June 29, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Then Peter began to speak, ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right….Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water.’” (Acts 10. 34-35, 47)
So, I am putting this time of reflection to the test of strengthening the position I posited yesterday about “redemption being the first business of the Church.” In the news yesterday, I listened to the horrible stories of death due to malnutrition in the South Sudan. Thousands are dying daily because there is not enough food to eat. One worker described it as “taking food away from the hungry to feed the starving.” In the thrust of that is the news that one supplier of grain that would help to feed those people is Ukraine. Putin’s forces have cut off the ports where ships and warehouses filled with grain are loaded. The grain is literally rotting at the docks. Of course, this grain is not just for the suffering in Africa. Ukraine is a major world supplier of grain. They are not the only supplier, however. So, the question came to my mind asked by that someone out there, “What is the Church doing to feed the hungry? Will they, if the first business of the Church is redemption, only feed those who follow Christ and accept Him as Lord and Savior? Where does your claim to faith, hope and love lead you now?” Wouldn’t it be nice if there were always simple answers to complicated questions? In light of this, and other crises, how does the Church respond and hold fast to its “first business”? Does it suspend the call with which it has been called to provide for the physical and social welfare of the people of the world?
I would stand firm on the claim that it does not suspend the call nor is it supposed to. I would look to the recollection of “The Feeding of the 5000+” mentioned yesterday. We could speak also of “The Feeding of the 4000+” or “The Abundant Catch of Fish” as well. I would take my first stand on the truth of Immanuel, God with us, in order to guide my thinking on how best to answer this Spirit-led questioning. There has to be an answer if redemption is our claim and our mission. I focus my attention on this question “How does the mission of redemption feed the starving?” Jesus often speaks of “hungering and thirsting after righteousness.” Which hunger becomes the greater need. In the moment, physical hunger and the need for fresh water becomes an urgent priority. In the long term of eternity, spiritual hunger and the thirst for living water becomes the urgent priority. I do not think we can prioritize one over the other. There is never a question in my mind that we do them separately, disjointed and far removed. We are, after all, called to walk by faith and not by sight. The question is also “What and who do we believe in more to resolve these critical issues impacting human life?”
In terms of South Sudan, their crisis was present long before Putin moved Russian forces into attack positions around the Ukraine. Their own civil war in the early 90s brought a devastating change in leadership and drove millions into leaving the country or face dire consequences at home. Sounds like there is some common element to be discerned between then in South Sudan and now in Ukraine. Refugees are not merely those who leave a country for another country but those who have left their homes within a country, too. I can’t help but let my biblical knowledge fall back to the story of Joseph, the one whose coat was of many colors. When the day came for Joseph to reveal his true identity to his brothers, he said, “What was intended for evil purposes, God made the intention for good.” In the New Testament, the word says, “God works through all things for the purpose of doing good.” Nothing is beyond the power of God to redeem and reconcile for the welfare of His people; those who are called by His Name and those who will call upon His Name. Paul declares, “How will they hear the Word of God if it is not preached. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the declared Word of God.” When the disciples felt the “hunger” crunch, they lost sight of the eternal impact and told Jesus to order the people to go home and feed themselves. He was, afterall, responsible for them being there in the first place. Was He really? What really brought the people to that hillside above the Sea of Galilee with Capernaum across the bay? Was it not that there was a hungering and thirsting for righteousness? Was it not the drought of fruitful living caused by the oppression brought on by sin and sinful people? Jesus came that they might have life and have it abundantly. Jesus came so that the people could see a life of righteousness was still possible even when the probability of it had been promoted as small. Jesus was about meeting the problem at the root and not merely picking rotten fruit and casting it to the pigs. The Word of God had been demoted to the status of weed instead of seed that bore fruit to the glory and purpose of God.
So, what did Jesus tell the disciples? “You feed them.” They responded with “There are so many it is impossible!” Jesus said “You FEED them.” They responded “How can we when we have so little.” They took a lunch from a nearby boy who had “five loaves and two fish” as evidence of their own poverty. Have you thought why does a boy need “five loaves and two fish”? I doubt it was just something he carried with him all the time. I believe it was evidence that he and his family intended to stay for a while listening to Jesus and gleaning from Him a harvest of eternity. They were in it for the “whole nine yards.” What does that say about the disciples? They were not prepared? They held their own supplies in reserve and didn’t want to show what they had for fear they would have to share? And if this boy and his family had food, it stood to reason that others had brought food as well. Even if they didn’t, this one family did and it would be by their faith in Jesus that a miracle provision would be revealed. One family, redeemed and reconciled, provided for the hope of a city and in its wake the hope of a world. Jesus took on the sinful thinking of the disciples and contradicted it with the righteous thinking of the Master. In order to show what can happen with righteous thinking put into righteous action, a harvest was gleaned that glorified God and brought good to many. I do not find it hard to think that the disciples in that moment used the boy for an “evil” purpose out of which Jesus worked it for good. What would the evil be? Selfishness. Lack of faith in themselves and in Jesus to do what was not probable but what was, in their estimation, impossible. Doesn’t the Word of God say “Nothing is impossible with God?” It speaks, of course, directly to the saving of a person’s soul from the pit of despair and Hell.
The voice of God spoke to Satan’s question of “You feed them!” God answered, “I will.” And He planted the seed of His Only Begotten Son into the ground. He raised up that seed by the power of His Holy Spirit and produced a harvest tenfold, fiftyfold, hundredfold and far more; so large there are not big enough barns to contain it. All for the sake of redemption! Now let’s hear Jesus preach from the hillside “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all that is needed will be provided.” The food is there. Who is going to believe in saving souls to provide it?
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father, thank You for abiding in us but also calling us into accountability by Your Word of faith. May our eyes, ears, hearts, mind, spirit and soul be wide open to the leading of Your Spirit in these troubled time. We ask this through Jesus our Christ in whose name we live, serve and pray. AMEN.