On surprises

Southern Idaho Friends churches hosted a youth volleyball tournament this last spring, and I’d driven the van for a team from Newberg. We slept on the floor at Boise Friends Church (which means I didn’t sleep well.) Then, early Saturday morning, I took my camera and walked through the neighborhood as the sun was rising, looking for something quirky to capture. I didn’t find much, so I walked back to the church where I was surprised by two geese loitering on the roof of the gym. They’d been waiting for me.

In this morning’s Fruit of the Vine, Bethany Lee draws our attention to a story about Jesus, a story that contains a surprise: “The story is simple,” Bethany writes. “There were crowds of people listening to Jesus, and they were hungry.” 

The account in Mark 8 records the ensuing exchange between Jesus and his disciples:
2 “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
4 His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
5 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied.

Bethany continues, “Jesus gave thanks, broke the bread, and handed it to his disciples to distribute. And all the people ate their fill.”

Jesus’ disciples didn’t know where to look for food “in this remote place.” And they didn’t have to. Because it was already waiting for them. What little they had was more than enough.

Bethany includes nine questions to help us consider what to do with the surprise in this story, questions that help unpack the details of the exchange, questions that shed light on what might be happening emotionally under the surface of the narrative, questions that challenge the way I think about my place in the world and my responsibility to care for others.

In the meantime, I’m thankful for Bethany’s reminder that when I’m with Jesus, I need not fear going hungry “in this remote place.” When I’m faithful to offer what I have, I can trust God to make it more than enough. And even when I wander off, looking for that thing I think I’m missing, God can surprise me with warm sunrises, bright blue skies, and two geese on a roof.

And if you’re curious about those questions from Bethany, you can find a print subscription to Fruit of the Vine in our bookstore. We also have an inexpensive digital version that comes right to your email inbox each morning.

While you’re at the bookstore, take time to look through our discount books. This is the time of year that we go through our shelves and mark down all the books we’d like to move out of inventory. As of today, we have 173 titles marked down by 40 percent or more.

And as a follow-up, thank you! Last week, I offered a brief overview of how Barclay Press is doing financially. You responded with three notes of encouragement, one idea for a publishing project, and two cash gifts. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Eric Muhr