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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

~ Do You Have Anything to Eat? ~

Ever notice the rhythm of despair and deliverance? As the Israelites left Egypt with the pharaoh’s army in pursuit, why didn’t God have the sea already parted on their arrival? The Israelites would have still sung in joy to Yahweh, their Deliverer, as they kept going on their way. Having them face a seemingly impossible challenge of escape and forcing them to be still had a purpose. In those times of anxious stillness and waiting there is much to learn about God and us.

That rhythm of waiting in stillness and moving ahead in joyful deliverance is reflected so eloquently in Psalm 107, written for liturgical use for an annual spiritual celebration:

Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains...
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from distress.

Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction...
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.

Others went out on the sea in ships...in their peril their courage melted away...
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.

Four years ago I was returning home in my car, at a complete stop with the left turn signal on, waiting for a break in the oncoming traffic. I was quite surprised and annoyed to see in my rearview mirror a car approaching at a speed at least the legal limit of 55 mph, and it wasn’t slowing down. I knew I was going to get rammed and just waited those long two seconds. The impact propelled my car into the oncoming lane where the front of it also got rammed by another going at least that speed limit. I then noticed I was looking at the ceiling of my car, did a quick body check to see if everything was still working, then crawled out the shattered back window, my only means of escape.

I surveyed the carnage and my rescue-training mode kicked in, checking first the driver who hit me in the back, then the other car that was upside down with the driver still strapped in. I tended to her and helped with the extrication when the rescue squad arrived. Incredibly, we all sustained only soft tissue injuries. (Sometimes, however, I think something in my brain went haywire since then.)

Naturally, my family, friends and I thanked God for the miraculous deliverance of us all. I tell this story here because it reminds me of a teaching tale you may have heard. It concerns a servant who went to the market for his master when cars were only a fantasy. His horse got spooked by a wild animal, turning so abruptly the servant’s cart flipped over and over down an embankment with him getting thrown onto boulders. Miraculously, he suffered no injuries and upon returning, exclaimed how blessed he was for God’s protection. His master listened, unimpressed. He told his servant how he was even more blessed that day. “Today I also rode to bring a neighbor some supplies and safely returned without any damage at all to my cart, horse or me. Praise God for that!”

We miss the miracles of normality. We get a near hit on a busy road and exclaim, “I could have been killed! Thank you, God!” But we don’t think like that when we have a pleasant, uneventful ride and return home safely. We generally don’t arrive home after every trip exclaiming, “Thank you God! I could have been killed or hurt!” We take it in stride and perhaps look around the kitchen and ask ourselves, “What is there to eat?”

Now that reminds me of something Jesus said among the many that makes me chuckle. (Since Jesus was the exquisite expression of humanity in all ways, we can be assured His sense of humor was also superb.) Imagine the scene when He first appeared to His apostles who were in hiding after His execution. What a sacred scene of divine grandeur and deliverance! But after the worshipful jubilation quieted down, Jesus asked, “You guys have anything to eat?”

The academically serious would probably find no levity in that stunning moment when all eyes must have froze on Jesus upon hearing that question, as normal as a friend stopping in on a normal day. Yes, I know the theological explanation. Jesus wanted to demonstrate that although His resurrected body was quite ethereal, being able to walk through walls and appear and disappear, He was also still incarnated, still bearing His wounds, still able to eat. Not quite a spirit like an angel, but also not constrained to a physical body as we are.

But come now, that’s not the only thing that was going on with Jesus’ question. “Do you have anything to eat?” (and He knew they did) does not rank up there with the great exclamations of truth or the proverbs. In the context of that scene, however, the normality of it was strikingly wondrous and penetrating. “Yes, here I am in my resurrected body, you are soon going to experience the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit and revolutionize the world, and, by the way, you have anything to eat?" There is profound mystery and miracle in normality.

I think that awareness is what Jesus wants us to learn. So as I ride home on my bike from my secluded forest writing spot, I’ll have the joy of thanking God for all the cars that didn’t even come close to hitting me and “say grace” before sipping from my water bottle.

Like many of you, I am waiting in stillness for some mountains to move and seas to part, for deliverance from engagements of spiritual warfare. During the exodus, Moses told the Israelites, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13-14).

Jesus certainly did that for us, and then casually asks, “Do you have anything to eat?” The stillness of normality is as profoundly miraculous as the drama and triumph over challenges and perils. It is a rhythm we need as much as sleep and wakefulness. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” We hear the callings of Christ, we peer into the ineffable magnificence of the heavenly visions, we participate in the passion and resurrection of Christ, in the rhythm of pain and joy, of stillness and action. Now, let’s just go get something to eat. The ability to do that is also a miraculous, divine, and necessary grace. Sadly, though, not all of our brothers and sisters can do that. Let those of us who can do it in supreme gratitude, humility, and reverence. There is much holiness and grace in normalcy.
 

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
   in the Christian Faith ~
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