The idiom ‘same old, same old‘ is used to refer to a situation or someone’s behaviour that remains the same, especially when it is boring or annoying. Life seems to consist of familiar problems which recur over a period of years without any real solutions that change those problems being found.

The problems of poverty, famine, criminal behaviour and human need have remained largely unchanged throughout history, and there is a weary sense  of déjà vu in many situations which leave us feeling perhaps helpless (and even hopeless) when we see these situation occurring yet again. Even the pandemic (a ‘new’ situation for most of us!) with its ‘waves’ of infections and repetitious cycle of lockdowns may provoke in us that familiar feeling of ‘same old, same old’. We feel paralysed, unable to change any situation by our actions, and sometimes this leads to self-fulflling prophecies which tell us change will never come.

I find it interesting that Jesus fed crowds of people on more than one occasion recorded for us in the Gospels. On one occasion, He fed a crowd of more than 5000 people (Matt 14:13-21); on another, He fed a crowd of more than 4000 people (Matt 15:29-38). I used to wonder what was the point of telling the same kind of story twice – surely the point is that Jesus can do miraculous things in provision, and it’s futile to keep hammering this point home as if we were tiny chidlren? We get it! He’s all-powerful!

However, I have come to think that we need reminders, not only of that fact (because we seem extraordinarily dense when it comes to realising Jesus’ power and His willingness to meet our daily needs), but also of the fact that even when problems remain the same, Jesus does not turn His back on us – and we should therefore persevere in ministry (acts of service), even if the situations we face seem unremittingly grim.

Jesus did not see hunger as a one-off problem (‘I’ve fed a crowd once, so I don’t need to do it again.’) He responded to the needs of people, even if those needs recurred. He didn’t shrug His shoulders in indifference or tell them it was their fault they were hungry. Instead, He showed compassion to them.

Many of the problems of the world are unchanging in nature, and the church is called to consistently and persistently do what it can to meet the needs of the homeless, the hungry, the poor, the addicted, the helpless. This is not glamorous or easy. It requires selfless devotion and maybe even the same old solutions to the same old problems: compassionate care, selfless love, practical help, money given regularly to particular causes. If Jesus performed the ‘same old’ miracles more than once, we can live life helping others with the same old tenacity and faithfulness which transforms situations – never giving up, never letting familiarity breed contempt, but always being willing to go the extra mile and reach out to others.