Good morning all! It’s the first day of Spring! This week, I have asked a fab person to be a guest blogger. Her name is Sarah and she is a student at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C. Sarah and I met at a retreat for discernment into ministry. I was serving in Corvallis and Sarah was a college student figuring out next steps. She is listening closely to where God might be calling her. She is dynamic and is excited to learn more in the world! I look forward to calling her colleague. Enjoy!
Todays scripture is Mark 8:1-10
In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, 2″I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. 3If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way – and some of them have come from a great distance.” 4His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” 5He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. 7They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. 8They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. 10And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
Good morning and Happy Spring! In Washington, DC Spring has sprung and all vegetation is showing signs of the new life that comes with 75 degree weather! (My family has informed me that is not the case in Oregon…)
Living in Washington, DC I have noticed that there is always a gathering of people somewhere – whether it be on the National Mall, at the Convention Center, or at one of the Occupy movements. They are lobbying, rallying, protesting – they are in some way calling for action, calling for someone to hear them.
As I read Mark 8 the crowd seems to be silent! Mark only tells the reader that the crowd is “without anything to eat.” I can only guess that the crowd is packed together, tired from traveling, most of them have dropped everything to come and hear the teachings of Jesus. Yet, the disciples are not pestering Jesus to solve the problem of food. No one is griping that they are hungry or that they deserve to be fed.
The first voice we hear is Jesus, “I have compassion for the crowd…” Compassion? Not an emotion that we expect to hear when a person of esteem has been surrounded by a large crowd of people for three days. Emotions such as frustration, sadness, anger, pity, and apathy are the common responses today when the crowd pushes in. In crowds gathered in DC, there is a need to control which normally reveals itself by apathy of the speaker and an anger by those in charge. But Jesus’ response is not normal. He sees that people are hungry, tired, and not able to go much longer without sustenance. Rather than feeling pity or an overwhelming sadness that could stop him from acting, Jesus is filled with compassion – a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for those stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. Jesus sees the consequences of calling it quits now and moves to act in response.
And then there are the disciples. We can always count on the disciples to ask the hard questions, or at least say what everyone else is thinking but not willing to say. “HOW?!” How are we going to feed them? How are we going to help these people? We do not even have food to feed ourselves! This question echos through the generations: I see the hungry on our streets, but I barely have enough to feed myself. I hear the cries of the children, but I barely have time to spend with my own kids.
This does not damper the mission that Jesus has committed himself to. He simply asks the disciples, “How many loaves do you have?” Seven is a meager number to feed a crowd of four thousand, but Jesus filled with compassion keeps pressing forward. Taking the loaves, he raises them to heaven, breaks them and distributes. Then the fish. There is something special about this man, something different… he raises bread, and gives it to the disciples as a blessing for the people. The result is miraculous. EVERYONE is filled. Scholars debate over whether the bread truly multiplied, or if people pulled out what they had and added to the pot as it was passed around. Either way, in the end, EVERYONE was filled. And there was still some left over.
In this season of Lent, what does it mean to be filled with compassion for the crowd? Do we truly believe that God can multiply even the smallest of faith? When surrounded by a crowd pressing in, the demands of everyday life, what does it mean to be filled with compassion, grace, and love instead of anger, apathy, and distrust?
Prayer: Lord, in the midst of this season where you call us to slow down and focus on you, fill us with the compassion. Alleviate our feelings of being overwhelmed by the need around us, and consume us with love for others and compassion to reach out to those who crowd in on us – both those we hold dear and those we meet today. We thank you for the abundant gifts you give through faith, and pray we may share those to others. In the name of you Son who took seven loaves and fed four thousand, we pray – Amen.