A True Miracle of Loaves & Fishes

By The Reverend Tim Dunbar

We all know the story of Jesus’ miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes. Although the gospel accounts vary in the details, the big picture is no less stunning than Jesus walking on water or raising Lazarus from the dead. Thousands upon thousands of people were fed from the sharing of a few loaves and a handful of fish, with plentiful leftovers to boot. Theologians and biblical scholars point to this miracle as a sign of the abundant economy of God, and also a foretaste of the divine Feast of the Lamb that we will all share in when the Kingdom of God is fully ushered in. This theology, along with Christ’s words in Matthew 25 that, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me,” provides strong direction for participation in food drives like Metro Caring’s annual Loaves and Fishes collection.

This year, the Outreach Committee at Church of the Ascension in Denver decided to do something different. Spurred by our reading of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Crazy Christians, we decided to extend the invitation to participate beyond the four walls of our parish. How? We started by mapping out the number of homes within a two-block radius of the parish. The answer? 150. We then asked a neighborhood grocery store to donate 150 brown paper bags. Done. Next, we drafted a flyer that would be stapled to the top half of the bag. It read, “Church of the Ascension (6th and Gilpin) is holding a food drive to support Metro Caring. As Denver’s leading frontline hunger-prevention organization, Metro Caring meets people’s immediate need for food while also sustainably addressing the root causes of hunger and poverty. Will you help us with hunger relief?” The flyer included a suggested list of shopping items as well as a pickup date and time.

We were now ready to hit the streets.

On Sunday, July 24, we divided the bags among us and went for a walk, leaving the bags propped up against our neighbors’ front doors. I’ll admit, it took some of us out of our comfort zones. But that is precisely what Presiding Bishop Curry encourages us to do in Crazy Christians — leave our comfort zones and step out in faith to follow Jesus. Then we waited and prayed, hoping for at least a handful of bags to await pickup the following Sunday. After all, direct mail campaigns garner a response rate of less than 5%, and that was our closest point of comparison for this new adventure.

What happened the next Sunday was nothing short of a modern-day miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. 35 out of 150 neighbors left stocked-to-the-brim bags on their front porches, a participation rate of almost 25%. Combined with the donations from members of the parish, we delivered 533 pounds of food to Metro Caring. God be praised!

What did we learn? First, getting out of our comfort zone was actually kind of fun, and doing so allowed us to accomplish more than we could have imagined. Second, our neighbors are people of faith and good will. Church of the Ascension, along with the people whom Metro Caring serves, were blessed by the partnership of those 35 donors. Finally, miracles still happen. 20 centuries after the original miracle of loaves and fishes, God continues to stun us. Who knows? Soon we may be walking on water.

The Reverend Tim Dunbar serves as a Deacon at Church of the Ascension in Denver.