Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jesus the Spiritual Boy Scout

On Sunday, we will hear the story of the feeding of the five thousand. (And the oohs and aahs will be heard throughout the church.) Really, this is one of those stories we know. It's on that short list of miracles that most Christians can recall--even if they don't get the number of fish or loaves or people or baskets quite right. So what does the preacher say? That Jesus made a lot of food? That in Christ everyone is satisfied?

This time around, I'm drawn to the exchange between the disciples and Jesus. Remember how the lesson starts--"Jesus withdrew to a deserted place by himself." He wasn't looking for people; he was running away from them. But they found him anyway. And, when he went ashore, he saw the multitude, had compassion on them, and began to heal their sick--ministry on the fly. When evening approached, the disciples urged Jesus to send the crowd away so that they could buy something to eat, and then Jesus really surprised them.

"You give them something to eat," he said. "But we've got only five loaves and two fish," they replied--just enough for us. We brought bread and fish for our small group, but we aren't prepared to feed this crowd. This isn't our job. How are we supposed to do that? Sigh. "Give me what you have," Jesus said. "And tell the people to sit down."

The Boy Scout motto is "Be prepared." It's a good motto for life, Boy Scout or otherwise. That's why grandmothers the world over keep hard candy in their purses. That's why southern ladies have pitchers of iced tea. That's why Bookman, the library inspector, told Jerry Seinfeld that he should keep Folgers in his cabinet--it's freeze-dried. People like to be prepared when they are called upon to be hospitable.

But Jesus wasn't worried. The disciples were, however, and they brought this panic to Jesus. Trusting--not in his supernatural ability to multiply loaves and fish but that the circumstance would work itself out--Jesus told the disciples to take care of it. You give them something to eat. He wasn't testing them. He wasn't taunting them. He wasn't preparing to show off. He just knew that everything would be ok.

What does it mean to be a spiritual Boy Scout? What does it mean to have the kind of faith that trusts that everything will be taken care of? You don't need someone who can multiply loaves and fishes in your company in order to trust that God will provide. The message I hear this Sunday is the call to admire Jesus--not for the miracle of feeding but for the miracle of faith. He has that relaxed, prepared, go-with-the-flow mentality that we are invited to have for ourselves and that I desperately want in my life.

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