“You feed them!”


Today’s readings:
Psalms 143; 147:12-20, Isaiah 49:13-23 (24-26), Galatians 3:1-14, Mark 6:30-46

Effective teachers and parents know when it is time to stop instructing and let a child act on the lesson. Until we actually do something ourselves, we haven’t really learned. Some would say we haven’t mastered a thing until we can teach that thing to someone else.

After a long day of preaching and healing, Luke tells us, the disciples thought the crowd of five thousand men (perhaps ten thousand people counting women and children) needed to disperse into the surrounding area to find food and lodging. When they asked Jesus to dismiss the crowd, he surprised them by saying: “You feed them.” How five loaves and two fish then fed the multitude is one of the Gospel’s most famous miracles. The miracle sometimes overshadows another important element of the story: Jesus told the disciples to do it themselves.

Folk wisdom says God answers all prayer, and sometimes the answer is “No.” Let’s expand on that; maybe sometimes the answer is: “Great idea! Get to it!” At some point we need to move beyond listening to and talking about faith, and get to living it. Jesus does not offer a faith of heady concepts, but one of relationship and love. He does not teach a faith limited to Bible study, bake sales, and church attendance, but one of being present and caring for “the least” of our sisters and brothers. Understanding what Christ wants us to do is only the beginning of getting it done.

The apostles were not a particularly perceptive lot. They were probably either hungry themselves, or beginning to hear rumblings from the people gathered. The concern they brought to Christ seemed overwhelming, but with God’s help it was not beyond their abilities. How many of the concerns we bring to Christ might be addressed by opening ourselves to the possibility of God working through us? If God doesn’t seem to answer our prayer, maybe God is waiting on us. If we entrust our actions to God, and if we make an effort to be perceptive, the answer to a prayer may start when we get off our knees.

Comfort: God leaves us to our own devices out of trust, not neglect.

Challenge: Be ready to act on the lessons of the Gospel.

Prayer: Loving God, make me ready to be the answer to a prayer. Amen.

Discussion: When have you learned that the only thing standing between you and what you wanted or needed … was you?

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Even a Miracle Needs a Hand


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 63; 149, Nehemiah 4:1-23, Revelation 7:(4-8) 7:9-17, Matthew 13:31-35

We’ll help our Maker
To make our dreams come true,
But I can’t do it alone,
So here’s what we’re gonna do

You hope and I’ll hurry,
You pray and I’ll plan
We’ll do what’s necessary ’cause
Even a miracle needs a hand

“Even a Miracle Needs a Hand”
by Maury Laws

In the 1974 television special ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, a young mouse who lives in the home of a human clockmaker potentially ruins Christmas for the entire town – twice. This young mouse isn’t much of a believer in anything, but the clockmaker’s song choosing hope over helplessness motivates him to try to fix what he’s broken by embracing both his skills and a little faith.

Now a Christmas special that barely acknowledges Jesus is hardly scripture, but it’s not exactly at odds with scripture either.

When the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem after decades of exile in Babylon, their city was “in ruins with its gates burned.” Just because King Cyrus had released them and allowed them to rebuild the temple didn’t mean they weren’t surrounded by hostile tribes and nations. They decided that in order to restore their security they needed to rebuild the wall which had once surrounded Jerusalem. Their hostile neighbors plotted to stop them, but the citizens of Jerusalem and Jews of the surrounding area gathered, prayed, and planned to move forward. They rebuilt the wall with tools in one hand, weapons in the other, and a firm grip on faith.

When we feel firmly convicted about something, it’s not always enough to have faith it will come to pass; we must learn to recognize when we are called to be an instrument of its realization. And it might not always be in a way we – or others – expect. If for example a church wants to become a weather amnesty shelter, greeting people and providing cots and blankets is only part of the story. Some seemingly less charitable work, such as seeking permits and updating liability insurance, needs to be done in defense of the mission.

Like the Jewish guards on the wall, it may appear some people aren’t doing the heavy lifting (or are impeding it), but their efforts are necessary to make sure it gets done. For one person to place a stone, two may need to stand guard. And it may take someone else calling to us from the middle of the ruins to realize we have any part to play at all.

Further Reading: For thoughts on today’s passage from Matthew, see Mustard Seeds.

Comfort: Even you can be an instrument of God’s work.

Challenge: Remember that because someone is not playing the part that’s important to you doesn’t mean the part they play is unimportant.

Prayer: Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts. (Psalm 125:4)

Discussion: In your faith community, family, or circle of friends, who does the work you are not suited for? What work can you do well that others can not?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!