Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves… and all ate and were filled. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men – Mark 6:30-46. Clearly feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish is a miracle of miracles. At my son’s pre-school no child ever went without lunch, even when someone forgot and there were many days when one or more children forgot their lunch. The teacher would orchestrate a table of sharing. Every child would put their sandwich for the day in the middle of the table and they would all sit around the table and eat one half sandwich at a time. Whatever snacks they had in their lunch they were allowed to keep or add to the buffet. There was always a few half sandwiches and some snacks left over. Perhaps not a miracle of miracles, but one of my most favored explanations of a Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Who Provides) for our needs today as well as a demonstration of faith and compassion. Christ is always at work through God’s people.
The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her (Death of John the Baptist). Mark 6:13-29 While we are free to do what is in our authority to do, taking someone’s life is a serious offense. Taking even a piece of it can be devastating. I believe that one of the most difficult things in life is the burden of living with the knowledge of having done something that has caused someone else pain. Not even a king is exempt from the burden of sin. It is for this reason Christ came, that we may live in spite of our selves. Discernment of what is right according to the New Commandment is an ongoing process – constantly making the choice to live rejoicing in Christ or live rejoicing to our selves (bodies). We wont always get it right and there are times when we don’t know when our actions (said or done) have hurt someone. But reconciliation in Christ is our journey in salvation. A repentant heart will not be despised nor forgotten (psalm 51:17) and God’s grace and mercy is greater than a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
…it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. Galatians 2:11-21
If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ Mark 6:1-13 Sometimes you just have to walk away. It doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter what you say. It doesn’t even matter if you are right, it won’t be received. Jesus’ advice may seem a little harsh, but there are times when you need to not leave any remnant of a situation lingering that it may remind, entice and cause you to turn back towards a battle you are never going to win. If you have done what God has sent you to do, consider all your efforts a seed planted that perhaps someone else will water. When their heart is in the right place – in time, God’s plan for them will work out another path of change.
But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being…Galatians 1:1-17 What happened to Paul was a spiritual transformation. We know this because of the letters he wrote. When we see people we have not seen over a period of time, we wonder about their spirit, their way of thinking and responding to different situations. Inevitably their actions help us understand the person they’ve become. We are often surprised about how people change but God is never surprised. Like Paul, God is pleased to reveal himself to us through Christ because he already knows the person we are. When we make the decision to follow God’s law and live into the New Commandment, someone else’s good housekeeping seal concerning our past, present or future isn’t necessary. Our actions in faith are already approved.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus (Acts 4:8-13). In this passage, the writer of this book raises a question for me. Of those who heard and were amazed by these uneducated and ordinary men, Peter and John, and then recognized them as companions of Jesus; did they raise Peter and John up or did they bring Jesus down? The answer I believe depends on our answer to another question; “Who do you say Jesus is?” (Matthew 16:13-19), and subsequently who we believe our selves to be and how we believe God sees us.
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? (Mark 2:1-12) The ability to act in faith first begins with our willingness to believe. One of the most devastating burdens of sin is living with the knowledge of having done something or having something done to us that can’t physically be undone. Forgiveness starts us on the path of letting go and taking the next step forward. In another encounter with a lame man waiting at a pool of water to be healed (John 5:1-15) Jesus gives no instruction as to where he should go. However to the paralytic in this story he specifically instructs him to go home. Home isn’t necessarily a place where one lives it is also a place where something originates, a place where one feels safe or a place considered to be one’s own ground. For the believer, one’s home is with Christ. This becomes very significant because particularly when things are difficult, it is God who is always ready and willing to forgives us first. Thus to make the decision to go “home” leads us back on the path to which we were called from the beginning.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ (Mark 1:29-45). A man with leprosy approaches Jesus who then stretches out his hand to touch him saying; “I do choose.” Leprosy is a disease that causes skin sores, nerve damage, and muscle weakness that gets worse over time. Since there was no cure in biblical times, there weren’t too many things that could be worse than being struck with leprosy. Today we have various remedies and effective antibiotics to heal the physical ills the body often endures. Yet I believe Jesus’ desire to heal the man with leprosy has little to do with the body but is more about his desire to change the man’s way of thinking concerning who he believes Jesus to be. So too today, Jesus’ grace and mercy desires to meet with our faith even in in the most difficult times because while the body is a temporary gift, in the end it is the gift of the spirit which endures that is raised up with Christ.
All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses,… But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… Ephesians 2:1-10
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you. The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful (Psalm 5). In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—let them be caught in the schemes they have devised (Psalm 10).
This morning I awoke to the news that a little girl who had been abducted from school the day before was found ”safe.” The fact that she left school fully clothed including coat and hat, but was found crying out from under a large play toy with only a t-shirt merely suggests that she was found alive but hardly sounds safe to me. The day before at 8:50 am the school assumed that a woman dressed in hijab and burqa was the little girls mother, neglected their usual protocol and allowed her to go straight to the child’s classroom and together left school property. The real mother didn’t know she was gone until the end of the day when the woman who was suppose to pick up the little called to make sure she was already home with the mother. An Amber alert went out a few hours later. It is so hard to find words for a parent’s worst nightmare. If ever there was a time to understand the village concept concerning our children this is it before any more of God’s most vulnerable are abused. We are not God and we wont always get it right. Yet, if God is in us we too must hate the wickedness, the evildoers, and the deceitful and know that while the amber alert may keep them alive, sometimes even the smallest of precautions keeps them safe. What happens to one child happens to all of our children. Lord hear our prayer.
O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more (Psalm 10).
Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to be his teacher or counselor? Has the LORD ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good or what is best? No, for all the nations of the world are nothing in comparison with him…. Have you never heard or understood? Are you deaf to the words of God — the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth. The people below must seem to him like grasshoppers! He is the one who spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. Isaiah 4:12-23
I had some very interesting experiences this weekend and as I begin this week of my journey in Christ, this message from the Prophet Isaiah stood out for me as part of todays lectionary readings. When we find ourselves with those who think they are the smartest persons in the room this passage speaks loud and clear – remembering that we all are but dust and unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain (Psalm 127). From company meetings to general conventions, I suppose sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. However, for the believer, through Christ reconciliation is always at hand we must remember that it begins within us and makes its ascent upwards and then the process of grace, mercy, healing and growth begins to re-shape.
It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them (John 6:15-27). Does this sound familiar? Where is Jesus? The disciples decide to go on without him and lo and behold he comes to them walking on the water! I often wonder would their response be any different, if when they arrived on the other side of Galilee, Jesus had already been there waiting for them. No doubt, that would have taken them by surprise as well. The disciples waited as long as they could and apparently they needed to get to the other side. Much like the disciples we find ourselves in a position of having to make a decision before we are ready. What I find encouraging about this story is that Jesus did not appear to be upset because they had left him. In fact I believe that perhaps Jesus was encouraged that they chose to move forward. Once the chaos of the crowd dies down Jesus makes his way to be with his disciples just as the sea became rough. Jesus said to his disciples; “I am: do not be afraid.(Gk translation)” Sometimes making a decision, in the midst of darkness and storms, is the last thing we want to do. Nevertheless in faith we too should not be afraid to move forward because one way or the other with Christ behind us supporting our efforts, before us making preparations, and let’s not forget the times he carries us along the way, we will get to the other side.