Rector's Letter

A lesson from Harvest

We all remember the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. It’s in Mark chapter 6. Jesus has drawn a huge crowd and now it’s late and they’re hungry. Send them away, urge the disciples, so they can buy food for themselves. But no: “You give them something to eat,” says Jesus. Impossible, they reply! What have you got? Jesus asks. And we know the rest… Five loaves and two fish. Jesus has the disciples sit everyone down in groups. He prays, breaks the bread, and there’s enough for all, with twelve basketfuls left over.

How like us are those disciples. Exhausted by the demands of following Jesus and serving others, the problem is just too great. Nothing can be done. And the impulse is to send people away. But with Jesus, something can be done, and He’s about to do it. But not on His own, and that’s the point. It’s ever so tempting for us to push the whole problem on to Him. A prayer will do it: “Jesus, please take this responsibility off our hands!” But look what He does with the disciples: He takes them on a journey… See what you’ve got (not what you haven’t got!). Trust that whatever you have (however little), with Jesus, is enough. Then act on the conviction that He is at work (in the disciples’ case, seating everyone in groups – an act of expectant faith if there ever was one!) and see what He will do. And thus was Jesus glorified in the eyes of all involved.

We so easily make one of two mistakes. Either we try to do God’s work by ourselves, in which case we’re soon crushed by the superhuman magnitude of the task. Or we duck out, push it all on to God, and relax, in which case we write ourselves out of the story. Harvest time is a reminder of God’s astonishing offer of making us God’s fellow workers in spreading the Gospel of Christ (1 Thessalonians 3 2). The disciples couldn’t feed the crowd on their own. And Jesus, who could have done it alone, chose not to, because He wanted the disciples to be part of it, for their own sake, to teach them to step out in faith in His service.

How are you doing as a disciple of Jesus? Do you naturally lean towards the DIY approach to the Christian faith: just getting on with it by iron discipline and determination? Or do you more naturally lean to the “take a step back and over to you, Lord” approach? Let Harvest this year remind you of God’s astonishing offer of making us His fellow workers in spreading the Gospel of Christ. Co-working with Jesus: what a privilege!

Rob Thomas

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