty chair at the head of the table, and made the air a little thicker, harder to breathe. “But we are here,” they said. “We are here anyway.” “It’s not enough,” the mother sighed to herself. “It will never be enough again.” But the casseroles came out of the oven. The oldest son found his father’s old carving knife. The kids’ table erupted in laughter, as the cranberry sauce mysteriously got knocked over, onto the construction paper turkeys. And somehow…somehow, it was all enough. Just enough.
There was bread on the table, when they gathered. And Jesus blessed it, and broke it, and told his disciples that he was going to have to leave them. He was going, and they would have to step into that void now, between Pharoah’s frightful scarcity, and God’s great abundance. He shared the bread and cup with them, and told them that it would sustain them for all eternity. They looked at him, unbelieving, and they said… “but it’s not enough. After you, it will never be enough.” Jesus looked at them and said, “Take. Eat. There’s plenty.”