I have mentioned before how I write this blog primarily for selfish reasons: it helps me stop and reflect on my life in the presence of God and ask myself questions about how I am doing as a free sample of Jesus. But it is also providing me with interesting experiences as I bump into people who read these pages from time to time. (Yes, YOU!).
I find that members of our congregation make comments about things I have written (and have forgotten I have written) and I wonder how they knew. I meet people at different gatherings who say that they visit these pages on occasions and they sometimes make positive comments about that experience. I met someone at the Conference from which I have just returned who had read the entry I had just posted about our toilet and commented on how he did not want any more information about the plumbing! (Very surreal!).
I even meet people who disagree with what I write. To them I have one word to say…
I would hate to think that people feel that they have to agree with what I write. I would like to think that reading these pages if you disagree with them helps you to reflect and consider your own faith, and perhaps in the act of disagreeing you are affirmed and blessed.
I was surprised this morning when I checked in to discover that my hit counter has now ticked over beyond 4000. I had to check the website stats just to make sure that was not a mistake. Now don’t get too excited, it does not mean that 4000 people read the blog, just that there have been 4000 visits, and some of them will have come back again (fools).
The number 4000 reminds me of one of the strange things in the Bible. Most people are familiar with Jesus feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. (Mark 6:30-44) And we recognise the chauvinistic counting that only included the blokes, meaning there may well have been twice that number there. But how often do we turn over a couple of pages and read about the feeding of the 4000? (Mark 8:1-10).
It’s incredible in the second account that his disciples had not learnt the lesson of the previous occasion. Jesus presented them with the same problem of feeding the crowd and they came up with the same answer: “Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
They were still relying only on what they could see and imagine and somehow had forgotten what Jesus had done so recently before in very similar circumstances. Did none of them think: “This seems familiar” or have a sense of deja vu? This time Jesus fed the crowd with seven loaves and a few small fish and there were seven basketfuls of leftovers.
How I mock those faithless amnesiacs who were traipsing around pretending to follow Jesus.
Until I realise that I am at least as bad, or worse. How often am I faced with circumstances beyond my ability and it stops me in my tracks because I can’t imagine the way ahead, when I know that Jesus has always helped me in the past in similar circumstances? Too often to count.
A vaguely bread-related joke that is also about failing to understand…
A new missionary recruit went to Venezuela for the first time. He was struggling with the language and didn’t understand a whole lot of what was going on. Intending to visit one of the local churches, he got lost, but eventually got back on track and found the place.
Having arrived late, the church was already packed. The only pew left was the one on the front row.
So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate. He chose to follow the man sitting next to him on the front pew. As they sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary recruit clapped too.
When the man sat down, he sat down. When the man held the cup and bread for the Lord’s Supper, he held the cup and bread.
During the preaching, the recruit didn’t understand a thing. He just sat there and tried to look just like that man in the front pew.
Then he perceived that the preacher was giving announcements. People clapped, so he looked to see if the man was clapping. He was, and so the recruit clapped too.
Then the preacher said some words that he didn’t understand and he saw the man next to him stand up. So he stood up too. Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. He looked around and saw that nobody else was standing. So he sat down.
After the service ended, the preacher stood at the door shaking the hands of those who were leaving. When the missionary recruit stretched out his hand to greet the preacher, the preacher said, in English: “I take it you don’t speak Spanish.”
The missionary recruit replied: “No I don’t. It’s that obvious?”
“Well yes,” said the preacher, “I announced that the Acosta family had a newborn baby boy and would the proud father please stand up.”