Wednesday, December 5, 2012

God is enough: Advent Midweek Missal (1)

Matthew 15: 29-37 (CEB)

In what ways does God want to transform your desert?

Jesus moved on from there along the shore of the Galilee Sea. He went up a mountain and sat down.  Large crowds came to him, including those who were paralyzed, blind, injured, and unable to speak, and many others. They laid them at his feet, and he healed them. So the crowd was amazed when they saw those who had been unable to speak talking, and the paralyzed cured, and the injured walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. 

Now Jesus called his disciples and said, “ I feel sorry for the crowd because they have been with me for three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry for fear they won’t have enough strength to travel. ” His disciples replied, “ Where are we going to get enough food in this wilderness to satisfy such a big crowd? ”  Jesus said, “ How much bread do you have? ”  They responded, “ Seven loaves and a few fish. ” 

He told the crowd to sit on the ground. He took the seven loaves of bread and the fish. After he gave thanks, he broke them into pieces and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate until they were full. The disciples collected seven baskets full of leftovers.

Similar to the Feeding of the Five Thousand, this story provides a wonderful statement of Jesus as the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23. The two movements in this feeding "encore" are 1) being healed and 2) being filled. Both are described with overwhelming abundance in Psalm 23, in the CEB: "You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spills over!" Jesus' "feeling sorry" for the crowd without food provisions is translated as "compassion" in other versions. Compassion means to "feel with," and can be likened to "tender mercy," or even mother (womb) love. 

This is a reading we need to hear the first week of Advent. Because the voices in and around us crying "not enough" only become louder, and more incessant if we listen to them. And so we need to start not with our own insufficiency,  but with God's all-sufficient love and grace. We are bathed in God's healing love and our cup spills over!

The miracle of God's grace is that even after everyone has eaten their fill of what Jesus has to offer, there is still as much left over as at the very beginning! How does that happen? 

There are additives in pet and even human food that make us feel full for awhile. But the trick doesn't last long. Soon we realize that we may not be as full as we thought an hour or two after eating food with "fillers." With Jesus, however, the everything that God has is ours, now and forever!  God's mercy is all new, every morning, and God doesn't run out of mercy.

The important footnote to this story is that it all takes place in the desert, the wilderness, an experience notorious for scarcity, not abundance. There are no provisions for daily bread. So whatever the desert may be for you, to me it often looks or feels like "not enough."

Transforming our deserts into places where we can discover God is enough is a gift God has to give, and it's there for the taking. 

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