So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.
I wonder how many times you set out to do one thing and everything changes, a longed for day out, some time to yourself, a trip you’ve had planned for ages, all turned upside down because circumstances change and a new response is demanded from you.
I wonder if when this happens you come up with a similar response to me- oh no not now! Please not now, I wonder if you’ve ever felt that this new demand is just too much and you are not going to be able to cope with it. You need that break, that time away, that hour or two to yourself. You need to recuperate, to rest, to pray, to reconnect with God maybe….
If you’ve ever found yourself feeling like this then just maybe you are where the disciples were in our reading. They’d just been through an exhausting time, Jesus had sent them out on their own, charging them to go as they were, to take no possessions but to go in his name, to share the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand, to cast out demons and heal the sick… and away they went returning bursting with stories of responses and answered prayer…
Jesus too needed time and space, he has just received the news of the brutal beheading of John the Baptist his cousin at the hands of Herod. They all needed to get away, and Jesus recognising that they were all hard pressed made a suggestion;
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” And Scripture adds emphasis to their need; “For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat…”
Soon however everything changed, they were spotted by the crowd as they set off in the boat, and followed, and their get away had taken on a new shape as the crowds came out into the deserted places seeking them, seeking Jesus who was moved with compassion for them and began to teach them many things.
Now it was the disciples turn to be challenged, and the familiar story of the feeding of the 5,000 unfolds….
From almost nothing 5,000 were fed, the disciples did not have provisions for 5,000 with them, and in Marks gospel it seems that the food they did have was not brought by a small boy but belonged to the 12. Taking these meagre provisions Jesus gives thanks, breaks the bread and gives the food to the disciples to share. What happened next we are unsure of, maybe the loaves and fishes were miraculously multiplied, or maybe Jesus actions and teaching unlocked something within the seated crowd and one by one they too began to share their own meagre provisions with one another…
Either way something of God took place on that hillside and the crowds were nourished both spiritually and physically. In the act of thanks giving Jesus blessed and broke the loaves and with hindsight we begin to hear echoes of the Eucharistic prayer and blessing, and maybe begin to wonder at the miracle of how one broken man can bring salvation to the whole world. But there was enough, there was more than enough, he is enough, he is more than enough…
Into the exhaustion and limited resources of the disciples God worked a miracle, and God will work in and through our limited resources today if only we dare to offer them to him, for the kingdom. Scripture reminds us, that when we are weak he is strong, and that he pours out his Spirit upon us who empowers, revives and equips us. That with God nothing is impossible, nothing is too much, his love and his resources are greater than anything we could ever conceive of, and we are held in the depths of his love.
Wherever you are today, and with all of the changes and challenges the 21st century church faces it is good to know that we follow the one who not only knows us through and through, but also the one who supplies all of our needs, and is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. So this leaves only one question, will we dare to bring our lack, our weakness and our meagre provisions and offer them in his service, to his glory?
Part 2: Even in the chaos and confusion….
Jesus has dismissed the crowds, and the disciples and withdrawn to pray, the disciples are back in the boat again crossing the lake.
Put yourself into their shoes for a moment, they’ve been sent out, they’ve come back rejoicing only to hear the news of John the Baptists beheading, they’ve looked forward to and been denied Jesus exclusive company and attention, and now he has sent them away. They are in the boat crossing the water, and this is not insignificant, for the waters represent the unknown, their depths symbolic of chaos and confusion, and as the wind and waves rose and they had to strain at the oars to make progress I am sure they weren’t encouraged, and things go from bad to worse as the exhausted and disheartened disciples think they see a ghost and are terrified.
But it is not a ghost, it is Jesus, and he see’s their condition, their terror and exhaustion and calls out to them. “Take heart, it is I”…
I wonder how often we feel that we are up against it, how often we feel that the chaos and storms of life are not only overwhelming but possibly against us, I wonder how often we feel that the way ahead is too difficult if not impossible. Perhaps it is at times like this that we need to seek God, to draw near to him to be aware that he might come to us in a surprising way.
And let us pray for understanding, for in Jesus God not only reveals himself as the God of provision, but more the God who holds all things together, the God who calms the storms and turmoil’s around and within us if we receive him with faith and open hearts. We have a choice, we can choose to miss his grace, we can be blind to his grace, or we can be open to it even in the most challenging times.
I believe the church finds itself in a challenging time today, we may well feel like we are straining against the elements, let’s decide to look for God even in the midst of change, confusion and chaos, for he has promised; those who seek me WILL find me, if they seek me with their whole heart.
So together and as individuals let’s seek to be whole hearted towards God through our mission ( Tots, CAP, Chat In etc) and our vision ( to see lives changed and transformed), and in all of the things he has called us to for he will be our strength, he remembers how we are made, and he chooses to place his treasure into the cracked clay pots of our lives…
We are his treasure, and he will draw treasure from and through us, and he promises for he is faithful;
I will give you riches hidden in the darkness and things of great worth that are hidden in secret places. Then you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name. 4 For the good of Jacob My servant and Israel My chosen one, I called you by your name. I gave you a name of honour, when you had not known Me. 5 I am the Lord, and there is no other. There is no God besides Me. I will give you strength, even though you have not known Me. 6 Then men may know from sunrise to sunset that there is no God besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45: 3-6)