Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day. Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.”
He replied, “You give them something to eat.” – Mark 6:30-56
Sometimes, and seemingly by accident, various situations work together (conspire together) to effect a coordinated message that can’t help but get our attention.
Feed The Hungry:
I’ll begin with Sunday afternoon when a team from WFPC set up a food line in central Raleigh to provide supper for more than one hundred people who are struggling with food insecurity. I was asked to give a brief devotional thought and then a blessing.
It’s not easy to talk to a long line of one hundred hungry people (plus twenty-five volunteers) in the open air, with the wind blowing, plus traffic noise in the background. background. So I pulled out my trusty “Middle-school teacher in the cafeteria” voice and kept it as short and to the point as possible.
Here, essentially, is what I said:
“Good afternoon, friends. We’re from Wake Forest Presbyterian Church, my name is Derek, and we’re glad to be with you today. I’m going to tell you a short Bible story you probably recognize, halfway through I’m going to interrupt myself to ask a big question, then we’ll finish the story.
“In Mark chapter six Jesus tries to get away from the crowds but they follow him into the hills until there are thousands listening to him teach. The disciples get nervous and ask Jesus to send everyone away to find their own food. Eventually – as you know – Jesus multiplied some loaves and fishes and everyone had something to eat.
“Okay. Now the interruption. Who here has a favorite football hero, baseball player, or basketball star? (several hands go up). They all have something they do that you like, right? (nods all around). Well, I have a favorite preacher and my favorite preacher does something that gets my attention. This preacher will stop dead in the middle of a sermon or a Bible reading and say, ‘SO WHAT! So, what makes this story important? or interesting? or worth listening to?’
“It’s a great question. The ‘SO WHAT?’ of this story is when Jesus looks at his disciples, who want someone else to take care of the problem, and he says, ‘You feed them.’ Not, ‘I’ll take care of it’ but ‘You feed them…’
“Here’s my point. I don’t care if you’re young or old, rich or poor, black or white or brown or in between, I don’t care if you live in a big house or on the street… at some point Jesus is going to say, ‘You feed them; you take care of one another; you love your neighbor.’
“Today it is our privilege to be here and to serve you. But tomorrow, or next week, Jesus is going to ask you to serve your neighbor. That’s just how Jesus rolls; that is always his way; taking care of our neighbor is what Jesus teaches.
“So we are here, we are hungry, and we are grateful to God for this food. Amen.”
Sunday School Class:
Earlier in the day my “Practical Christianity” class had talked about the fact that Christ told his disciples it was their responsibility to feed the hungry. It’s too easy for us to dismiss this story as a supernatural miracle where Jesus gets everyone else off the hook by turning a handful of bread and fish into a boatload of food.
It’s not that I don’t believe Jesus capable of such a feat, just that if you want to see a miracle it would be the miracle of people giving of themselves and taking responsibility for their neighbor. We talked about the “grab it and hoard it” mentality of the grocery store the day before a snowstorm! What if people took just what they needed and then shared instead of jealously guarding their personal stash? Now that’s the kind of miracle Jesus asks of his disciples, the kind of miracle Jesus asks of us….
Part Three is an interview I had with an eminent theologian the other day. I’ll have to share that in another post.
Peace, and more peace – DEREK