As the wife of someone who has been vegan for 25 years, I thought I had seen it all. The chik’n nuggets, the “vegandelphia cheez steak,” the judgy stares. Now here we are in 2018 pretty close to the distant future & we […]
Month: August 2018
A few weeks ago, I posted about how I’ve been working on simplifying my life lately. Everything I mentioned in that post was absolutely necessary to my sanity. That being said… my motivation really tanked when I stopped being so accountable to people […]
Last night, I got to go see the incredible Kim Walker-Smith lead a night of worship in Lancaster, PA. I’ve only seen her live one other time with her band Jesus Culture at the Outcry Tour in 2015. Because that was more of a showcase, I only saw her lead maybe three songs. I felt like the universe was in those three songs though!
This time, she has been traveling with her solo On My Side Tour. Wow. Her voice is just amazing. And her messages of hope really released breakthrough for everyone there. The thing that struck me most was the ease with which she and her opener Urban Rescue spoke on scripture and just threw around bible verses. It’s always inspiring to hear others bravely talk about the Gospel.
In the spirit of that, I thought I’d try something a little different. I wanted to take my Sunday Gospel reading and just write a bit about my feelings and impressions to hopefully inspire you this week. I believe in throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall and seeing which stick. Maybe this blog post will stick, and I’ll add more Sunday readings to my queue. Stay tuned…
If you’re not Catholic, you might be wondering about this Sunday Gospel thing and just what I mean. For many Christians, each church can choose the readings for their Sundays week to week, month to month, or year to year. The church where I saw Kim Walker-Smith last night has themes for a few Sundays in a row. The pastor is able to choose readings that go together with that theme and go from there. It’s this beautiful spontaneous type of church and sermon structure.
In my faith, we read the entire Bible as a church over a three year span. We have readings every day of the week and rotate through what we call a “lectionary cycle.” That’s a fancy name for a schedule of readings we can look forward to throughout the next three years.
One thing I really like about that is that I can plug into those readings any time of day, look forward to coming weeks, and read ahead to see where we’re going. It’s also totally exciting that everywhere, all over the world, Catholics are reading those same readings on the same days at the same time. Wow. It doesn’t matter if I’m on vacation, moving, or traveling, I can get the hang of things right away. It’s such a welcoming feeling for me. I look forward to having the Gospels meet me every week.
This Sunday, we’re getting ready to hear John 6:24-35 where Jesus talks about an amazing miracle He just performed. This is John’s account of the miracle of the loaves and fish. Other than the resurrection, this is the only miracle that appears in all four gospels! It’s a pretty memorable one for most of us, but I’m sure it was even crazier in person. No big surprise that it keeps popping up in each gospel.
After that, Jesus talks to the crowds and His closest followers about what happened at that miracle and what it meant. For Jesus, the natural and the supernatural all occur at the same time. Anything He performed on Earth has this other dimension. It’s both a physical miracle, feeding 5,000 people with a handful of loaves of bread and some fish, but it also has a deeper, spiritual meaning. He tells His followers that He provided food for their bodies and food for their hearts. He encourages them to chase after the Bread of Life (Jesus) instead of earthly bread that just leaves us hungry for more. He points them from this physical manifestation of the Father providing for everyone to Himself.
I love when He connects these earthly and heavenly purposes together. Because for Jesus it’s never one or the other. It’s always both. He doesn’t do things in only this dimension or time or place, but in all dimensions and all times and all places. Even just hearing this story takes us back to the time of the Israelites in the Hebrew Scriptures when God provided manna and brings us forward to a future where we can trust what Jesus is giving us in our own lives.
The verse that struck me the most was when the crowd asked Jesus, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
They loved this miracle and wanted to see how they could manufacture it in their own lives. The hungry were there in their midst and many of the good-hearted were likely looking for ways to ease their pain and suffering in the here and now. Others may have wanted the notoriety that comes with performing miracles on this scale. Some may have wanted to show they were blessed by God and were under His favor. Everyone had their own motives for making miracles like this happen, but as always, Jesus said something completely unexpected.
“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.’”
For me, that’s the verse that really stood out. “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” He didn’t give the crowds a set of elaborate instructions to perform this miracle. He didn’t make a to-do list for them so they could “accomplish the works of God.” He didn’t tell them hoops they must jump through or things they needed to check off a list. He didn’t even tell them what comes next, what comes after they believe. He just said to believe.
I’ve written about this many times here, but I’m the type of person who feels most comfortable performing, achieving, completing, succeeding, growing, changing. It gives me a sense of happiness and joy to accomplish things in my life. I’m not going to discount the worthiness of my endless pursuit for excellence and a job well done. So often, though, that becomes the means to the end, not the other way around. I do things often for the sake of doing them instead of having my head on straight about the why.
I feel like I can never do enough, accomplish enough, complete enough in this life. I’ve been working on simplifying things lately, but that’s a hard lesson for me to learn. And one I feel like I’m always learning. Because life, this life, isn’t meant for just productivity and accomplishment. We’re made for something more.
In this verse, Jesus cuts right through the spinning and business and actions and performance. He says to simply “believe in the one he sent.” The Father gave us His Son not only for earthly miracles, although that was certainly part of His plan. He gave us His Son so we could know the Father. His heart. His joy. His plan. His purpose. His love. His everything.
Of course the gospels tell so much more about the plan of Jesus and how life can look here and now and into the eternities. In this moment, though, Jesus drills down into the heart of His mission: just believe. It’s that simple act, that simple yes, that simple restructuring of our heart, that changes things. He performs miracles not to help us believe. He helps us believe so we can experience miracles. It starts with a very simple pivot of our will and pivot of our focus toward Him.
I’ve heard it said often that it’s important not to take scripture verses out of context. Not to just hang on one sentence or one moment and interpret our lives through that lens. That can muddy our understanding of the whole arc of salvation that comes from reading scripture in its entirety. In this instance though, I’d like to suggest that maybe we can set our hearts on this one verse. Reflect on it a little more. It cuts through everything else and its truth is so readily apparent.
Like any other slice of wisdom and window into His heart, Jesus also offers a promise. At the end of the reading He says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
I think we are all hungry for something. Whether it’s for God to perform a miracle, give us purpose, answer a prayer, or fame or success or money or love or security. Something to fix. Something to change. We thirst for good things in this world. Righteousness. Fairness. Justice. Understanding. We have a taste of the Kingdom and want more, even if just in pieces.
I encourage you to ask yourself, “what am I really hungry for?” Then go to Him. Sit with Him. Let Him sustain you. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Whether it’s in a pew, at home, in your car, in your journal. Pour out your heart to Him.
He asks for just a little trust from us, and He provides everything in return.
He will give you real bread for your journey. He will overflow your life with blessing. And you will eat and be satisfied.
It’s been a lot of fun sharing images from some of my journeys in these posts about faith. This time, I wanted to add photos from a trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Hale Farm and Village in Ohio. As an Ohioan, I take a lot of pride in our history. I’m also a little bit addicted to pastoral scenes, so here you go!