Blogging Towards Sunday, February 26th
How much is enough? We live in a society where we want to super size everything. So we should supersize faith right? We should have a supersized demonstration of proof that God is and that God is what we think, before we believe. It’s not asking the impossible. It’s just asking for a little more, not that hard to get. It only costs like another quarter to get it at McDonald’s, so God should be able to do it – easy!
It’s a sin or error that’s easy to follow into we choose blindness out of a drive for pertinence, relevancy and resonance. We think that God should operate how we do, or at least similarly. What God wants and says should be pertinent to our problems today: the foreclosure crisis, politics, sexuality, contraception, big business, tax reductions, school closures, unemployment. And God’s word is more than pertinent and relevant. Just read what Jesus actually says, not what Fox News or CNN says he says. But the problem is that we want God to resonate with our needs, as opposed to God inviting us to resonate with his plan for creation.
Opening our eyes to the literary layers that are the foundation of the text:
Before reading and studying today’s passage take the time to reread a few stories:
· the Passover – the feast of unleavened bread (Exodus 12);
· Moses challenged to produce not just manna, but meat (Numbers 14:21-23)
· Jesus feeding the 5,000 (Mark 6:30-44)
· The Revelation vision of the New Jerusalem: Revelation 21:1-22:6
The passage of today echoes the themes, numbers and questions of these texts:
· 7 baskets, loaves of bread, days of creation, churches, bowls, seals, plagues
· 12 baskets of leftovers, disciples, gates of New Jerusalem, tribes of Israel,
7 and 12 are big numbers in the Bible. They are consistently associated with the idea of fullness, completion, revelation, rest, renewal, new creation – what God most wants for all of creation. They are throughout this text, which tells the story of the miraculous feeding of the 4,000 and the disbelief of the religious authorities who ask for more signs of legitimacy.
In the Exodus story the Israelites are in the wilderness. God frees them from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh and slavery and then sustains them in the desert with the gifts of manna and quail: food that literally falls from heaven. They get enough to eat. But if they take more than what they need it spoils. They mumble and grumble against Moses, against God, wanting more signs, more help, more stuff – for God’s salvation to be supersized. So God punishes them, saying that this generation of complainers would not enter the promised land, but perish in the wilderness. Sounds harsh, but it’s meant to be a sort of a purifying thing.
In the gospel, we hear of a miracle of feeding hungry folks in the wilderness. Either they were far from home and resources. Or it might be a reference to Gentiles being saved and brought into the community of faith. Commonly in the OT Gentiles are described as far away from God (Deut 28:49; 29:22; 1 Kings 8:41) whereas the Israelites are near to God (Psalm 148:19). So maybe the crowd of 4,000 has come a long distance - not in miles, but in personal transformation – to hear and draw near to God through Jesus. Feeding them isn’t just about justice, but about hospitality, compassion, acceptance and community life.
The disciples ask how, and Jesus has them act as intermediaries distributing the very food they weren’t able to find. Then the complaining and mumbling starts. For the Pharisees and Herodians (political powers in bed with Rome) it’s not enough. They want more signs, more proof. “Supersize it for us Jesus, then we might believe!” they order. It’s not their asking for a sign that’s the problem. It’s their hostility to Jesus as potentially the presence or avenue through which God is at work in the world.
This miraculous meal is a secret ephiphany, a revelation that in Jesus God’s eschatological power is beginning to flood the world, that Jesus is like a new – bigger and better Moses – come to bring Israel and the Gentile Nations to the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem! Eschatological means last (eschato) things (logical). Jesus isn’t just feeding the hungry – he’s talking about what God is going to do to and with the world. And he’s making it happen through his words, actions, relationships, presence in the world. The danger for the Pharisees is that they are hyper-sensitive to this world – wanting things to be relevant and resonate with their desires. The disciples, curiously criticized by Jesus in Mark 8:17-21, are in danger of forgetting that God is doing a new thing in Jesus, when they hear all the mumbling and grumbling around them asking for more signs, saying that it’s not enough.
Are we any different? I often supersize my order because everyone else is, and I want what’s coming to me! We struggle to believe in God – and yet I think that our society is believing, hungering, thirsting for the divine. But – we don’t know where to look anymore. God didn’t stop the Shoah, WW2, the suffering in Syria, genocide in Rwanda….so how can it be true? We want more signs before we place our bets on belief. We believe, yet when we struggle we want more signs that God does love us, that God does walk with us, that God is all-powerful. But maybe we’ve already been given all the signs we need? Maybe we have all the proof we could ever want? Maybe we’re just blind – by choice – by distraction – by ignorance – by pride – to what God has done and is doing here today.
Lenten practices are meant to make us aware of Jesus’ sacrifice, to open our eyes to the depth of God’s love. How do you need to supersize your trust in God?