The speaker stepped up to the podium and said to his audience, “How many of you believe in climate change?” A goodly number of hands went up. He then said, “I do not believe in climate change”. A hush fell over the audience; some gasps of disbelief were heard along with sounds of anxious shifting in the seats. How could this be? The speaker was Rear Admiral David W. Titley, USN (Retired). He has a Ph.D., teaches at Pennsylvania State University, and is the founding director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk. He went on to explain that he does not believe in climate change because climate change is not a religion, it is not a belief system. However what he does trust, and believes to be true, is the ever increasing data and mounting evidence indicating the reality of climate change. He then in a very quiet and systematic way laid out before us piece after piece of data consisting of measurements, statistics and graphs to make his point. The mounting evidence was overwhelming and, when one thinks about it, very disturbing, even frightening.
Therein lays the reason why there are people who do not think about climate change; simply because it is so huge.
They say, “What can I do? Besides I have other things to think about, like making a living and caring for a family.” To think about climate change is overwhelming and frightening. The thought of it makes people feel powerless and anxious. Therefore they do nothing because they think they can do nothing. It is just too big a problem.
Flash back 20 centuries ago to the scene of a teacher out in the countryside with a multitude of people who were hungry and needed to be fed. The hour was late. Jesus told the disciples to feed the people, but they protested, saying, “We do not have enough money to buy bread for all these people.” Jesus asked what food was available. John’s Gospel tells us there was a shepherd boy with five loaves and two fish. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, blessed and broke the loaves giving it to the disciples to distribute to the people. When the people were done eating, they collected what remained which was 12 baskets of leftovers after feeding 5000 men, women and children.
The text is often referred to as the miracle of the multiplying the loaves and fishes.
Could Jesus have actually multiplied the loaves and the fish? I have no doubt that the Lord can do astounding things. In thinking about this text I have found helpful the work of William Barkley in his commentary on John. He points out that people would not have gone a goodly distance into the country without taking some provisions with them. However they might have been reluctant to bring out from undercover what they had, fearing that there was not enough to feed so many and that they themselves could go hungry. The distribution of the five loaves and two fish may have moved them to share. Barclay says,” It may be that this is a miracle in which the presence of Jesus turned a crowd of selfish men and women into a fellowship of sharers. It may be that this story represents the biggest miracle of all – one that changed not loaves and fishes, but men and women.”
Whatever it was that happened, it must have been an important story to early church since it is recorded in all four gospels.
Is it a stretch to go from the account of five loaves and two fish to the urgent matter of climate change? In both cases there is the feeling that as individuals we are powerless in the face of a such a huge problem. What could we possibly do?
The story speaks to us in a time when many people are feeling fearful, powerless and overwhelmed. The problem is too big and complicate for us to do anything. Over and against that is the story of a shepherd boy who brings forward what he has, it is shared, and the people are moved to do likewise.
Fear and feelings of powerlessness shut us down. Opening up and offering what we have allows God to do great things with our little offering, greater things than we could ever imagine.
We all have skills, we all have intelligence. We all have gifts. Offer up what you have. Do what you can do. With the blessing of the Lord it can be more than you realize.
In fear we are overwhelmed and we close in on ourselves. In faith we are given strength to act, even if it is nothing more than five loaves and two fish.