Wednesday, 18 March 2020

The panic of not having, and knowing what we really need.


In the wake of the current climate, where so much is unknown, the panic over toilet paper (non-essentials) and not having enough food stocked in cupboards, is an interesting response. 

As many followed Jesus out onto the hillside one day, longing for something more than what food and money can buy, they found themselves in a place where they had nothing to eat that day. They were not prepared with food, as to follow Jesus and the nourishment He was giving was the main focus. So they listened to Him speak and pondered on the depth of His words.

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “you feed them”. Maybe like us right now, they looked at each other with bewilderment and felt straight away, “We can’t do that”.  

We look right now at the situation, and although the really important conversation is about health, it seems that the panic is about the fear of not having the food we want, when we want it. So much so that there needs to be a set time for the elderly and disabled to have a time when they are not being rushed by everyone else, simply as they get a few items. The hoarding and panic of food and toilet paper that is happening around the country seems like such an overreaction to something far more important. We are blessed to live in a country where supply of these things would never be in jeopardy. Imagine how people might respond if this was really the issue. Something many third world countries face daily.

But deeper than this and sadder for me is that many churches all over the world seem to be focusing on the sadness of not being able to meet in their usual crowds. As solutions are becoming apparent there seems to be a sense that everything will be okay because you can stay in your house and your pastor will “live stream” in his message. Is this really a solution to the problems arriving? Is this even the problem? Is this even the calling?  Maybe we have strayed so far from our calling that at this time it is surely important to ask, “what should our focus be on right now?” I believe it is the same focus that it has always been. It has never changed? 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart … and love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22: 37-39.

Yes, this IS our call. So, what does that look like right now, today?  So many Christians, ministries are so focused on how to maintain all that they have created, that to ask how best to love God and love each other in this difficult time is hard right now. 

Like the disciples, we look at each other and say, “We can’t do that. We have to answer bigger questions: people are not coming to our services anymore. What do we do about all our planned Easter Celebrations? How do I televise my message so everyone can hear it?”

Jesus said bring me what you have … 2 fish, 5 small loaves of bread, and He used it to feed over 5000 right there and then, reminding us that God provides us with even more than what we think we need and we can find peace and comfort in His provision. Then He drew away from the crowds to be by Himself and with His father because He knew they wanted to idolise Him, make it all about Kingdom building here on this earth, create bigger crowd gatherings. (John 6:5-15).  The next day the crowd found out where Jesus was and followed him again. He said to them, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs - and for free. Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides.” (Jn 6:26-27MSG)

Last night my daughter came home from her life group, a small group of people (less than 10) meeting together to share stories, their life and their struggles and read God’s word. She was buzzing as she shared how life-giving it was to hear and share real challenges in the midst of such pain. While I love a podcast of a great preacher/pastor and there is a place for that, especially today, in times like these I believe we must be a shining light, of people who know what is most important and can we live in a way that brings peace and love and generosity in the place of panic, hoarding and self-doubt.  What gives us real nourishment? We all have access to His “Word” here in Australia. We are blessed. This is the food that sticks with you.  With that assurance, we are then called to be together and love our neighbour.  What a great time in history to be asking the question, 

“What does being together and loving our neighbour look like today?” 

Oh, that we should be known as people who loved well and cared well, who shared well, who asked, “What can we do for others today?”

The 5000 on the hillside that day, didn't seem panicked that they didn't have food, much less toilet paper. They seemed more panicked that Jesus had left and they wanted to know where He was. As they carried their many baskets of leftover food with them (more than they needed), they walked around the Sea of Galilee to hear Jesus speak again. 

“I am the bread of life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.”  (John 6:35) As the Jews started arguing about what he just said, Jesus continued with stunning words that stop me in my tracks when I read them: 

“Don’t bicker among yourselves over me. You’re not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me. That’s the only way you’ll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End.” (John 6:43-44MSG)

What do we really need today? What does the world really need today? How can we be a part of the solution and not be a part of the problem? Do we really believe what is happening today is a surprise to God? Let us to seek Him for how we are called to be His people today and maybe in the process we might find that the things we thought were really important,  like how we gather, how we function as His body, might even set us on a better course for the future.  

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