Two weekends ago Vice-Moderator Jerry McKinney and I travelled to the fall PCUSA meetings in Portland, Oregon. It was a grouping of a number of meetings together, I attended the Association of MidCouncil Leaders meetings while Jerry was in Moderator Training and then together we attended the Fall Polity Conference. Much of the conversations at the meetings was about the future of our denomination, the changed time we are in the midst of, and where God is leading us.
Feeding the Four Thousand
During the meetings we had a morning devotion that I would like to share with you. We read Mark 8: 1-21 together, a chapter that is full of imagery around bread, hunger, food, and yeast. It begins with Jesus feeding the four thousand people who have been following him on bread and fish. The disciples, ever skeptical, do not think there will be enough to go around to feed the people who are with them in a desert. But they are wrong. Then the Pharisees show up and start pestering Jesus for a sign to show who he is and what his ministry is about. They are rebuffed by Jesus who does not engage them, instead he climbs back into the boat. Upon entering the boat, once it is out on open water, Jesus finds out they are whining and complaining because of self-inflicted wounds–they have only brought one loaf of bread with them into the boat and are now worrying again that there will not be enough. A few times in the passage Jesus expresses his frustration, first to the disciples, then to the Pharisees, and then to the disciples again.
Over and over again in Mark 8 people come to Jesus with problems or complaints, people who have abundance–and yet are sidelined by a feeling of scarcity.
We discussed that this passage lends much to the time we find ourselves in today. We live in a time of incredible abundance and yet we worry that there is not enough. We have gotten to such a point in the mythological story of scarcity that we believe in it and oftentimes do not even notice how it influences us each day. Not only do we believe there is no longer enough, we can enter into lure to cling to litmus-tests for our leaders, play the blame game or come unprepared for the work of ministry in a new context. All of these themes are present in Mark 8.
But, worst of all, scarcity-thinking leads to a lack of creativity and a lack of ingenuity.
In Mark 8 Jesus has it creativity and ingenuity in spades. He finds a way to feed thousands of people who are hungry. He figures out how stay un-entangled with the meddlesome and naysaying Pharisees. He digs down deep past his own (and well-founded) frustration with the disciples to offer them some nuggets of wisdom. As we seek to confront, interrupt, respond to and solve some of the most difficult problems of our time as a living out of our faith, the behaviors of creativity and ingenuity from Jesus are lessons that we can learn from and would do well to mimic.
What lessons do you hear in this passage for the time we are in as leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ?
Where do you see abundance around you?
What do you need to ignore, change, or transform of the scarcity narrative that brings the opposite of the gift of Resurrection and New Life we are offered by Christ our Lord?