Sunday, July 27, 2014

Death Sometimes Brings Clarity to Life

Dr. John Rusco was my campus minister when I attended college at OSU.  He was a serious man whose eyes twinkled when he smiled.  He often saw the humor in life and enjoyed the students.

But at the same time, he could often ask serious questions that penetrated to the heart of the matter.

Once when we were studying the feeding of the 5,000 (where Jesus feeds a multitude with only a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish), John told me about one idea of interpretation that said that as the example of the boy's willingness to share what he had, others began to come forward and share what they had until they realized that they had enough for a feast!

This is similar to the idea of stone soup.

Naturally, the inclination is to be scandalized by this interpretation.  It seems to take away the miraculous intervention of Jesus into the world.  This interpretation feels kind of like seeing a magic trick explained.  We want to believe in the impossible - if only rarely.

The brightly colored stole you see me wearing during
Ordinary Time was one that John often wore and was
given to me by his family after he died.
Did Jesus physically multiply the loaves or did his teaching inspire sharing among humanity?

Whichever interpretation you favor, the feeding of the hungry as well as sharing what we have with those in need are both Christian values.

On some days, I prefer the miraculous but on others I see the true miracle is when a heart feels compassion and gives up precious resources so that someone else may live.

John had a way of keeping things stirred up and keeping us talking about different ways in which we might live out our faith.

Years later, when I found out John had cancer, I went to visit him in the hospital.  We shared Holy Communion and in this way, I was able to share the bread of life with him just as he had done with me.

When he decided that the cancer wasn't going to go away, he asked me along with another minister, Scott Sharp, to meet with him and to plan for his funeral service.  We shared in his life until he grew tired and needed to sleep.  It was a good afternoon but it was kind of bittersweet.

His death was sobering to me.  It really made me examine my own ministry and look at what God was truly calling me to do.

As we look at the feeding of the 5,000 this Sunday, we see that Jesus has just learned about the death of the man who baptized him, John the Baptist.  Jesus truly believed that John was a great man.  He was upset and sought to withdraw - maybe to examine his own ministry in light of John's death.  But the people followed him and this may have validated his own sense of identity.  He begins to teach them.  Instead of sending them away when he is finished, he feeds them.

This tells us much about the identity of the one we call Lord.

It gives us an idea of who we are to be for the world as his followers.

I'm looking forward to being back in the pulpit this Sunday and hope you'll join us for worship Sunday morning if you're in the Edmond area!

In Christ,


Picture taken at Edmond First United Methodist Church on 7/27/2014 by Robert Bost

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