We have Mark's accounting of the feeding of the 5000 today. Two side notes: this feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle story to appear in all four Gospels; and we are graced with Matthew's version this coming Sunday.
Today's Gospel begins with Jesus listening to the exhaustive and tiring and exhilarating work his apostles had just completed (having been sent out in this past Saturday's reading to teach, preach and heal). Jesus tells them they need to come with him to a quiet place to rest and re-coop their energy. "The best laid plans" as the saying goes. They try to get away but the crowds find them and instead of the much needed rest, they have to work. In fact, Jesus tells them "you give them something to eat" when they ask him what are we to do with these folks so late in the day. Jesus, of course, helps out; he takes, blesses, breaks and gives two fish and five barley loaves, that miraculously feed all those present. After this work is done, and the scraps collected to be used again later, Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray while his disciples go on to Bethsaida.
Doing God's work, creating the kingdom, is hard and challenging work. Even when we may want and need to rest, life and our ministry can get in the way of that planned respite. Jesus' actions today provide for us a model: we can plan, but we need to remember to be flexible too. Providing for people out of our abundance is part of the work we are called to accomplish on a daily basis. Knowing ourselves well enough to say, hey, I need a break, is also part of doing the work of the kingdom. Allowing that rest to be interrupted, although not optimal, is a part of the reality of our doing this work. Yet, remembering to center ourselves around prayer and thanksgiving is an important piece of finding that rest we all need at times.
So many people take vacation-time in late July and August. This model set for us by Jesus is a good one to keep in mind as we enter those gifts of respite: flexibility, prayer and rest.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: SW Waterfront, 2011, jfd+