Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hope Is Alive... vast, it's overwhelming - and yet, so elusive at times, it's a bit scary...

The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's Word:
2 Kings 4:42-44 (Elisha's receipt of the first fruits of harvest are shared with the people; there was some left, as God willed)
Psalm 145:10-18 (The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs)
Ephesians 4:1-6 (Paul calls for unity of the spirit through the bond of peace)
John 6:1-15 (The Bread of Life Discourse, Prologue: Jesus feeds the multitudes on five barley loaves and two fish)

and: (UMC) Romans 5:1-11 (In justification through Christ we are given hope, which does not disappoint because the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit)

Sign for Our Times:

Bang Your Head!
Thankfully, you won't find this one along the road. Today I have to be thankful for the creative person who had enough time on his or her hands to come up with this!

The lesson I have brought home from the weekend's 'worship experiences' (a term I have to consider carefully, as it could easily be taken improperly) that I'm very human.

I also admit I was wondering where I would go with this, considering I'd already dealt with the Bread of Life Discourse right after Easter. After I'd finally said "Done!" to the daily musings I'd posted during Lent and Eastertide, I realized that this is something that I wanted to continue doing, as it was a way to sort out mundane life and find the better moments in them.

Theologically, I'm sure most readers will have read or heard it all before - Jesus feeds thousands on five loaves of bread and two fish. This leads to the lengthy discourse that it is not merely physical hunger that Jesus is satisfying. But it is in the way that this miracle is described by John that strikes me as important today.

It's clear that the disciples lack the resources to feed such a large group. When asked, Philip says that even two hundred days' wages - 7-1/2 months of labor - would not be enough to feed everyone more than bread crumbs. It's also clear that these men - all considered adults (with the possible exception of John), couldn't seem to think outside the box. When a boy offers the five loaves and two fish, Andrew comments what is plainly evident - that this isn't going to be enough.

It's the boy's humble offering, though, that makes all the difference in the world. Through this act of selfless charity and innocence, all are fed to the full, with a dozen baskets of excess to boot. It is not what is given, but what is behind the act of giving that makes all the difference.

There's a lot to learn from this, stuff that I as yet still see just moments too late.

As I made my way home with my son this morning, I discovered that one of the tires on my car needed air. I stopped to take care of this, having my trusted gauge - an inexpensive item no motorist should be without, as many air stations don't have the built-in gauges. As I was attending to my low tire, another motorist pulled into the station. He asked me if the unit had a built-in gauge, and I answered that unfortunately it didn't. About thirty seconds later it came to me that it wouldn't take that much time to offer the man the use of my gauge and simply wait while he attended to his car. By that time, though, he had left.

And that's just a small thing. Place on top of that so-called 'conventional wisdom' when it comes to dealing with anything out of the 'ordinary': caring for an aging parent who can't take care of him/herself the way s/he once did; struggling with raising a child with autism or any life-changing condition; even struggling to make healthy choices regarding diet and physical activity. These challenges in life are answered with hope through the Bread of Life.

The constant reminders of what is wrong in our world numb us to the point where we begin to give up hope. Yet hope is indeed alive. Hope will rarely let adversity take the upper hand. Hope opens the door for inspiration, for thinking outside the box, to make possible that which seems utterly impossible.

My dear wife practices Reiki - in a simplified nutshell, she is a spiritual healer. Today she confided in me that she is compelled to reach out to people in deep need, even when she knows well enough that their track record most likely got them to this low place. She said it makes her crazy doing so (her words), but the compulsion is too great to walk away. She 'gets it', though, where many others do not. She doesn't go to lengths to explain it; she just does it. The explanations can come later for the interested.

That's what Jesus would do - and what the next four Sundays will address - the explanation of how he makes possible what would otherwise be a dream, left to die without hope of fulfillment.

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