In this new century, any credible answer to that question needs to be prefaced by what we cannot give. “I have no silver or gold,” says the apostle Peter, “but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Perhaps one of the things we Christians no longer have to give, and probably never had to give, is a neat solution to every human dilemma.
Sixteen years old, stubborn to see the world for myself, I embarked on my first reading of the four Gospels. How it struck me to realize that Jesus of Nazareth, the "Lord" of the Lord's Prayer, was not in league with every person or in favor of every value esteemed in my world or my parents' world.
Given current trends in North American Christianity and culture, I can easily imagine a day when a child, seeing a crucifix for the first time and asking her mother what on earth it might be, will receive this answer: "That, my dear, is someone who did not take very good care of himself."
I find it hard to believe that the Jesus of Matthew's Gospel could have fed the 5,000 in the wilderness without recalling his own temptation. The parallels are so striking: wilderness, hunger, a craving for bread.
I'm not sure how long ago it was, that summer afternoon at our friends' house when a neighbor drove her car dramatically into the yard and got out to say, catching her breath with every few words, that her two little boys were missing and that she feared they had wandered into the woods.