This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Blessings on all readers for the New year 2012. God is with you. In this new year I will try to make the blog more personal, that is, more openly engaged with my own life as a Christian beliver in Scotland at this time. I hope this may help others to relate the scriptures to their lives.
1 Kings 19:1-8
19Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ 3Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’ 5Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ 6He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’ 8He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.
There’s a wonderful story by the American writer, the late Raymond Carver called “A Small, Good Thing” the crux of which is the eating of bread rolls by parents whose boy Scotty has just died in hospital after a car accident, and who have received complaining phonecalls from the baker with whom they had placed an order for the child’s birthday cake that very day. The mother especially is mad with grief and rage which she unloads on the uncomprehending baker whom she has interupted as he bakes in the early morning. Once he does comprehend what has happened and appreciates how terrible it is and how his phonecalls had been interpreted as sinsister mockery, he shares their grief and invites them to eat new bread, “a small good thing.” After this the parents are able to live and grieve. This is a more profound version of the Elijah story, who after all is simply concerned for the apparent defeat of his cause and his own safety. His profound exhaustion is relieved by ” a small good thing”, in this case water and angel cake. This does nor resolve his problems but gives him strength to journey to where they can be solved. I’ve never been as grieved as the parents in Carver’s story or as despairing as Elijah but I can remember occasions when some small good thing -a kind word or gesture, a reminder of the earth’s loveliness, the gift of sleep, has enabled me to have better courage and to do my duty. If you’re reading this passage today I hope you can find Raymond Carver’s story and receive its blessing.
6After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ 10Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they* sat down, about five thousand in all. 11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’
This miracle is the event which matches Jesus’ words about being the bread of life and his claim that he has come so that people may have abundant life. The life that Jesus gives is not super-natural as if it is conjured from nothing. It is our human life (the five loaves and fishes) transformed by the life of Jesus, and shared. If I give my life to Jesus he gives it back to me, touched by his life and made communal so that I only possess it in relationship with others. Can it really be as simple as that? Can I hand over my cherished loaves and fishes to Jesus, or will I give him only two loaves and one fish? And those others, there’s some of them I don’t either like or trust! Maybe if I can entrust anything of myself and my possessions to Jesus and my neighbour, that will turn out to be the small good thing which begins my journey into abundance.