Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” – John 6:10
In the middle of all sorts of busy-ness, by grace, I am stopped. The other day I was trying to write a syllabus for a course I am going to teach beginning in just a couple of weeks and suddenly remembered I had to prepare something for that very evening for my EfM seminar. I panicked.
Then, suddenly I heard the reedy sound of geese. For a moment I ignored them, but they drew nearer and the sound grew thunderous. I looked out the window in time to see dozens of white bellies and dark brown wings wheel past me through the fire-blue sky. After they were gone, I continued to gaze upward, my heart lighter. I saw that sunlight was gilding the tips of all the trees. Then a small glimmer of inspiration kicked the side of my stomach, and I knew how I would proceed.
To hear the little voice of creativity, I need first to stop and to listen. How much more true this is when I am trying to hear the word of God. In order to be fed by Christ, I have to stop and clear room in my heart. I need to sit down.
In our Gospel story for today, Jesus, on the slope of a secluded mountain with his disciples, sees a crowd coming toward him across the barren countryside. It’s huge. And it’s composed almost entirely of anxious people in need. They have tracked the progress of his fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee, and they have walked after it along the shore for miles. Now, after Jesus and his disciples have beached the boat and walked up the hill to a secluded place to talk, here they all come.
Jesus is thinking of feeding them. His disciples are astonished that he would even consider such a thing. Where are they going to get the food? He, of course, is the food.
But the first step is to get them to sit down. In order to receive what they need, they must stop and settle. They must still their anxious feet and pounding hearts and take a breath. Only then do they become open to get what Jesus has to give them.
In the midst of our anxiety, we need our moments of stopping, taking a breath, noticing. We tend to think that our most important, holy effort is in getting to Jesus. Or if it isn’t that, then it is in feeding people in Jesus’ name. But there is something else that comes between those two things, and that is becoming still. We must sit down. When we are stationary in body, breathing through our anxiety, our hearts open, and then we can receive.
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus tells us. What is the bread that Jesus has given me? What is that bread he has given you? How do you take that bread and share it out there in the world?
Before you answer those questions, sit down. Take a breath. Notice your aching feet and settle your anxious heart a bit. Now you can receive.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. Her website, everydaymysteries.com, has more information, and you can see some of her work there as well.
Image: Christ feeding the five thousand