The In Between
The Tibetan Buddhists call this time of transition that comes from loss, the In Between. The well-known Tibetan Book of the Dead is a meditative guidebook for this transitional time. Instead of the Book of the Dead, many Buddhists including the Dalai Lama would rather call it, The Book of Liberation Through Understanding in the Between. It is a call to the liberating power when we embrace the reality that all of life is transitional.
St. Luke is in the in between. St. Luke is in transition and I am your Transitional Pastor. We are together in the In Between. Together we are in the between space of what once was and what will be. There is a phrase in the Bible for this in between space. It is called the Now and the Not Yet. It references the space between our present reality and
the future possibility to come. This is a time to resolve unfinished business and old conflicts. It is a time for slowing down, for reflecting and re-evaluating who we are and who we want to become; what we have done and how well or how not so well we accomplished what we set out to do. And it is a time to discern who God is calling us to be and what God is calling us to do in the world.
I share this with you because in Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus is in the between space. Jesus is in transition. He has just received some news. News that causes him to get into a boat and search for a private and desolate place. The verses right before tell us what kind of news it was. He has just been told the sordid news that John the Baptist has been beheaded.
John is dead. Jesus is quite possibly in shock. He goes alone by boat to a quiet and desolate place. Perhaps he wanted to find a place that matched his mood, desolate. This word in Greek, desolate, also means isolated, abandoned, or orphaned. In the text, Jesus goes off by himself, in a boat, to find space and time. He may have
wanted time to weep and possibly to come undone without an audience. Perhaps he wanted to honor John in some ritual way. Perhaps he was afraid, afraid of how and when he too would die.
Perhaps Jesus, in his humanity was as familiar with despair as the rest of us. Perhaps he knew what it is like to have your thoughts go down a rabbit hole. Downward spiral thinking: John’s dead. How much time do I have before they come for me? What did I get myself into? This is too difficult. Take this cup from me.
After healing all day, the anxious disciples come to him with a suggestion on how to avoid caring for the crowd’s need to be fed. They know they do not have the necessary resources for a crowd so large. And Jesus tells the disciples, “You give them something to eat!” You can almost hear the disciples imply the following under thei response: “Umm... Jesus, we have nothing but five loaves of bread and two fish but you can see for yourself that there are thousands of hungry men, and that’s not including the women and children. Do you mean for us to buy them food? With what hospitality budget? With what discretionary fund? Judas carries the purse and Jesus, you know how tight
he is with money.”
The disciples and truth be told, we, look at what we have and we tell Jesus, it is not nearly enough or good enough. We often look at our assets, our gifts and talents, or more honestly, what we don’t have in assets, gifts or talents. We look at what other’s more successful that we are have, and we say to Jesus, we have nothing to offer in comparison to what people need.
Downward spiral thinking is common in transition because like attracts like, misery loves company. Anxiety attracts anxiety and transitional periods poke at existing anxieties making them bigger!
Our church membership isn’t growing and we are getting older. How much time do we have left? We’re broke! How are we going to pay the bills? Our pastor left. How are we going to survive? There are too many needy people. How are we going to feed them? There are too many Central American children crossing the border. Where are we going to get the resources to care for them? Send them back! Deport them!
And this is exactly what the disciples are suggesting. Send them away so they can get their own food. When there are too few members in a church, there are financial shortfalls and when there are too many there is an impact on available resources. We just can’t win can we?
So Jesus tells them, “bring them here to me”. Bring them here to me. The structure of this sentence in the Greek places the emphasis not on the items to be brought, but on the person to whom they are brought. The emphasis is on Jesus. Jesus has the power to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Jesus has the power to make the impossible, possible! Jesus has the power to turn our scarcity into plenty. And we can trust Jesus because he has been where we have been, he has grieved our losses, he is with us here in the In Between and he goes before us and waits for us in the future possibilities.
Jesus journeys with us through the In Between and Jesus has the ability to navigate us through impossibilities to possibilities. This transitional, In Between time is not a road block to moving forward, it is the roadway to moving forward with Jesus and serving God in the world!
How? The answer to that is faith or a better translation, trust. Jesus is asking us to bring what we have to him so that we can feed thousands, tens of thousands, as many as there are who are hungry. Jesus is asking us to do the impossible but not alone. We bring what we have to Jesus and Jesus transforms the impossible into all things
If I love and trust you and you love and trust me and we, together, love and trust Jesus, and bring to him our what we have, we can help Jesus feed thousands upon thousands and still have leftovers.
Yung Me Morris