by Ed Sunday-Winters
As members and friends of Greensboro United Church of Christ, our mission is to love others the way God has loved us. Love like that will inevitably bring us into conflict with the economic systems that daily try to convince us that God has not supplied enough to meet the needs of God’s children. Sunday after Sunday, when we pray “Give us this day our daily bread” we’re not just praying for our bread for our tables, but bread for all tables and bread for homes that have no tables and bread for people who have no homes. When we pray “Give us this day our daily bread” we’re praying against all powers and principalities, corporations and conglomerations, presidents and preachers who want us to think that God has made a world where there is not enough for all of us.
Part of the reason that I believe there is enough for all of us, enough for all of God’s creation, is because of the times in my life and in the lives of others when I did not think I or they had enough. Times when I did not think I or they knew enough, times when I did not think there was enough faith, strength, or spirit, to face the moment at hand.
Have you ever had a moment like that? Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that there would not be enough of you to get through the situation, much less to have anything leftover at the end?
Maybe it was when something happened in your life that you had always thought only happened to other people. Something that shocked, surprised, and left you a bit numb.
2 Kings 4:42-44 tells the story of a situation that looks as if there will not be enough.
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, ‘Give it to the people and let them eat.’ But his servant said, ‘How can I set this before a hundred people?’ So he repeated, ‘Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, “They shall eat and have some left.” He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.
“They shall eat and have some left” has taken on a new layer of meaning for me in this last year.
My cousin, Big Eddie, was in a car wreck where everything was broken – back, ribs, and neck. He’s had two surgeries since, one on his neck, and one on his back. His younger sister and son are posting updates on Facebook. With each post a multitude of family and friends add their prayers that there would be enough, praying there will be some leftover.
The prayers and updates for my cousin Eddie are similar to the ones a few months ago for my uncle Mike and for my brother-in-law Cliff. The prayers and updates did not keep them from dying. Yet even in both those situations there was some left. They both know now what Paul meant when he wrote to the Philippians, “for to me living is Christ and dying is gain.” Those who grieve them most are discovering ways they never wanted to discover – the abundance of God’s presence in the depth of their grief. Finding enough. Taking the day and the nights an hour at a time. Discovering one painful step at a time that even when everything is lost, when the one who has been life and purpose and partner is no longer present, there is some left.
This summer at camp, singing Pass It On around the campfire, I thought of Miss Sally. She was my childrens’ choir director when I was in first grade. I could not remember her last name, but I could not forget that she was the one who taught me the words to that song in a church basement in Harriman Tennessee so many years ago:
It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That’s how it is with God’s Love,
Once you’ve experienced it,
Your spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.
That was 51 years ago. I believe those words now in ways that I could not imagine at the time I learned them. They are for me, truer now than they were then. So, I think about the number of times in my life when things did not go as planned, the number of times hard news has come our way, the number of times I was in a situation that I had thought would prove my faith, my resolve, my strength, insufficient. Yet somehow there’s always been enough, there’s always been some left.
None of us knows what tomorrow will bring. Whatever it brings for you I’m praying that there’s enough of God for you and for your moment. An abundance of grace, peace, love, and hope with some leftover.