Just a little more than 48 hours ago we gathered round the table. Some familiar faces were missing while others who we had missed for awhile were back. The coffee (one pot of regular & one of decaf) were hot & ready. And with some delightful chatting & connecting already beginning we opened in prayer.
As folk continued to join we began sharing how the last 2 weeks of taking the time to reflect upon at least 1 thing we are grateful for went, how it influenced us. One shared how there is so much they are grateful for, including health & family — that it was nearly overwhelming considering the blessings, considering how blessed they are. Another shared how even as they slowed and considered the many things they are thankful for, they also struggle a bit with a type of survivors guilt — wondering aloud, why me? (why us?) — why do I have the blessings that I have when so many others do not? (Though it was also noted, that our idea of blessing is also culturally shaped…that not everyone in the world would choose to live like us or to have the blessings that we enjoy…) And someone else found research naming how saying “thank you” and being grateful has health benefits — sharing they personally found sleep to be more restorative in this season of being mindful in thinking & giving thanks — and they found in noticing their blessings, they were more able to handle whatever God brought their way.
Today — and during the Holiday Season especially — it can be challenging to take the time to breathe, to reflect upon life as we know it, the blessings in our lives, and what we are thankful for. It can be hard because it’s so easy for us to see what we don’t have (and want), it can be so easy for us to want (more), and it seems so much harder to see all that we (already) do have. And this of course is part of what drives our economy right? Those desires for more — for that “shiny” thing which somehow affirms us & makes us more shiny and more new? Beloved — only God does that, only Christ offers us a new life — a new beginning — a joy that is beyond all circumstances — and it is a gift freely given, never bought by us because it’s already be bought by Christ! So as we enter the Advent Season (a season often forgotten in the excitement of Christmas) — may we remember that even as we wait for what is to come next (God bursting into our lives in unexpected & often uncomfortable ways!) we give thanks for the blessing of the waiting time too…I know not easy, but it seems that giving thanks even in the not-so-easy times will help us to be able to endure a bit better.
But we turned from talking of being grateful to scripture, specifically Mark 6:30-44.
This section of scripture is known as “Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.” A time when the disciples (appropriately) asked Jesus to send all the people he (& they) were teaching away so that they could get dinner & Jesus (incredulously) told them — nah, you feed them. And the miracle happened, while they were hungry & after Jesus gave thanks (for what they did have — 5 loaves & 2 fish) all the people were fed & satisfied.
This scripture gave us much to chew on (see what I did there?). Was this a spiritual feeding or a physical one? Yes. Were they really satisfied? Yes, the scripture says so. Does it matter that they just say 5000 men were fed, yes, because the number is greater when you think about the women and children (some say it perhaps was more like 20,000). Was the miracle more of the feeding, or the gathering & teaching of so many? (Think about how HUNGRY & what type of hunger they people gathered were & had.) Is it less of a miracle if the people shared what they had — so much so that there was more than enough to satisfy all who were gathered? What are the implications for us, today — as individuals, as a church, as a church, as part of a national community? What exactly would Jesus do today with all the things/events/wars/migration going on, what would Jesus do?
Our conversation could have gone on — of course — but it drew past time to close. The homework was handed out — though if you missed it — or misplaced it — it can be found HERE. Specifically, please consider the “Spiritual Exercise”
A Spiritual Exercise
Read Mark 6:30–44. The disciples’ response to the needs of the crowd was, “send them away.” Are there any people with needs in your life that you sometimes wish would go away? How do you find your patience and energy being stretched by these people? What circumstances tend to make you feel “it’s not enough” or “I’m not enough?”
Pick one of these situations of need. In prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the five loaves and two fish that you have to offer there. In your imagination, take those things and put them into the hands of Jesus for his use. Ask Jesus to take, bless, break, and use what you have to meet the need in this situation. Thank God for what God is going to do. Try to develop the habit of letting anxiety and irritation function as a call to prayer.
Y’all I’m looking forward to seeing what the Holy Spirit speaks through this scripture during the week. This idea of enough & not enough – something that we mentioned briefly on Sunday — how what (little) was offered, what they had, with God was enough. I wonder — is that the thing, that who we are — with God is enough?
Until we gather next may all be held in the tender arms of God.
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater