‘You did great Sarah : that would have really upset you before!’ But it hadn’t thrown me and I had peace. A Peace because I knew all ‘this’ wasn’t mine to fix but I was watching and finding Jesus in the midst of it.
For the last year we have sat every Tuesday in a local pub starting at 9 and leaving when people stop dropping in. We’ve never advertised : it’s not a group or a meeting. It’s not a programme. We sit like Jesus did at the Well waiting for the one to come who Father is drawing. The one who needs living water. We talk and share Life; hear one another’s stories and find how we fit in Jesus’ story together.
Yet the ‘one’ has grown to lots of ‘ones’ What do I say to the woman who is so argumentative and aggressive to the lady who has just come and sat at the other end of the table? ‘She should hand herself in,’ she shouts then turns to me and says, ‘she’ll put me in my coffin.’ I can hear fear not judgements or hatred. For the next hour as I listen she tells me the story of drugs, murder, survival really, in the history between them. Two of us hold her hands as she sobs letting out the begins of his pent up emotions.
Do I buy a breakfast for another regular? I’m weighing up if that blesses her to offer one less sexual favour today or will I really just free up the money she has for another drug fix? But she’s here safe, accepted and searching for living water like the rest of us. Then a chap takes to his feet because he wants us all to know how great he did shouting at the whole street last night that it isn’t f..ing about law and rules. It’s about f..ing grace and he’s f..ing loved more than he ever known. He’s so excited to be knowing who this Jesus is more. It doesn’t seem the time to say, ‘talk about the wonderful, beautiful truth you’ve discovered without the old self’s language please’ I sit with one lady at a table and some other customer who is at a neighbouring table suddenly shouts at us to shut up and begins wagging his finger in my face cussing at me to leave. Peace floods me and I’m not the least bit intimidated. When I asked for him to take his hands away from my face I didn’t mean for him to cup them around his own mouth so he could amplify his instruction for me to F.*#@ OFF more.
Some one else is checking if another friend has any news about accommodation as he’s been sleeping in the woods. We rejoice with another who says, ‘ I’m doing well today as I’ve not pinned anyone up against the wall by the throat this week.’ We’re all giving thanks for that one!
Sounds chaotic? Maybe, but to some we just sit in a pub drinking the free refills all day! This couldn’t possibly be church. It’s not comfortable, casual Christianity that’s for sure, but we’re captivated by Christ and are happy to sit in this conflict to bring His life to people. When I read the gospels Jesus walked out of a few synagogues to be on a mountain side or a village with individuals. They press in to hear His words and feel His presence and acceptance. They know they have nothing and are hungry for hope. I feel out of my depth lots of the time and that’s when I ask Jesus how we can even begin to fix all these needs.
Jesus knew what it was like for people to press in. So many times crowds much, much bigger than what I’m describing gathered. At the start of John 6 a massive crowd are following him. They’ve heard about what He can do and they want their healing and miracle. 5000 men plus the women and children and it’s approaching the time for Passover. Jesus turns to Phillip and asks, ‘Where will we get food for all these people.’ Verse 6 says it’s a test. Phillip answers a different question though. He answers HOW MUCH will it cost and concludes 200 days wages for a snack. He wants lots of resources to scratch the surface of these people’s needs. Is it possible that Andrew’s reply of, ’well that boy has 5 loaves and 2 fishes’ was somewhat sarcastic? If it was in today’s society did the recount miss out the rest of his sentence?
You say we need just over 6 months wages so about £12000 and we’ve got a £5 worth right here. Good plan!
Of course we’ve heard lots of sermons on how Andrew’s response was faith filled and Jesus took the little he had and multiplipied it. But either way Jesus made something out of nothing. He fed this crowd and there were 12 baskets left over. One for each disciple to carry perhaps. You have to have eaten and have an abundance left to feed everyone else.
And honestly those disciples and Jesus needed bread and fish that day too. How do we find resources to met our needs so that we’re there to met yours? The disciples had 12 basket of leftover fragments not a basket full to begin with!
Did they pass the test then? Jesus asked ‘where’ not how much. Where does their need get met? In my situation where will I find the drug or rehab fees? Where can I get a deposit together to get housing sorted to get this guy out of a tent? His benefits have just been stopped so where’s he getting money now for food and rent? That’s before I think where is their emotional needs satisfied? Or where the reconciliation with their families and the law happens?
After the picnic in John 6 Jesus withdraws to a mountain by Himself but the disciples start to row across the lake in a boat. Maybe they realise the question wasn’t ‘how’ now but ‘where’ and they’re on to the next place to be……………..Rowing hard to get some – where. At night, tired and in difficult conditions, by themselves, with the wind blowing against them, they are trying to get there: The ‘where’ they think they should be. Full of self effort and afraid now they see Jesus approach.
And He gives them the answer to the test …….’it is I’…. take that in for a second…..
It is I.
They take Him into the boat and ‘immediately get WHERE they were heading’ V21 The where is answered in whom. ‘It is I’ – the person of Jesus.
In Jesus, from Jesus, through Jesus. The answer is Jesus- what’s the question? Jesus has been trying to tell them this already hence the test to see how much they had understood already. You see He’s shown them it’s the water of the word into a wine of experience at the Wedding. He emphasised the marriage of heaven and earth in Him. The how of salvation isn’t law but a grace filled celebration. When they saw Him talking to the woman at the Well, her and the village get transformed. It wasnt about how many men you looked too, to meet your needs, it is in relationship with me you receive living water. It’s not where you worship on either mountain but it’s me -I speak to you. The man at the pool walked after 38 years and the Pharisees ask how he’s walking and he tells them, ‘all I know is Jesus told me.’ Jesus went on to tell them all in the synagogue, ‘you search the scriptures but you refuse to come to me. ‘
You see 5000 people came to Jesus that day with needs for healing and miracles and their biggest need morphed into being physically fed. People can come to meet us for one reason and we think it’s give them a breakfast or a cup of tea – fix something. I need bigger resources to fix addiction or housing or emotional hurts. I’m still on how, when Jesus asked ‘where?’ Where isn’t a progame or a place I need to deliver or arrive at. Where is a person in the fulness of Jesus.
In the rest of John 6 Jesus expands on this more. ‘You come to look for me because I fed your belly not even because I did your miracle. Come to me for the food that endures’ He explains He’s not temporary bread that fades but Real food, the Bread of Heaven. Come to Jesus and eat what He offers: all of Himself. His Life is Bread that satisfies every need or situation.
So when I’m sat praying for my new friends or when we’re together on a Tuesday or increasingly at other times during the week I’m mindful to always remember I’m not meant to fix any of these issues. In fact I’m not overwhelmed at all when I see people not problems. When I fix my eyes on Jesus and not on a solution I get to nurture what He’s doing instead of frantically rowing against the wind to achieve something! When I offer them Jesus they get that this isn’t about fixing a temporal problem but feeding the deep hunger within them that is the root of all of the issues. Of course I’ll walk with them in the other stuff too but in doing that we’re still going to find what Jesus is doing not what I myself have to offer. I’m eating the True Bread and simply offering some from the basket I’m carrying that I picked up as an abundance. But I’m pointing at the Person who has an endless supply for you.
‘Where do I go for these people’ Jesus- offer Him each and every time.