It has been a particularly difficult few weeks in our shared life together. By my count, there are currently eight families in our community who are navigating grief and mourning in the midst of a season that is supposed to be all about hope and expectation. After all, the shopping malls have proclaimed this the happiest and most wonderful time of the year with calls to put emotions that are anything but joyful on the backburner until some other, more “appropriate”, time in the future.
I love this story. I love the compassion Jesus shows. I love the abundance of food that is available, including the provision of leftovers. I see our human nature come out when the disciples respond to Jesus' words with anxiety and defeat, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” But amazing things happen when Jesus is present! The crowd of 4,000 is fed with what appears to be only seven loaves and a few small fish.
A lot has happened in the world over the last week. Last Thursday, the schedule said, “Give thanks.” So, with tables piled high with food and football on the TV, we gave thanks for all the stuff we possess, and the loved ones who benefit. Seems we also took note of what we did not have in the process, because “Black Friday” called us to rush into every available retail outlet to push, shove, and harangue to get whatever we lacked to make life full.
My mother refused to stuff the stuffing in the turkey. A nurse by training, it seemed to her a health risk. Making the cavity of a turkey into a petri dish of simmering bacteria was not going to happen in our house on her watch. Instead, the stuffing went into a “cornflower” Corningware dish and was baked until it formed a crunchy top. That is an indelible (so far!) Thanksgiving memory for me. No doubt you have yours too.
With more than a nod to C.S. Lewis and his Screwtape Letters, I offer this message I intercepted from the IT Department in Hell (you think you get weird stuff in your social media). If you know what the enemy is up to, it can help:
What an absurd title – “Remember to Love”. “Of course, we remember to love, we don’t need to be reminded,” we say to ourselves. We’ve got this one down.
I love All Saints Day. It is, hands down, one of my favorite festivals in our liturgical calendar, right up there with Christmas and Easter.
As Martin Luther once said before his accusers, “Here I stand,” we did something similar. We held a congregational meeting. We voted to adopt a public statement of Welcome & Inclusion and to become a partner with Reconciling Works (among others) to be a congregation Reconciling in Christ.
Five hundred and two years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, touching off a debate and conflict that came to be known as The Reformation. Thus ends the most predictable sentence a Lutheran pastor could type in the days leading up to Reformation Day. It would now be predictable to shout the praises of brother Martin and point to the eternal truths revealed in that historic moment. I’m not going to do that. I’m actually tired of doing that.
Looking into the faces of thousands of hungry people, Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “You give them something to eat.” (Matt. 14:16; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13) The disciples respond, in essence, saying, “Seriously?! Impossible.” So, Jesus feeds them all. Fast forward to today. The Church now, the body of the resurrected Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, stares into the face of millions who are hungry and suffering. Jesus again commands, “Give them something to eat.” I’m here to tell you that the response if quite different than those disciples.