I've been wading through the first few chapters of Mark a lot lately. This year, most of our gospel readings come from this author and our Wednesday night bible study is also living in his account's urgent secrecy.
Each gospel author finds a unique way to move from Jesus' baptism into the wonder and danger of his ministry. Mark tells us that Jesus commissions the disciples and sends them out with the power to heal. Lest we believe these miracles are received with pure jubilation and awe, he then tells about the beheading of John the Baptist. This Word is not for the faint of heart. There will be consequences and the fear ripples through crowds.
But Mark doesn't leave us in the fear. In fact, he doesn't leave us anywhere for very long. We don't have time to digest the gruesome news before Jesus is with the disciples in a deserted place, surrounded by the curious and the faithful. They have followed out to this field and wait, like sheep without a shepherd.
The disciples are concerned that they'll grow hungry and suggests they be shooed away to get food in the nearest town. Instead, Jesus surveys the pasture filled with hundreds of people who do no know what they hunger for. He sees a pasture filled with proof - he needed to come for this very reason. He can feed them.
The bread and fish are nothing fancy. Jesus does not use them with the intent to stuff everyone silly. But with grace and gratitude, he looks to heaven and breaks it, offering enough for all. And as they take and eat, each person becomes part of something great and bigger than his and her own story. Sanctified.
This week, the Feeding of the Five Thousand reminds me of this view in rural Iceland. The pasture was expansive and standing by the waterfall had me looking around with gratitude. This place was formed by a god who knows what we need and finds subversive ways to feed us. In that moment, it was a deserted place and the mist of rushing water on my face. It was the bright sun of a long summer day and the satisfaction of a granola bar squished in my backpack.