God’s supersizing love: reflections from John on this morning’s passage
A lovely service this morning on Youtube, led by Phil. Anne Thomas read the Bible passage, Matthew 14:13-21 from the Good News Bible which belonged to her father.
It’s the story of Jesus healing people and, when they were hungry feeding them by multiplying the loaves and fishes a small boy offered to them.
Phil drew out some lessons from this familiar passage.
God uses the gifts we offer
He reminded us that God uses, and can use in big ways the things we offer – just like Jesus took a small boy’s lunch and multiplied what he had been given. I guess that prompts the question ‘What am I giving to God?’ For some of us, the lesson may be that we can offer God ourselves, or some resource God has given us to bless others.
But for others, perhaps the lesson is simply to realise that we are already offering to God moment by moment as we seek to live as Jesus-followers in our families and friendship bubbles, at work, at school. And God can take our faithfulness, and touch other people’s lives through us.
The wee boy had some story to tell when he went home that day! We may not see God multiplying the fruit of our hands, lips, ears, talents, but where seed is sown by God through us, others will be blessed whether or not we are aware of it.
And the second thing Phil emphasized is the superabundance of God’s provision. Jesus ‘supersizes’ a meal – with God there are no half-measures. God knows our needs, and blesses us.
I guess that prompts the question ‘What about times when God is silent? What about the times when my needs are not met, when my sorrow is taken away?’ Where is this abundantly generous God?
And then we realise that God is with us, suffering with us in our sorrow and loss, weeping with us. And that in some way, as God enters into our suffering, somehow we are at one with Jesus in his suffering for the world.
We will all have our faith in the goodness of God tested in suffering, and this makes it so important that we seek in our ‘ordinary’ days to be aware of God’s superabundance, not numbed to it by routine. God loves us, God provides for us, God explodes in our faces in the beauty of nature, the delicacy of a flower, the soaring of a eagle. Thank you God, for your goodness.
The patience of Jesus
And another lesson Phil drew from the story was the patience of Jesus. He’d heard bad news – his cousin John had been executed by King Herod. He crossed the lake with this closest followers to find space to reflect and pray on the far side. But the crowd, having seen him embark, ran round the lake shore to the beach at the far side where they were waiting for his arrival. He might have said ‘Give me a break!’ – but he didn’t. He made time for these people, taught them, healed them, and fed them.
A lesson to us, as Phil said, to be patient with others; to recognise in the interruptions, as someone has said, our real ministry. And he’s right. But I guess we also need to take care of ourselves. It’s so easy to want always to be giving ourselves to others. Because we genuinely are moved by compassion for them and want to make a difference. Or sometimes because we feel unsure of ourselves and needy and seek self-respect through helping others. Our because we feel it’s expected of us, and we must always be caring. Or because we want to get a name for being compassionate. We’re such mixed up people that there may be in us a mixture of some of these pure and less-pure motives.
But whatever our motives, we can find ourselves giving and giving and giving, and perhaps putting our families in second place, until we find that we have nothing left to give and we break down, or give up and are no use to anyone.
We are frail human beings. We need time alone simply to chill, time to connect with God, time for our families who are always the primary beneficiaries of our care, time to re-charge. And this means carving out the time necessary to care for ourselves and those close to us. It means creating boundaries so that we are not available at all hours except in very special circumstances.
I am convinced that God does not expect us to be driving ourselves into the ground, and that we are able to love and care for others only to the extent when we have learned to love and care for ourselves because Father God loves and cares for us.
Father God, help us this week to be fully present in each moment, fully open to others so that something of your love is seen in us. Help us to know from experience that you are not stingy, but incredibly generous. Help us to take care of ourselves so that in your Name we may taken care for others. And if dark days come, help us to sense that you are with us in our pain, and that nothing can separate us from your unfailing love.