In the New Testament story of how Jesus used a small boy’s lunch to miraculously feed a multitude of more than 5,000, the audience has a fairly passive role: sit down and eat. They performed well; all four of the Gospel writers report that “they all ate and were satisfied.”
That nothing be lost
It is a remarkable story, and one that speaks of God’s abundant care for every person, in even our mundane daily needs.
But look what happens next, as it is told in the Gospel of John: “When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost” (John 6:12, KJV). Having graciously provided for their hunger, Jesus now invites His followers and all of the crowd to be part of the next part of the story.
“Gather up the fragments,” He says. The leftovers, the crumbs, that which might otherwise be lost. Just when people were thinking of taking an after-lunch nap, Jesus has other ideas. “It’s not the end of the story,” He seems to be saying. “Your part is just beginning. Get up, and make sure that nothing is lost—that even the smallest fragments are saved.”
Four months into this wretched pandemic, I know of no one who is satisfied with how things are going. The battle against COVID-19 is long and difficult and not even close to being won. As fatigue sets in, as frustration mounts and the task seems impossible, it is important to recognize the way in which God has strengthened us, blessed us, and provided for us. We know how dependent we are upon His grace and protection.
It is at this moment that the words of Jesus, spoken over the results of His miraculous intervention for a hungry multitude, suddenly take on new relevance and urgency: “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”
The standard of divine love is that nothing be lost. Every life, every person, every situation, every need, every day, every time—this is what our mission demands of us. I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating: This is our most sacred responsibility—that people trust us with their lives. Nothing—nothing—can set that aside. This is the foundation of healthcare. This is the foundation of our society. It is elemental.
God’s love leaves no one outside of providential care. We have seen what happens when there is inequity in the access and delivery of healthcare. This is not the future we choose. There are those who would make some persons more expendable than others, who would allow privilege and position to determine our policies and our response. Our mission is clear: “We extend God’s care through the ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing.” There is no higher standard than the one that has been set through divine love and that Jesus was affirming when He insisted that “nothing be lost.”
It is our highest privilege and responsibility to be fully engaged in extending God’s care to those we serve. May our prayer be for clarity, strength, and persistence in this task and calling—because the circumstances and our mission insist on nothing less.