BIBLICAL REFLECTION

BIBLICAL REFLECTION – A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO SCRIPTURE ENGAGEMENT

INTRODUCTION

It has been an oft repeated tradition in the Bible Society of India to talk about Resource Mobilization merely as raising of funds. It has been also the practice to recognise the Auxiliary or the people who have been able to raise the maximum funds for the Bible cause. This is often termed as reaching the target set in the Budget workshops year by year. This way of limiting the understanding of Resource Mobilization only as raising of funds undermines the deeper and wider connotation of the phrase Resource Mobilization. Scripture Engagement does not happen only with money. Money is needed and that is a proven fact to continuously engage in God’s Mission. But when undue importance is given to money as if without money there is no way of moving forward, then we are diluting the content of Resource Mobilization. Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China and his words are very inspiring “God’s Work done in God’s Way will never lack God’s Provision”. So our needs in terms of finances will be provided for by God when God’s Work is done in God’s Way. However, Scripture Engagement in order to be holistic needs a holistic understanding of Resource Mobilization. If this is so, then Resource Mobilization should include TIME, TALENT AND TREASURE. The Director General of the United Bible Societies, MR.MICHAEL PERREAU often emphasises the above in his speeches. We need TIME of people who can be available to meet with readers to engage with the Bible and to let the Bible engage with the readers. We need TALENT of people to make the Scripture come alive and relevant to our times and needs. Preaching is not the only way to Scripture Engagement. There are other number of ways which can be employed by people‘s talents which would make the Scripture come alive. Of course we need TREASURE as well to support Sciripture Engagement. Therefore Resource Mobilization should not be limited only to money but rather it should include TIME, TALENT AND TREASURE.Thus Resource Mobilization is a holistic concept.This truth is known visibly in the Johannine account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand as recorded in John 6:1-15.

A. The Johannine Account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

There were times when Jesus wanted to withdraw from the crowd to be himself. He was under continuous strain and needed rest. Moreover, Jesus would have intentionally left the disciples alone so that they could discover the deeper implications of Jesus himself and his teachings. He also must have felt he needed time for prayer and also to avoid conflict with the enemies who were determined to eliminate Jesus. But what is significant is Jesus in the midst of his own particular context of withdrawal feels for the large number of people who were coming to him. It was the time of the Passover and many would have been on their way to Jerusalem. Seeing the crowd, Jesus’s compassion was kindled. Jesus felt the need of the people, that they were hungry and must be fed.Jesus turns to Philip because he was from Bethsaida and he would have local knowledge. Jesus asks him where food could be got to feed the crowd. Philip’s answer was not helpful. Then Andrew appears on the scene with an answer which became a solution to the problem. He had discovered a lad with five barley and two little fishes. The boy did not have much. He had barley bread, which was the cheapest of all bread and was held in contempt and the barley bread was the bread of the very poor. The fishes would be no bigger than sardines. They were caught and pickled and made into a kind of savoury. The boy had his little pickled fish to help eat the dry barley bread. Jesus told the disciples to make the people sit down. He took the loaves and the fishes and he blessed them.When the disciples had eaten their fill, Jesus asked his disciples to gather up the fragments left as at the Jewish feasts the regular practice was to leave something for the servants. Twelve baskets were taken up. The hungry crowd were fed and more than fed.

This narrative is viewed by scholars in three different ways:

  • It may be viewed as a miracle in which Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes. Some may find that hard to conceive of; some may find it hard to reconcile with the fact that that is just what Jesus refused to do at his temptations.
  • It may be viewed as a real sacramental meal. In the rest of the Chapter the language of Jesus is exactly that of the Last Supper, when he speaks about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. It could be that at this meal it was a morsel, like the sacrament, that each person received; and the wonder of the presence of Jesus turned the sacramental crumb into something which nourished their hearts and souls as happens at every Communion Table to this day.
  • It may also be viewed in a different way altogether. It is very unlikely that the crowd left on a nine mile expedition without making any preparations at all.They would certainly possess supplies for the way. But none would share what he/she had and wished to keep it for him/her. It may then be that Jesus produced the five loaves and two fishes he and his disciples had, thanked God for it and shared it out. Moved by his example, everyone who had brought food with them did the same; and in the end there was enough and more than enough, for all. 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 of resources.
B. Resource Mobilization - A Holistic Approach For Scripture Engagement

The concept of Resource Mobilization needs to be revisited as indicated above. Traditionally, Resource Mobilization was seen as equivalent to mobilization of funds. The story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the text of our reflection offers a corrective to this understanding. The concept of Resource Mobilization is a holistic concept and is to be seen holistically as comprising of TIME, TALENT AND TREASURE. The story depicts all these three important dimensions as part of Resource Mobilization.

a. TIME

Time is a precious resource which God has given to humankind. But unfortunately this resource is wasted by many and not utilised properly for the good of the other or for oneself. Time, when used wisely builds up people. Time, when not used wisely destroys people. What is interesting in the story under study is, Time emerges as a significant factor as part of Resource Mobilization. We see in the story those who used time wisely for the benefit of the other and also those who wasted time through being pessimistic and negative.Jesus, although he needed time to be on his own to prepare himself for the events to follow, did find time to meet the need of the crowd. In other words, Jesus found time to engage with the crowd by finding adequate time for them. The second person who shared his time is Andrew. He found time to search for food and found the boy with five loaves and two fishes. Finally there is the boy who had the time to go with Andrew to Jesus to give all what he had for the benefit of the other. In this regard, there is also Philip who did not use the time wisely because of his pessimistic and indifferent attitude. Time to be available for the other is very vital. Only then we will have time for Scripture Engagement, engaging the Scripture with the reader andthe reader with the Scripture.

b. TALENT

Along with Time, the other important component of Resource Mobilization is Talent. This is again visible in the story. Talent is the ability which God gives to build the other up. People are endowed with different abilities. As Time, Talent is a Resource given to humankind by the Creator God and when used wisely adds value to the concerns of God’s Reign on earth. Jesus depicts the talent of being with the other. This is a dire need of the hour. Being with the poor and the needy in their time of strain and stress is very much a part of Scripture Engagement, portraying that God of the Bible is the God of the other; that God is a God of relationship; that God is one who feels the pain of the dejected and the marginalized. Andrew displays the talent of solving a crisis by looking for a solution. This is again a dire need of the hour. People are faced with different crises in life and through Scripture Engagement solutions could be found to solve crises of people and this is a talent which is to be seen as a God given Resource and this resource needs to be mobilized. The young lad is a typical example of the talent ofentering into partnership to meet a need. It is not how much we share but shares what we have, however small it may be. This is what the lad did. He had only five loaves and two fishes brought as a picnic lunch. But when there was a need, he shared what he had and by this act he entered into a partnership with the other to meet a dire need of feeding the hungry. Doing it alone is no more possible. Building partnerships in ministry is the need of the hour and this talent of building up partnerships needs to be mobilised. There is also Philip who did not use his talents at all. Rather he withdraws himself from using his talents through sheer indifference.

c. TREASURE

Treasure is anything which we cherish possessing and unwilling to part with or share. It could be money, jewels, and valuables. Here is a context where the little lad had a treasure, which was five loaves and two fishes. It was a treasure for him as he would have been on a long journey by foot and therefore he would have brought the food from home to consume on the way. It is possible others also were carrying food with them. But when there was a crisis for resource mobilization, the boy gladly offered his treasure which was very valuable to him for the sake of the other in need. We live in a hoarding culture. Today’s culture is a culture of accumulation. We store and preserve for the future. We seldom realize that the accumulation of wealth and riches do not lead us anywhere. Our future is in God’s hands and is not in our hands. What is importanttherefore is to inculcate in us a culture of sharing so that the less fortunate is benefitted and genuine causes like that of the cause of the Bible for the benefit of the world are promoted. There is no issue of comparison in giving and sharing. What matters is we give what we have, however little and small it may be but willingly. This is what the lad in the story did. When the need was made known to the boy by Andrew, he willingly gave the little he had. Thus the boy became a humble means of resource mobilization. Seeing the act of the boy, others would have been also prompted to share what they had.

d. Conclusion

It has been generally recognised in the United Bible Societies that the mission of the Bible Societies around the world should be holistic. This would mean that the Bible Societies are to be engaged not only in Translation, Production and Marketing but alsoin Scripture Engagement. Only then the mission of the Bible Societies would become relevant to the Church and Society. Traditionally speaking, the Bible Societies have been concentrating on the first three functions-Translation, Production and Marketing. But then the question is posed in different contexts of the world by the Church as to how the message of liberation/salvation can be adequately communicated in contexts battered by violence, poverty, caste discrimination, exploitation of women and children etc.? This is where the significance of Scripture Engagement is to be seen and for this process, Resource Mobilization is inevitable. Resources of Time, Talent and Treasure are to be mobilised for Scripture Engagement where the reader is enabled to engage with the Scripture and the Scripture to be engaged with the reader. Then the Spirit of God will open the eyes of the readers to discover Life in all its Fullness which our Lord offers to everyone irrespective of distinctions and barriers and as a result their lives get transformed and they themselves become agents of transformation of others who are in need.For this to become a reality, resources of Time, Talent and Treasure are needed and hence to be mobilized.

Rev.Dr.M.Mani Chacko,Ph.D(Lond.)
General Secretary
The Bible Society of India

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