“So… what’s for dinner?” Monday Meditation. 06/22/2020.
Alan Neale.
Trinity Church, Newport, RI

Mark 6 – 30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

It is not uncommon in the Neale household for the man of the house to ask the woman of the house “What’s for dinner?”. The question may occur anytime, yes anytime, during the day and Wendy, bless her (no, really, bless her) is patient with the importunate request and provides the answer.

Well, the disciples come to Jesus with a similar importunate request though made all the more importunate because no food emporia are near and the diners numbered 5,000 (not including women and children).

This is one of the few stories that are told in all four Gospels and, so important is its message, that there’s even record of other such events though this time feeding a mere 4,000.

Frankly, I’m not sure where to begin. I’m glad the disciples were becoming more like their Master and showing compassion for the crowds. Even though the challenge they present to Jesus is monumental, this does not stop them from turning to the Lord for help and guidance. Remember those important three statements “I don’t understand. I can’t do this. Please help me”? Or the summary of the first three steps of the AA 12 Step Program “I can’t. God can. I think I’ll ask him”?

No matter the challenge, the problem, the opportunity; no matter whether we have no idea how to respond… “Bring it to the Lord in prayer”.

At this stage I realize that I need devote at least one other meditation to this story – sorry!

Mark tells us that the Master and his disciples were busy, hectic, nearly overwhelmed so much that it was decided (vv.31-32) it was imperative to have a time for retreat, renewal, re-creation. Please take note… if this was imperative for Jesus, how much more for us and those whom we love, those who take care of us, those who love us… give them space and time to be renewed. Of course, the planned retreat doesn’t last long (“If you want to make God laugh, make plans” – I can imagine Jesus smiling, maybe not so the disciples!).

Verse 34 surely is one of the most descriptive and prescriptive verses for pastoral ministry of any sort “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. The word for “compassion” is derived from the word for “inward parts” and so Mark is describing no superficial concern for the crowd (not a mere “oh dear, poor crowd”) but rather a deep, inward moving of the spirit… to be moved, to have pity on. I remember the title of a book on Julian of Norwich (written by Robert Llewelyn) – the title? “With Pity, not with Blame”. This is the default setting of Jesus towards us all… whether as treasured in individuals or part of some amorphous, anonymous crowd – consider this look of Jesus toward you “With Pity Not With Blame” and pray that you and I can grow into this same steady, constant, affirming compassion toward all… the lovely and unlovely, the comfortable and the challenging, the agreeable and the not agreeable… add to the list!

Well, part two tomorrow… Tuesday.