Lent Reflection: Too big to be possible?

tissotmiraclesofloavesandfishes

The feeding of the 5,000 is a story we hear often; it like most of Jesus’ miracles, is talked about in countless Sunday school classes. But it wasn’t until I read an article that was satirically given the title that I really got it. In the piece the author had told about coming upon a homeless person, and became enraged that he was being bothered for some coins. The article angered me, I found myself angry at this author for his attitude. It was then that it struck me, I had been in the same situation before and I’d walked on by. Granted, I came up with a hundred different excuses and when I see the things on the nightly news that bother me I ease my conscience by reminding myself that I’m only one man.

We find the disciples acting the same way; this huge crowd has appeared before them, and they are like “sheep without a shepherd.” And while the crowd’s needs were spiritual, everything was alright. Christ could teach and preach all day and they could sit on the side lines. It was when their needs went beyond the spiritual to the physical that things became a problem. When money might be an issue. When it may require a lot of work and organization. When countless amounts of resources need to be collected. Now, there’s a problem.

They look at the problem, decide it’s too big for them to tackle, so what do they do? They turn to Christ, and say “this is a remote place, and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” Essentially, they’ve looked at the problem, and decided it’s too big of a problem, and choose to walk away from it. But to walk away makes sense, that is quite a crowd of hungry people. The disciples are by no means wealthy men and to feed such a crowd is, by human standards completely unrealistic.

But Jesus, looking out at the masses, responds, “You give them something to eat.” Wait, what? Jesus’ disciples are but a few men and to feed such a crowd would take more than a year’s wage to pay. This problem is way too big for them to deal with. When Christ asks them to take an inventory of the food that is available, it seems hopeless, only five loaves of bread and two fish. No way they could feed such a crowd on such a meek offering. Surely Christ, will see that it’s impossible now.

But He doesn’t, He knows exactly what will be happening in the coming moments. He disperses the crowds into smaller groups, blesses the food and has it served to them. The end result? Not only did everyone get their full but there was plenty of food left over. Christ knew what He was doing, and their meager supplies would be blessed and multiplied. Therefore, it is a challenge for each of us; are we to act like the disciples and look at a problem and decide it’s too big for us to tackle or are we to act out in faith and to serve?

Jim McDowell is the youth director at the United Methodist Church of Mantua, a former camper and a volunteer for several summers at Delanco Camp. Image credit: James Tissot, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lent Reflection: Beverly Hills

beverlyhillssign

If you’ve ever heard the song “Beverly Hills” by Weezer, you’ll recognize the lyrics. “Look at all those movie stars, they’re all so beautiful and clean. When the housemaids scrub the floors, they get the spaces in between. I wanna live a life like that. I wanna be just like a king. Take my picture by the pool, ‘cause I’m the next big thing!” The whole song speaks about this desire to be rich and famous, but isn’t that the American dream? Just watch some TV, listen to the radio, or even drive down the road. We’re almost continuously reminded that we don’t have enough. Not only are we lacking in stuff but it’s this reason why we’re unhappy.

The psalmist looks at this as pointless. As he points out in Psalm 49, verses 10, 14, and 19, nothing can be done to prevent death. He is quite clear about it; the person who dies with the most toys still dies. Surgery, drugs, crèmes, ointment, all sold for top dollar, only offer a false hope and an appearance of bought time. The psalmist is quite clear that life has a cost but all the money in the world can’t cover the cost. Nothing you can do is going to buy life. Nothing.

But, the psalmist isn’t done there. Hope isn’t lost. Verse 15 says, “But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself (NIV).” While the Psalmist doesn’t understand in certain times how this’ll happen he knows that this debt is going to be paid. He celebrates in this fact as he concludes that riches will fade, and that they can’t take it with them. As we look toward the death of the Christ and His resurrection, it is the time to celebrate in the payment of the debt that none of the our worldly treasures could pay.

Lord,
Help me be content in what I have and to refrain from the temptation of the world’s pressure to chase wealth. I know that nothing I have or pursue will last, and everything I have, do, or could ever is inadequate in the repayment of the debt of my sin. Thank you for sending your son to pay my ransom.

Amen.