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May 2020

Daily Scripture and Prayer

Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church

Meditations from Eugenia 

 

This month we continue walking with Jesus in the Gospel of John. Jesus’ opposition is growing and organizing. Danger is mounting. 

May 1 – John 5:45-47 – “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” [This is the final straw for the opponents. They have always thought of Moses as their intercessor with God, from the incident with the golden calf until the time of final judgment. Now Jesus says that Moses will not help them because they have, in fact, not listened to him as he testified to Jesus. He is probably not thinking of any specific passage, like Deut. 18:15-18, but rather to the revelation of divine will in Torah as a whole.] 

Dear God, sometimes we hear only what we want to hear, or what we have been taught to hear, in your word. We don’t know how to place the lens of divinely revealed Love over the holy pages. We hear that we are special, but not that others are equally special. We hear that you will be our protector, but not that you desire us to act as protector in your name of those who are most vulnerable. Help us to see you everywhere and your love as the watermark on which you write both scripture and our lives. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

[The story of the miraculous feeding is the only story, other than the crucifixion, to appear in all four gospels. It was unusually important to the early church because it emphasized Jesus ability to meet their physical needs and their deep spiritual hungers. John’s gospel does not contain a story of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. He has the footwashing in the upper room. This is John’s eucharistic story. In the early church, they understood Jesus to be breaking and distributing himself among the people. They took that as their own mission statement, to be broken and given for the hungry of the world. When and as they did that, all would be fed.] 

May 2 – John 6:1-2 - After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. [The word ‘large’ indicates a huge number. ‘Kept following’ indicates that they were persistent and needy. They have seen his signs and are following him because of what they think he can do for them.] 

Dear God, sometimes we don’t know what we need, just that we need something. Help us to follow you persistently wherever you lead us. Only then can our needs become clear and your answers clearer. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 3 – John 6:3 – Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. [We don’t know what mountain. Many believe it was a large hill on the edge of the lake that came to be called the Mount of Blessings. The symbolism of the mountain is what is really important. Mountains are places for significant spiritual events or revelations, such as the giving of the Law, the Transfiguration and ultimately Calvary. Sitting was the usual position for formal teaching.] 

Dear God, on this Lord’s Day, we walk up the hill to be with you, just like your disciples did so long ago. Help us as we worship to hear your voice and to learn what you have for us today. Give us the peace and joy that comes from sitting with our friends at your feet. Thank you! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 4 – John 6:4 – Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. [This is the second Passover mentioned in John. The atmosphere was electric. Believers and seekers alike were drawn to the great feast of Freedom and all it stood for. As many as 250,000 pilgrims often crowded Jerusalem for this feast. It was a time for celebrating deliverance on every level.] 

Dear God, thank you for the ways you have freed us in the past. Thank you for the ways you have silenced the Pharaoh voices that tell us we are worthless or have value only as we support the wheels of oppression. We know that those voices sometimes linger. Help us to live freed from them so that we may be people who set others free in your name. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 5 – John 6:5-6 – When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. [‘Looked up’ literally means caught sight of. ‘Saw’ is the word for physical and mental seeing. ‘Coming toward’ indicates that the people were pressing in on him physically, emotionally and spiritually. Philip is rarely mentioned in the other three gospels but occupies a place second only to Peter in John. Scholars suggest this is because he was known as one with a thirst for God. The word ‘test’ is for a trial with beneficial purpose.] 

Dear God, often we don’t like to be tested, even for a beneficial purpose. Yet everyday there are moments when you look to us to see if we have grasped who you are and what you desire. Help us to welcome those moments without fear of failing, but with joy in what we will learn. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 6 – John 6:7 – Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” [Jesus wants to see if Philip can see beyond his senses. Not yet. He is stuck in his literal problem- solving mind.] 

Dear God, oh we love Philip! Bless his literal minded heart. We are just like him. We are so accustomed to having to figure out everything on our own, to relying on our own insight to solve problems. How precious to see that you nudge us to see differently, to allow your presence to present solutions we could never see at all. Thank you, Lord, for tests that push us to see beyond our own capacities! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 7 – John 6:8-9 – One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” [The word ‘boy’ is a double diminutive. He is a tiny little boy. This emphasizes that it was not the boy’s capacity that rescued them. Barley loaves were cheaper than wheat. This was poor food. The amount indicates a meal for one. Andrew sees that there is a resource but cannot see what a tiny bit in Jesus’ hands can accomplish.] 

Dear God, sometimes we think that what we have is not enough to meet our needs. We think that when we pay our monthly bills. We think that when we see the smallness of our congregation and the wideness of the communities needs. Help us to see beyond our meager resources to who we truly are in you and all that you can do with us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 8 – John 6:10 – Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so, they sat down, about five thousand in all. [Literally ‘make them recline.’ Lying on one side was the typical posture for sharing a festive meal.] 

Dear God, we cannot even imagine that moment when Jesus turns to his disciples, with their nearly empty hands and confused minds, and tells them to have the massive crowd of those in need prepare to be fed in body, mind and soul. Did they just do it with no evidence that they could be successful? Can we do that? Will we? Help us Lord to trust in your provision and do what you ask of us to meet the needs of the community even if we don’t immediately see the way. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 9 – John 6:11 – Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. [This is John’s Eucharistic theology. Jesus takes, blesses and distributes until all are satisfied.] 

Dear God, in your hands, when we place our meager resources in your service, you multiply them beyond our dreams. Help us to remember today that you will use what we bring to you to meet enormous need, to satisfy fully the ‘crowds’ of hungry people. As you are the bread broken on that hill, and even now in the sacrament, may we too be broken and distributed as life giving love for the needs of our community. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 10 – John 6:12-13 – When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. [Satisfied means ‘filled until they wanted no more.’ The fragments have symbolic meaning. By ordering the gathering of the fragments, Jesus teaches that nothing is wasted in God’s economy, everything, even what seems useless to the world has value to Jesus.] 

Dear God, sometimes we feel like our lives are little more than fragments of our dreams. Our hearts have been broken by our losses and we carry around a crushing load of fear or shame that, too often, fragments our days. How can it be that our very broken pieces of life, in your hands, can be used to sustain ourselves and others? Thank you, O God, that nothing is wasted or useless with you. Thank you that even our own fits and starts have value to you! Help us to rest, fully satisfied, in that truth today. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 11 – John 6:14-15 – When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. [‘Take him by force’ is a violent word. Many believed that Messiah would appear around Passover. Perhaps their urgency not to miss this moment led to their frenzy. ‘Withdrew’ is literally ‘fled.’] 

Dear God, when we see your power and are aware of our need, we too sometimes cannot easily wait for your timing. Help us not to damage your cause by our impatience. Help us to wait with loving expectation for when and how you will move to save! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 12 – John 6:16-18 – When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. [Evening and darkness symbolize spiritual blindness in John. Remember that Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night. There is something that the disciples do not and cannot see. This phrase sets us up for important revelation. Capernaum was a seaside village that served as a home base for Jesus and the disciples. A number of healing miracles take place there. In the scripture the sea is a mixed symbol. It provided livelihood but it was also dangerous. So, it was a symbol for chaos and that which is out of control. It is the sea that God separates at creation, chaos is put in check. This is why in Revelation’s images of heaven the sea ‘is no more.’ ‘Wind’ symbolizes Spirit. They are the same word in Greek.] 

Dear God, in our world chaos so often seems to reign. This seems so even in our own lives sometimes. Our bodies fail us. Our families confound us. Understanding and patience elude us. Too much change and not enough, leaves us shaken. Help us today to feel the wind of your Spirit and to remember that what we see is not all that there is. Help us to be grateful for the boat, the church, that holds us up when we would otherwise be lost. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 13 – John 6:19-21 – When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. [The word ‘saw’ means to gaze intently or focus upon. It is related to the word for healing and experiences of the numinous. In other words, to see the truth of God is related to healing. ‘Terrified (phobeo) means frightened out of their wits, filled with reverential fear. This is the kind of fear that freezes a person. Again here, Jesus uses ego eimi. This is more than an identifier. Jesus takes on the divine name of God. In the phrase 

‘Do not be afraid, he is not just trying to calm them down. He has told them something astonishing and they are having an unbelievable experience. Jesus recognizes that they must lose the edge of their fear in order to move more deeply into the experience. What is important here is not how Jesus did this. What is important is that the disciples experience Jesus as the holy presence of God with them overcoming chaos and taking them to safety.] 

Dear God, we too shiver and shake when our lives are upset, we cannot see the way, and nothing seems solid beneath us. Help us, today, to see you come to us, confident and able, in any chaotic moment. Help us to remember that no storm can stop you. No muddled world can prevent you from coming to your people. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

[Bread has a rich symbolic history in our faith. It is a symbol of bounty and wealth. It is associated with deliverance (the unleavened bread of Passover,) and most important for this passage, the divine provision of manna in the wilderness. Some believed that when Messiah came he would declare himself with a sign. The expected sign was a return of manna from heaven. The early Christians understood eating to symbolize assimilation of something into the life and consciousness of something else. Hence eating the bread and drinking the cup in communion is the process by which we assimilate the presence and values of Christ into our lives.] 

May 14 – John 6:22-24 – The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. [Those who have experienced the miraculous feeding or simply heard that there is food and power in Jesus are determined to find him.] 

Dear God, may we be as determined to find and receive what you have for us as these early seekers. Sometimes we are so full of our own power and our own doing that we forget that we even need you. Help us to remember to search diligently for you, knowing that you always have more for us than we can imagine desiring. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 15 – John 6:25 – When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” [They still want a logical explanation for who he is and what he does.] 

Dear God, how often we seek you and then try to come up with a logical explanation of what you do and reveal! Yet, love defies human logic, doesn’t it? It makes us both grander and smaller than we are. Where does it come from? We cannot begin to know. All we know is that in the presence of your love all things are possible. Thank you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 16 – John 6:26 – Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” [They are stuck in the desire to meet immediate need and cannot see their larger need or goals.] 

Dear God, help us today not to become stuck in our small desires, even if they feel big and all consuming. Help us to see beyond our immediate wants to all that you desire for us so that we do not become stuck and feel dissatisfied with you if we don’t get what we ask for. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 17 – John 6:27 – “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” [This verse alludes to the perishable manna. What Jesus is saying is that real lasting inner treasures are available to those who work for them. ‘Set his seal’ means to have put an easily identifiable mark of ownership. This mark of ownership states that Jesus bears the character of God. The Greek word for ‘character’ means an exact expression of the thing. One’s character is an exact expression of what one serves, of that by which one is owned.] 

Dear God, what we are shows. We can clearly see the character of those around us, especially of the powerful. Yet, we do not always look in the mirror and see ourselves with the same clarity. Still, we bear your mark on our souls. Help us to examine our lives and choices so that each and every day when people see us, they will look at our character and see you. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 18 – John 6:28 – Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” [This is a logical question. It is not unusual to connect work with a desired end. They want to know how to get to the state Jesus is describing. The word ‘works’ is often used of employment and specific actions.] 

Dear God, today help us to be in your employ. If we don’t know how to do that in a given situation, please make it plain. In the simple things of this day, help us to do the jobs you have for us for the sake of your kingdom and our own wholeness and joy. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 19 – John 6:29 – Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”[Jesus is saying to them that ‘working’ the Law as they have come to understand it will not give them the result they crave. The work that leads to life and deliverance is to trust Jesus. The word ‘believe’ means to trust, to rely upon, and to follow. To receive food that will endure we are to trust Jesus, rely upon him and go where he goes. This is our life’s work.] 

Dear God, help us today to trust you more than yesterday and to follow you more nearly than we imagine that we can. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 20 – John 6:30-31 – So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” [Even if they have eaten the miraculous food or heard about it, they still want Jesus to prove it all one more time.] 

Dear God, how much more do we need? You have brought us through everything and still we want more proof. How shallow our faith is and how patient you are! Please strengthen our faith today and be patient with us when we falter. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 21 – John 6:32-33 – Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” [The particles before bread (the) indicate that this is not any old bread. ‘True’ means ‘not ordinary or corrupt.’ ‘Gives life to the world’ is in a tense that indicates continuous action. Another way to say this would be, ‘The bread from heaven is in a continuous process of giving life to the world.] 

Dear God, we are caught up in the amazing and eternal stream of your grace and perfection. Help us today to notice how you are providing for us in the ways that truly nurture us. Help us to dive deeply into your presence and trust what you are doing in the world. Use us as you will. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 22 – John 6:34 – They said to him, “Sir, give us the bread always.” 

Dear God, we, too, want what you have to give us always. Help us today to open spaces in our hearts and lives to receive the care and sustenance that only you can provide. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 23 – John 6:35 – Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” [The words ‘never’ are written in a double negative in Greek. This is the strongest way of stating a negative. It is like saying, ‘No, never, under no circumstances, not a chance, never, will those who are drawn to Jesus be spiritually hungry and lifeless again.’ Note, too, that Jesus uses the wonderful I Am imagery again.] 

Dear God, this promise from your son is overwhelming! We will never ever, ever, ever be hungry when we simply lean into you. Tip us into your arms today! Our arms are open to be embraced. Our ears are open to be led. Our hearts are open to be nourished! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 24 – John 6:36 – “But I said to you that you have seen me and yet to not believe.” [The word for ‘see’ means to register distinctively on the consciousness. ‘Believe’ here means to make an investment of trust in, to put faith into, like money in a bank.] 

Dear God, sometimes we both envy and feel sorry for disciples. There you are right in front of them (what a gift) and they just don’t get it (what a shame). Still, you are right in front of us all the time, as you have said, in the poor and oppressed, and we just don’t get it. You’ve been right inside of us in the sacrament and we just don’t get it. You make a home in our hearts and still when things don’t go our way, our trust is shaken. Help us, Lord, to trust you more in every circumstance. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 25 – John 6:37-38 – “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” [The ‘never’ here is that never, never, never, kind of never. ‘Comes to me’ indicates that God is drawing us to Jesus like a magnet. While God does not abrogate human freedom, we can say no, there is a powerful force at work pulling each one of us to Christ.] 

Dear God, what a precious and comforting promise that the force of your love will draw all to you. Wow. It is equally comforting to be reminded that we can never fall from your embrace nor be pushed from it. Help us today to relax into this promise and breathe in its hope. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 26 – John 6:39 – “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” [The ‘last’ day comes from a group of words in Greek that refer to an on- going process that is moving toward a consummate goal. The early church fathers and mothers talked about all beings moving toward completion, toward the plan and goal of God. They use this verse to describe life as being caught up in a movement toward becoming whole.] 

Dear God, we know that we have made a lot of wrong choices as individuals and as a human family. We look at the chaos in our government, the divisions in our country, the devastations of the earth itself and it can be hard to see you working in spite of us. And yet you promise that you will lose nothing, that your will will be accomplished, that all of us and the creation itself are somehow moving toward completion and perfection. Help us to be helpful in this divine flow and do not let us make your work harder. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 27 – John 6:40 – “This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” [The word ‘see’ used here (theoreo) is virtually equivalent to ‘knowing, understanding.’ John Sandford suggests a literal translation of this verse as; “in order that everyone who sees the Son clearly in such a way that it registers distinctly on his consciousness, and who puts his faith into him will have eternal life.” Wherever you see the words ‘eternal life’ in the New Testament, that is zoe, the wild eternal life force that exists now and forever.] 

Dear God, your will for us is that we live in a constant and eternal flow of powerful life. Help us today to feel your life flowing in us, all around us and moving out from us to embrace those around us and, indeed, your whole world. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 28 – John 6:41 – Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” [The word ‘complain’ means to grumble and moan. Grumbling and complaining, from the time of the wilderness on, were understood as a rejection of God. The opponents have not been able yet to ‘see’ Jesus, so they are unaware of the powerful life force into which they are being pulled.] 

Dear God, sometimes we too get caught up on an idea that troubles us, and we can’t feel the life force moving through us. It can be a belief or way of thinking. It can be a personal hurt or painful memory. It can be a fear of the future or a guilt of the past. Help us not to ruminate today on that which hampers the life force within us. Help us, to let go of what troubles us today and experience the great flow of your love. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 29 – John 6:42 – They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” [The main sticking point for them is the notion of what we call incarnation. They did not believe that God would ever lower Godself in that way. It was utterly scandalous and an attack on monotheism itself. How in the world could the great God of the universe ever be limited in the body of a kid we saw grow up?] 

Dear God, sometimes we don’t see what you are doing in the most ordinary and familiar of people or circumstances. Sometimes we cannot even imagine others seeing you in us. Still, that is your way. Help us today to see you in the unexpected ordinary life you give us. Help us today to be you for someone. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 30 – John 6:43-44 – Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.” [Here again we have the magnetic imagery. It poses some problems though, doesn’t it? Does God therefore choose to draw some and not others? This is what Calvin wrestled with and how he came up with the doctrine of the mystery of election. Even after all of his work on election, that lead to the later generations of Calvinists to coalesce around a doctrine of absolute double predestination, Calvin finally ended his work by saying that the whole thing lies in the mystery of God’s love and we don’t need to get in a knot over it. (My paraphrase of Calvin obviously.)] 

Dear God, sometimes we think that the benefits of faith are completely in human control. While we know we have a roll to play in how we practice faith and in our growth, you are still in control. You still mysteriously pull us toward you no matter how much we may try to flee. Thank you, Lord for this grace and for your assurance that you are at work in our lives, those of our loved ones, and indeed in the world. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen. 

May 31 – John 6:45-47 – “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. [Again, these verses must have made the opponents’ heads explode! Much of Jewish identity was built around their understanding that they were God’s special, chosen, set apart people. Jesus picks up on the word ‘all’ in this quote from Isaiah 54:13 and emphasizes that it means all people everywhere. He is saying that all people everywhere who listen to God eventually are drawn to Jesus somehow. This is a little easier for us to process when we remember that the second person of the Trinity, Christ, is eternal and existed before, after and during Jesus earthly life. The Christ has been at work in all times and places drawing people to God.] 

Dear God, we thank you that your loves reaches out even beyond our comprehension and our certainties. We thank you that there are none that you do not find ways to address with your love. Help all your children, to hear you call and turn to you in trust. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.