Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Of Miracle Bread and Hot Dish*

When Ken and I headed to our first church as neophyte Revs, we weren't at all comfortable about what lay in store. Not only were we in Wisconsin (was there anything in the state besides cows and Green Bay Packers?), we were in the northern part of the state, a rather sparsely populated place I tend to think of as the redneck area of Wisconsin. (For those of you who have followed the posts about Pastor Dee Anna and Little Big Foot, it is very loosely based on some of what we experienced there. Dee Anna will be back here soon.)

*"Hot dish" is Wisconsin-speak for a casserole.

Mark 8:11-26

The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation." And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out - beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod." They said to one another, "It is because we have no bread." And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" They said to him, "Twelve." "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" And they said to him, "Seven." Then he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"

Today's passage makes me grin. Can't you just see Jesus looking at the 12 and sighing, maybe trying not to roll his eyes? Come on, get a clue, dudes! You still don't get it, do you?

We once were pastors at a church in "the northwoods" of Wisconsin, an area of tall trees, lots of hunting and fishing, and some rather colorful people. We met many folks who lived in tiny cabins in the woods, heating with wood stoves and subsisting on venison and sometimes little else. A woman I'll call Betty was one of those. She was short and wide, round faced, cheerful, helpful, and a devout Christian with a childlike faith in the goodness of God. She was also just a little "slow." She attended a neighboring church, and her daughter was a faithful member of ours. The women each moved easily between the two churches, two women's groups, and so on. We saw Betty often.

One day I saw the mother and daughter at a local restaurant. At the urging of her daughter, Betty shyly told me a miracle story. She had invited several ladies from church to her home for lunch. Her daughter came too, partly to help her mother and partly because she knew many of the guests. Betty never had much to spare, but she did love social gatherings. She made a large crock pot full of pasta and hamburger with some kind of sauce. She planned carefully, she added, and she figured she had enough for the number of women who had said they were coming.

Her childlike gaze grew even more round-eyed as she told me, "Pastor, those ladies came hungry! They ate all but a couple of spoonfuls. And then three more knocked on the door! They came in apologizing for bein' late, and I thought, 'Oh, dear Lord, what am I gonna do?'" She went on, "While they were taking off their coats I headed to the kitchen. And I started to praying and looking in the 'fridge to see what I might throw together. Then..." she paused and her daughter nodded encouragement. "I felt like crying, and then I thought about how Jesus fed all those people in the desert with just a little bread. I went over to the crock pot and put my hands on the sides of it. I'm telling you, there was only a little bit on the bottom. I closed my eyes tight and prayed, 'God, if you could multiply bread you can multiply my 'hot dish.' I don't want to send these ladies away hungry." She said softly, "I opened my eyes, and Pastor, my crock pot was full of more noodles and hamburger!" Her daughter's eyes twinkled as she looked at me nodding gently and saying, "It happened. I saw it too--the empty pot, and then the full one."

I don't know what I said. But I remember that just as I was leaving she smiled and added, "Oh, there were leftover too."

God, may we come to you in simple trust. Help us to be able to listen, and look, and wonder, and praise you. Enlarge our hearts and minds and spirits as we ponder the works of heaven and earth and as we live as your children in this world. We acknowledge that we don't know as much as we sometimes think we do--and we thank you that sometimes miracles happen. Amen

1 comment:

LoieJ said...

But of course. But most of us wouldn't think to pray.