This week I finished reading The Year 1000, by Richard Lacey and Danny Danziger, two journalists in the UK who interviewed dozens of historians and did extensive research themselves to see what life in Engla-lond was like at the turn of the first milennium.
It was similar and dissimilar to life today, it turns out. The book divides into twelve chapters corresponding to months of the year, each covering a facet of life in Anglo-Saxon England.
They called July ‘The Hungry Gap’ because it was the time when food from the previous harvest ran out and reapers had not yet gathered in the new crop. People went hungry, especially the poor who couldn’t afford higher prices for basic commodities. They didn’t use the language of ‘recession’ as we do now, but they understood abundance and scarcity.
In 2009 our congregation struggles with its own scarcities. The church council authorized borrowing from the endowment to help balance the budget this year, as well as not paying full apportionments (dues) to the denomination for the first time in decades. It will be a lean year, and we staff have wondered how secure our jobs and insurance benefits are in a time of scarcity.
These anxieties touch everyone today. This article in the Christian Science Monitor outlines ways preachers are handling these matters in their pulpits.
Recently I shared dinner with a retired economics professor from the University of Toledo. When we asked him what he thought about the economic crisis he waved his hand and said, “These things run in cycles.” In the last fifty years there have been at least ten recessions, some more and some less severe. This knowledge doesn’t bring much comfort, though.
Today I remembered words from the Apostle Paul on struggling with scarcity:
I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13 NRSV)
Paul knew the hungry gap himself, and he knew were to look for sustenance. This time invites us to deeper levels of trust.