Signposts: Daily Devotions

Sunday, September 21

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
—Matthew 14: 15–16

This is part of the familiar story of Jesus’ feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. It is so familiar that perhaps we’ve never stopped to ask: what does this miracle mean in my life?  After all, Jesus was the one performing the miracle. I appreciate it and am impressed, but I could never do something like that.

Barbara Brown Taylor, one of America’s greatest preachers and writers, takes a different tack. “The problem with miracles,” she writes, “is that we tend to get mesmerized by them, focusing on God’s responsibility and forgetting our own. Miracles let us off the hook. They appeal to the part of us that is all too happy to let God feed the crowd, save the world, do it all.”

Taylor says there may have been something else going on, something that the disciples did that contributed to the miracle. They brought their bread and their fish, as meager as that little seemed, and gave it to Jesus. The rest is history.

“Stop looking for someone else to solve the problem and solve it yourselves,” Taylor writes. “Stop waiting for food to fall from the sky, and share what you have. Stop waiting for a miracle and participate in one instead.”

“Participate in one instead!” Three years ago, as I read the stories following Hurricane Katrina, and listened to reports of people giving what they had to help others, I knew what Taylor was talking about. Thousands of volunteers, millions of dollars, caravans of hope: people in our country and people from around the world creating miracles. 

Almighty and most merciful God, give us grace, courage, and wisdom to be your hands, your voice, and your spirit in the world around us. Amen.

The Signposts for September are written by Margaret Jones and originally appeared on explorefaith in 2005.