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The Lord IS MY! Shepherd… (23rd Psalm)
I emphasize the ‘is my’ because when we read or say this prayer it should be more akin to a shout, a profound revelation of our relationship with God. I know you ‘read the paper’, well actually, you probably read the internet, and we are all well aware of the plight I, you, and the whole world faces with the current world affairs. We are aware of the real concerns with national and cultural wars within our own borders and the personal, one on one conflicts of everyday life. We live in a world of unbelievable contrast and division. These are tough times. They hold no definition for the future. We live in a world of huge and terrifically important choices; a world that tries to make those choices camouflaged but in doing so makes them clear. They seem to scream to us, ‘choose you this day who you will serve.’ It might even be called ‘kingdom against Kingdom.’ I still (and especially after the last 10 months experience with Jane’s physical struggle) think that for the moment we find ourselves in, the most important message to deliver to believers is to learn to Trust!
It was one of many of the miracles that Mark (Chapter 8) describes in his Gospel. Jesus had just fed 4000 followers with 7 loaves and a few fish. The disciples had witnessed this miracle and were fully aware of what had just happened. Immediately afterward, Jesus and the disciples entered a boat and sailed across the lake. There, they ran into Pharisees, who were disrespectful and belligerent. Jesus left them in their unbelief and re-entered the boat and went back across the lake. In that crossing the disciples, having one loaf of bread in the boat, became pre-occupied with eating and how they were to be fed. They had just seen Jesus bless and break bread for 4000, and here they are, minutes later, wondering about where their next meal might come. Jesus’ simple response was, ‘do you not yet understand?’ Really, not a very complex question from Jesus, no hour long lecture here, just a simple question to prompt thought.
In that exchange, he does not tell them that they are stupid or even wrong, simply walking them through what a ‘soulish’ blunder they had made. Their mistake was in not trusting in his Love, even doubting, just after having seen Jesus feed all those people with so few resources. They failed to see the compassion of God, the heart of God. Instead, they saw a miracle, a physical act of God but an act that did not have the staying power of a converted mind and will. They needed something in their hearts rather than in their eyes! They remembered the bread but forgot the Father. They knew the number of fish, number of loaves and the number of people but forgot the Compassion that broke the bread. Physical miracles are terrific and necessary many times, but we will need a heart change, a mind and will change in the long run, in order to meet the daily grind of this grist-mill called life. We not only need the experience of having seen God on the outside of life but, in our inner life, eventually we will need to experience Him as well.
Trusting lets us, makes us, free and at ease. ‘..take no thought what you shall eat…drink or how you will be clothed, …your Father knows what you have need of, but, seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness….all these things will be added unto you…take no thought for the morrow’. (Matthew 6:31) Actually, had the disciples gotten that message and not just the image of the miracle, they would not have had to remember anything else. They would have realized that the one loaf in that boat was more than enough. Had they been looking with their hearts rather than their heads, they would have known that they had the One that makes all loaves in the boat with them.
They had immediately lost heart to the notion that Jesus taught on how to take no thought for tomorrow. Tomorrow means any future: the next second, the next hour, the next week, next year and beyond. The next minute from now is just as future as the next 1000 years in the heart of God. For us, tomorrow has not been made yet! Our lives are like novels that are to be read one day at a time; tomorrow we will learn what happens on the next page, revealed in full when we get there, not before.
These disciples were not unbelievers that were simply lost, these were men that had left everything to follow Jesus. They were purposed, dedicated and still ‘growing up in Christ.’ In Mark, Jesus taught of the bad leaven of the Pharisees and also of a good leaven of the Kingdom of God. Good leaven takes time to expand, time to rise, and time to come to full measure. I think the Kingdom of God in our lives is like that. The Love of God gradually leavens the whole man. We can have ‘things that enter in’ during our daily clamor. Things that keep us from seeing the subtle and important teaching of Jesus; we see the miracle but miss the Heart which is intended to fortify our Christian walk. That one loaf and their bellies had blocked the door and barricaded the intimacy between the disciples and Jesus teaching about the Father’s Compassion. Fear and doubt entered their minds rather than the thought that they were walking with the Creator of the universe. Sometimes what we have blocks us from God; sometimes, as it was in this case, what we don’t have clouds our thinking, not trusting who has given to us in the past and who is ready, willing and able to give to us again.
It wasn’t the miracle that Jesus wanted the disciples to see; it was the Compassion and Love that was his message. Signs are easily forgotten; however, once revealed by the Spirit of God, the Love of God will never be forgotten. We kind of live in a one loaf world right now…is that going to be enough?