Moments of Clarity
Martha wrote to one of those “Dear Dolly” type columns in the newspaper seeking assistance. “I was running late for work and did not have time to warm up my car, but I still left before my husband as normal, but about a kilometre up the road my car stalled so I walked home to get his help. When I walked in I was shocked when I found him sitting at the computer, still in his pyjamas and with a bottle of whisky next to him. I was shocked and we ended up arguing, and then crying when he eventually had told me that he had lost his job months ago and had been day trading on the share market trying to keep the money coming in, but had basically lost our savings and now has turned to the bottle. I don’t what to do; he’s lost our money, has no job and has lied to me?”
Dear Martha, assuming that everything is o.k. when your car is warmed up, the reason it stalls when the motor is cold may be due to the air/fuel mixture running to lean. The vehicle’s onboard computer is supposed to adjust the mixture based on temperature as well as load and acceleration. For some reason the computer is adjusting wrong. Let’s look at the possibilities why this might be………………………………”
Missing the point
It happens so easily, deadlines, timelines, pressures, what we want to see against what is actually happening and almost above all in our society, no time to simply stop and think. In one of my previous chapters of my work life I was a team leader of 30 people within a building of 2,000. One level, one room except separated every 400 to 500 people by rows of glass offices. It was literally a sea of computer terminals with everyone working to meet deadlines. Deadlines that if were missed threatened fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars per month from the company we were service provider for, and daily potentially hundreds to thousands of dollars compensation per missed individual transaction to the customer, never mind the negative goodwill. Often, I would arrive at say 7.30/8.00am to be hit like a tidal wave and not until 11.00 o’clock did it subside enough to even be able to turn on my computer never mind grab a coffee. Everyday was somewhere between craziness and an adrenaline rush, between despising it and loving it. And everyday succeeded, felt like playing in and winning a grand final.
Occasionally, retreating from the madding crowd to one of these glass offices in order to plan to achieve the unachievable, I would look out-from a step back-and think “what the……is this”.
Moments of clarity, where we see something more than just the moment.
This week’s gospel message describes two very familiar miracles of Jesus: The feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water. If we were there that day what would we have seen? We’re Jews, oppressed by the Romans who have occupied our land. We are desperately seeking the promised messiah but have been misled or let down by those previous that have announced to be him. Then we hear of a man named Jesus performing unbelievable miracles so we rush to him and see him healing people and feeding thousands from five loaves of bread and two fish-surely this is the messiah. We are in the boat with the other apostles and our teacher, Jesus calms the seas-surely this is the messiah. So we follow him into Jerusalem, this is the moment-waving our palm branches as the promised king, the messiah arrives. Side by side we will stand with our leader against those who have enslaved us. Then we see him powerless, arrested by the authorities, beaten and sent to death-and he cannot raise a finger to save himself.
With our fellow apostles, we remember the amazing teachings and miracles we’ve seen, nothing was impossible. We believed this man was the messiah, but now it’s over as he dies like just another common criminal and we ask ourselves “what was that all about”.
Then three days later, hiding in fear of reprisals he appears to us and we remember the things he had told us, the things that just made no sense at the time. Then we have a moment of clarity where we finally see more than just those individual moments and things that have taken place. We finally see and understand. Understand that everything beforehand, those times of wonder and rejoicing, and those times of confusion and doubt have led to this one ultimate understanding, that Truly Jesus is the Messiah, the promised one sent by God to bring freedom and life. The one who has taken us back to the Father through the forgiveness of sins.
Our lives are full of moments. Moments covering the whole spectrum of our understandings. Some that seem to make sense and some that don’t. Moments where we have a great idea-that seems to fail, yet then seemingly by chance through some insignificant moment, things fall into place.
We are that boy amongst the 5,000. We have five loaves of bread made from barley and two small fish the size of sardines, the type of bread and fish that only peasants ate. Surely this is only enough to feed ourselves for the next few days. Do we hide it and keep it for ourselves as it won’t be enough anyway for everyone and then we’ll just starve just like the rest. But against all logic, for some reason we hand it over-and the rest is history and we wonder “what was that” only to find out that our one small act would be used by the saviour, recorded in history as a testament to his power, a testament of his care for those in need while he was walking to his own death. His death that would bring the greatest miracle of all, the forgiveness of sins-for us in the crowd that fell away in his hour of need, for we the apostles who in fear for ourselves denied him in his hour of need, and for us the peasants who have seemingly nothing to offer. Peasants that without knowing and through none of our own design, our insignificant gesture which we only begrudgingly did in the first place have somehow has been used by Jesus on the road to his destiny. His destiny that brings salvation to all those that believe-on his road to the greatest miracle and gift we will ever receive-faith.
The road to faith. Johnny Cash’s brother, called to be a preacher dies very young in his teens. Johnny the musician, who broke most of the rules in the book on his way home, who in his later years would tour with the great preacher Billy Graham and open up his evangelist shows. One evening Billy said “I’m starting to think they are only coming to see you” to which John replied “Whatever gets them here Billy”.
The miracle of faith.
I worked with a physically handicapped girl who was always positive, friendly and helpful. Somehow it came up about the difficulties in our society for handicapped people to which she responded “we all have handicaps, the only difference is that mines on display for all to see”.
I talk of arguably the greatest Australian Rules Footballer player of the modern era. It is said to make it at the highest level you must excel in two of the three musts: speed, strength and ability. He had all three. His ability and speed would dumfound and his strength intimidate. A player, seemingly born of unnatural gifts. But a humble shy man who wrote in his book that he came to despise and hate the attention that his talent had brought him. So much so that at times, in despair he would find himself locked in the toilet before the game in tears. Moments that brought him some clarity and allowed to him to recognise a man of who he would later talk of and say: “that if it wasn’t for His Lord and Saviour Jesus, he would not be here today.”
The miracle of faith-through no power of our own, given to us, to sustain us.
Last week with Josh we were looking through DVD’s and he noticed me eyeing off the movie “Any given Sunday” and he instantly said “oh no, not again, not tonight”. (So we watched Fawlty Towers)-AGAIN. I’ve only watched it in full a couple of times-but there’s one scene I’ve watched countless times as it reminds me of everything that’s good about team “combat” sport.
In the scene Al Pacino is addressing an American football team that are losing at half time, and it goes like this: We are in hell at the moment. We either crumble as individuals or as a team we fight our way back into the light. In football the inches we need to win are everywhere. They are there in every break of the play and in every second of the game. In football as in life, we claw with our fingernails for those inches; we’ll die for those inches. Look into the eyes of the guy next to you and you will see a guy that will die and go the distance with you.
It’s a stirring speech that every time I hear it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and there’s a lot of truth to it: except in our salvation. The one clawing with his fingernails is Jesus. Joy and suffering are all around us, but Jesus died for us, and he does go the distance for and with us. Jesus searches and seeks out sinners to show the work of God in their lives, to bring them to faith.
Us here today, we did not welcome Christ and we did not deserve to be in his presence. But he came to us all the same, brought us forgiveness and has given us life here and life ever after.
A boy with five loaves of bread and two small fish amongst the hungry multitude. We too may be but peasants with only crumbs to offer, but crumbs we offer that when in our Lord’s hands bring his miracle of faith and salvation to those still lost in the multitude. Praise be to Christ. Amen.