[The disciple Andrew] spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” – John 6
Wednesday evening, a dozen men sitting around a table talking about scripture. It was a great example of, “Reading Between the Lines.”
One man observed that it would be nice if the Bible was more “obvious” in its conclusions and applications. I guess he was thinking about maybe an “answer key” in the back like those school textbooks from 5th grade.
So David pointed out that – if that were the case – “we wouldn’t be having this great conversation”, in earnest dialogue about faith, about being intentional disciples, about – most of all – learning to listen and being open to God’s guidance in our day-to-day lives.
Our story was the John 6 account of one of the times Jesus fed a whole bunch of people. We talked about what it means to be undernourished – spiritually as well as physically. And we talked about being hungry, hungry for something authentic, the longing to be satisfied and how Jesus is always a part of the answer to every one of those needs.
We talked about how risky healing can be. When Jesus makes things right he expects us to live forward from that moment and to live in the truth of our healing, to love and serve in a way that honors God’s work in us. That was how our previous story had ended, and the idea held true when we talked about responding to both our own hunger and the hunger of those around us.
Sure Jesus could have “magically” made food appear with no effort or commitment from the 5,000 people on the hillside. Indeed he may have. “Poof!” there you are! But I’m not sure how that would have changed anyone’s life and their experience of community?
Just like the guy who never made it to the pool to be healed, it took the presence of Jesus to activate the miracle that fed 5,000-plus people to fullness and satisfaction. Jesus challenges the disciples – and us – “You feed them!” Then a little boy brings his small offering and says, “It’s yours, Jesus, all of it.”
So the equation here is hunger, plus a wide-open heart, plus the love and presence of Jesus, plus self-giving generosity, plus listening to Jesus and responding positively… and the result is something beyond a simple miracle, it is the miracle of transformation.
Imagine one of the elders at church laying out the vision for the 2020 ministry budget. “We’re asking for a million dollars,” he says, “plus a commitment to pay off the debt on the building.” Then God literally creates all that cash out of thin air and – “poof!” – drops it in the church bank account.
Other than being really cool and remarkable, what would that possibly achieve in terms of transformed lives at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church? The answer is very little, other than telling people they really don’t need to give and it is no longer their responsibility.
But imagine, instead, what is actually happening here. Little by little, people are grabbing the vision and stepping forward in faith to let God inside their finances and they are learning to practice both faith and trust. In consequence we are going to move into 2020 with more people than ever committed to generosity and a faith that puts their money where their belief is.
Now that is a bigger, more transformational, more impressive, more world-changing miracle!
- “We are hungry, Lord, please feed us.”
- But Jesus says, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” … “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” – John 4:32, 34
Now that is some good eating! – DEREK