Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sunday 16 September 2012, Mark 6:45-56, Jesus comes to Those in Fear, Bruce

A key word for Mark is Suddenly, sometimes translated Immediately.   As we have been in chapter 6 since 26 August, we can lose some of the flow.  After facing hostility in his home town, Jesus has sent out his disciples to spread the word.  They have returned full of enthusiastic reports just as Jesus receives news of the death of his cousin John.  Jesus takes them for a period of quiet recuperation, but the crowd follows, at least 5000 men and others, and Jesus has miraculously fed them, starting with only five small loaves and two fish.
There is no breathing space for the disciples.  Suddenly Jesus is hurrying them into the boat and sending them back across a short space of lake.  While they are working hard rowing, Jesus sends the crowd away.  This may have been quite a task, because John tells us they were so excited that they wanted to make Jesus king, and he had to dissuade them.  After they were gone, Jesus retreats back up the hill to find a quiet place to pray.  He had been looking for space before, and it seems that now he really needed to recharge batteries, to connect with his Father. 
The disciples, meanwhile, are still rowing; it seems that they are out there all night until it was almost dawn.  There is a stiff head wind and they are struggling to make progress in the choppy water.  As they are experienced sailors, there is no suggestion that they are greatly concerned or afraid.  What does alarm them, though, is that they see a figure walking towards them on the surface of the water, looking like he is going to stroll by them.   They all see him.  They think it is a ghost.  They are terrified and they are shouting out in fear. Suddenly ( that word again) Jesus speaks to them.  He reassures them that it is him, climbs into the boat, and the rough waves calm down completely.  They are amazed.  They don’t understand it.  Mark tells us that they have learned nothing from the loaves and fishes incident, and that their hearts are hardened.  Feeding over 5000 people was a miracle.  Walking on the water was a miracle.  Bringing calm to the sea seems to have astounded them.  They have seen all these things but they do not know what to make of them.
It is interesting that Mark does not relate the part where Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water towards Jesus; it is thought by many that Mark’s gospel relies heavily on Peter’s eyewitness accounts, and that he did not want to relate an incident that appeared to show him as boasting.  Also Matthew tells us that the disciples bow down and confess their belief that Jesus is the Son of God.  We have seen before that a major theme for Mark is the “Messianic Secret”.  You might remember from the parable of the sower that one result of the preaching of the gospel would be the hardening of the hearts of the hearers.  We are midway through a story, and Mark is making the point that we are all on a journey of discovery.  No one, not even the disciples, can reason their way to the truth about Jesus; it must come as a revelation from God.  They have been with Jesus, have heard the preaching, witnessed and taken part in miracles of healing and deliverance, and yet do not yet fully understand.  In the next scene we see, multitudes gather to bring their sick to Jesus; they know he is special, but they do not understand how special.  This process will climax on the mount of transfiguration, and we are only two weeks away from that now!
In the meantime, we share with the disciples this process of encountering God and growing in him.  We see that God allows us to learn over a period, encountering new truths to put alongside things we have known for some time but are now experiencing a new, deeper ways.  The Christian life is founded on the regular repetition of stories and concepts.  We relive the last supper and the death and coming back to life of Jesus almost every week.
This is why renewal programmes such as Alpha (and there are many others) are so vital.  In maths we might say that we do not need to learn our tables.  In reading we might say that there is no need to teach us the alphabet.  I challenge us all, though, to look at any part of the Christian gospel where we can say that we have ticked the box and know all that we need to know.  I confess that I have so much more to learn about who Jesus really is, as I seek to live a life in union with him.  The natural condition of our hearts tends towards hardness; that is why we consistently ask for grace to be open for all that he has for us, open for all that he would teach us, open to follow him wherever he leads us. 
We may often feel that we are toiling along through life, that the seas are choppy and we that we are making no headway.  We may sometimes feel that when the Spirit moves, when the temptation comes to open our lives to encounter more of Jesus, that it is a scary prospect that takes us out of our comfort zone.  We may have a spiritual problem, but the cure (Jesus) seems more alarming than the condition that needs to be dealt with (our hardness of heart and slowness to believe).
The good news is that Jesus has not finished with us yet.  We are his work in progress.  You cannot make a garden overnight.  There are some recipes you cannot hurry.  We do not all grow at the same pace or in the same way.  As we walk with Jesus and travel in the boat with him, so we are learning to trust him in every situation.  We are being transfigured as we expose ourselves to the light of his glory, full of grace and truth.

Discussion Starters
1.       What does it add to your picture of Jesus that Mark frequently describes his actions with the word translated as Suddenly (or possibly Immediately).
2.       What part of the story most relates to our situation today:  do we feel that we are being made to get into the boat, or that we are rowing hard but getting nowhere, or that we are seeing Jesus walking towards us and it scares us?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

SMYL TALK on Feeding of the 5000 Mark 6:30-44

SMYL CAMP TALK on Mark 6: 30-44 – with additional items at the bottom for the script.

I sometimes think that if I had been alive in Jesus’ day I could have seen him for myself. I would have liked to seen him heal a blind man. I would have loved to be in the boat when he stopped that storm raging. I would have liked to have talked to Jesus’ mother and asked her what he was like when he grew up as a boy.
What would you have liked to see Jesus do? Accept responses.

If we had been alive when Jesus lived on earth we could have seen him for ourselves! Some people did see him and they wrote down what they saw and we can read it in the Bible. (Hold up a bible.)

Today we will hear about something Jesus did. It’s a true story and it comes from the (Bible.)
(Take out the small table and cloth). (Place the bread and fish on plates on the table.)

What have I put out on the table? Accept responses.

Would you like to have this for lunch today? Accept responses.

Would anyone like to try some? Allow a couple of children to taste some of the food. Eat some yourself.
A boy in the bible had this for lunch. His mum packed it that morning. He was in a crowd that followed Jesus to see what he would do and to hear what he would say.  Here is the story of what happened to him.
(two groups of children needed to help with signs – Mum, I’m hungry. Dad, I’m full.)

Jesus crossed Lake Galilee. A large crowd had seen him work miracles to heal the sick, and those people went with him. There were men and women and children in the crowd. They walked along and followed Jesus.
Mum, I’m hungry!

They walked along by the lake then up a small hill. They walked for a long time.
Mum, I’m hungry!

Jesus went up on a mountain with his disciples and sat down. But all the people followed up the mountainside too.
Mum, I’m hungry!

Jesus saw the large crowd coming towards him. He knew they had been walking for a long time. He could hear some of the children saying:
Mum, I’m hungry!

Jesus asked one of his helpers, Philip, ‘where will we get enough food to feed all these people?’ Jesus knew what he was going to do, but he wanted to know what Philip was thinking.
Philip (who was also tired and hungry!) said, ‘Jesus, I don’t know what we are going to do! It would take 8 months of a man’s wages to buy only a little bread for each of these people!’ at that very moment a little girl said:
Mum, I’m hungry!

All the adults started to look around at the child
ren who were getting tired and a little bit cranky because they need some food. Then the adults also realised they were hungry. An old man even said, ‘I’m really hungry!’

Andrew was one of the disciples. He had been looking around and trying to figure out what to do. Everyone was starting to say: I’m really, really hungry!’

Andrew spoke up and said to Jesus, ‘There is a boy here who has five small loaves of bread and two fish. But I don’t think that will be any help to us. Just look at all these people.’

Everyone was looking at Jesus. What would he do? Would he do anything?
The ground was covered with grass, and Jesus told his disciples to organise everyone to sit down. About five thousand men were in the crowd. Jesus took the bread in his hands and gave thanks to God. Then he passed the bread to the people, and he did the same with the fish, until everyone had plenty to eat.
That’s right, he just kept giving out pieces of bread and fish and somehow everyone had plenty.
Dad, I’m full.

The people ate all they wanted.
Dad, I’m full.

Jesus told his disciples to gather up the leftovers, so that nothing would be wasted.
Dad, I’m full.

The disciples gathered them up and filled twelve large baskets with what was left over from the five loaves.
One old man said: I’m really full. One young woman said: I’m really, really, full! One little girl said:
Dad, I’m full.

The people were so amazed that they wanted to make him their king and leader right there but Jesus knew God had other plans and he went up on a mountain where he could be alone.

All the people there knew Jesus was someone special.  Some of them realised he was God’s Son. They knew he could be trusted and they became his followers. All these years later here in Britain we can also trust in Jesus and be his followers. We know he is the powerful Son of God.

Prayer: Let’s us pray.
Lord Jesus you are very powerful. You are the Son of God. Thank you that we can trust and follow you. Amen.

Additional Bit
All of us here know this story off by heart – it’s one of the better known miracles of Jesus. Some of you will remember that half of what the young people raised from a sponsored event for children in Cambodia was enough to feed 1470 people. They followed the example that Jesus set in this story – they had compassion – decided to do something about it.  Yes, they did it a different way but they showed some of the stuff that Jesus was made of.

Whilst at camp we talked about the Olympics which took place a fortnight ago. With the opening ceremony with Queen Elizabeth and James Bond parachuting in before the crowd, billions of people around the world have turned their attention to this challenge of the human spirit. The youngsters learnt how many tons of meat - 400, fruit and veg - 300, seafood - 83, cheese - 21, how many loaves of bread – 25,000 were used in the 14 million meals prepared for the athletes. And that was as well as the two Macdonald’s   being on site too. We wondered how many loaves and fish would have been needed to create the 14 million meals for the athletes over the fortnight?

We all agreed on one thing the Olympics were big and that they tested the body and spirit of every person involved. One could say the same thing about Jesus feeding the five thousand – it’s big and it serves to challenge the body and spirit of every person involved – from those first ones on the mountain side to all of us as we sit here remembering. When it comes to Jesus’ practical teachings about living life as a child of God, the illustrations don’t come any bigger than this one. When it comes to challenging our practical understanding about life and love, it is hard to find other examples that would touch us more deeply.

For in this story the children learnt that Jesus has compassion. Although Jesus wanted his disciples to rest, compassion moved Him to serve the people who had gathered to see Him perform healings and to hear him preach. (Mk 6:34) Jesus put aside His comfort, His time of relaxation for others. Is this something that is seen in us when we come across people less fortunate than ourselves?  This miracle reveals the wonderful compassion of our Lord to all people.

The Children have learnt that Jesus not only has the power to heal the sick and the possessed; He also can switch from the spiritual (healing and forgiveness) to the mundane - to feed 5000+ men with five loaves and two fish. Jesus also has the power to change lives today here in Britain and the rest of the world.  The children learnt that even though they are small in height and young in age – they too, with the help of Jesus, have the power to change things for the better – they changed the lives of many in Cambodia. Do we believe that Jesus can change the situations that might be swamping our lives’ today? This miracle reveals the overwhelming power of our Lord in all things.

The Children learnt that Jesus had orderliness – a very big issue – He arranged the multitude in groups and ranks – he organised His disciples, who organised all the people. The children moaned when we mentioned about being organised and being ready to do or go or change plan at a moment notice.  Sometimes we need people to help us with this because it is not in our nature to be organised – that’s why we have people over us like the Boss at work, Mum and Dad, Teachers, etc. Being organised is a good thing. We need to be organised inside ourselves  by putting God first – praying, reading the bible and following Jesus’ example, carrying on His work. This miracle reveals the need to be orderly.

The contrast is itself huge. How can things as fundamentally different as spiritual issues and practical, earthly issues become one? How can my spiritual concerns for faith, prayer, contemplation and study be as important as my grumbling  tummy? How are the divine and the human joined? Jesus made it clear that all we are, all that is within us, has been declared righteous by God. God alone made it clear by coming to serve this world in the person of Jesus.

This story of the feeding of the 5000 is just as big as the Olympics and I wonder if the 2012 will be remembered as well as this story does in 2700+ year time?

But there is one thing that sticks in our minds – the boy with the five loaves and two fish.  This story is in all four Gospels – they all focus some attention on the boy.  Why a child and not an adult giving up his picnic? It is because children seem to drive messages home? And the child in us, that’s you, me, and everyone else who has ever felt as helpless or ineffective as a child. It is this child, this unlikely helper, who Jesus enables in his sharing. What that child did by sharing became a feeding story like no other – both physically and spiritually. But, it was a bold move.

We do not know how the disciple came upon him or whether the boy sought the disciple out once he saw what was taking place. The point is he did not hesitate. He showed no reluctance to getting involved. Instead he demonstrated discipleship - the same as that of Jesus’ closest friends. But that is what Jesus does – he takes the gift of our dinner and makes it a feast. Miracles don’t get any bigger than that.