Today’s scripture readings are just what the doctor ordered for this time of year. Beautiful examples of God’s love for us. John says that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him. The psalmist proclaims that God shall defend the afflicted. And Mark gives us the feeding of the five thousand.
What happened to 2007? How can we already be into 2008? Christmas is over. All the ornaments are down and packed away. The gift wrapping is out with the trash. The Christmas tree was so dry it was like wrestling a porcupine just to get it out of the house. And now we stand in the middle of all our stuff. You would think we would be happy. And yet people standing in the middle of open presents can be sad and lonely. Even depressed. Instead of joy, Christmas can be a time of stress, worry and anxiety. Sometimes our culture of consumerism can overwhelm the Christmas message and leave us feeling like that Christmas tree, dry and brittle. We are rulers in the kingdom of things. Yet with all this stuff, we look to God and ask, isn’t there something more. We want something greater, something meaningful. Our desire is for God’s love. To be God’s servants. Ironic. Today’s culture can seem like a thief desiring to steal the joy God offers us. How do we defend our joy? How can we serve God? What can we do?
I love the story of the feeding of the five thousand. So many lessons. It speaks of God’s incredible love for us. Jesus sees the crowd and is moved with pity for them. For they are like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus tells the disciples to feed the crowd. The disciples say, “Are you nuts?” (they didn’t really say that). Jesus asks, “What do you have to give?” Five loaves and two fishes. Jesus prays, breaks the bread and five thousand eat and are satisfied. A miracle demonstrating that nothing is impossible with God. It’s interesting that, instead of just doing it himself, Jesus tells the disciples to feed the crowd. He tests their faith and challenges them to take action and serve.
My wife and I were sitting alone at the dinner table recently when she dropped a bombshell on me. She asked what I thought about adopting a baby. I laughed and asked if she was kidding. She went on to say that a friend’s sister was pregnant and wanted to give up the baby. Deb also went on to say that the young lady was a drug addict and the baby could be born with Downs syndrome. My reaction? Are you nuts? I’m 52 years old. We’ve gotten three kids out of the house, why do we want to bring one in? We don’t know the first thing about raising a child with a disability.
Needless to say my wife was a little disappointed in my reaction. Our conversation made me think about the question, What is the criteria to be a father? Obviously, it’s a lifetime commitment. You have to be able to handle failure and tragedy. You have to be willing to be hated (at least temporarily). You need the patience of Job and the stamina of a pack mule. You may end each day mentally, physically, spiritually and financially drained. And then you wake up and start again. There will be times where you feel lost. Like you don’t know what you are doing. And there is no training, you just do it. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Ah, but the rewards. They can be incredible. Being a father is sort of like being a Christian?
My wife sometimes amazes me. She has an incredible capacity to love. Where I see obstacles and the impossible, she sees the opportunity to serve. I’m encouraged that I’m probably more like the disciples than my wife. Jesus loved and was patient with disciples who lacked the courage to step out in faith and do God’s will. My prayer today is for guidance in the new year and that all of us would have the courage to step out in faith to serve God.
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