I’m sure most of my readers know by now that I am a movie nut. My daughter takes after me; so, now that she is almost eight years old, I thought it appropriate that we watch one of my favorite childhood movies together, “The Neverending Story.”
“The Neverending Story” is about a magical kingdom that is quickly deteriorating. The empress of the Kingdom chooses a child-warrior, Atreyu, to save the kingdom. He goes on a quest and finds an old sage who tells him that only the Southern Oracle can reveal how to save the kingdom.
Getting to the Southern Oracle is the hard part: Atreyu must pass through two gates, tests of sorts. The second gate appears to be mundane: It’s a magic mirror. This mirror shows a person for who he or she really is. Many who have looked into the mirror run away screaming mad at what they saw.
For many of us, any mirror is a challenge. We don’t spend too much time in front of them, but when we do, the image that often confronts us may show how anxious, uncertain, or insecure we are. We usually only see that which we lack, be it good looks or lack of wealth (“I have nothing nice to wear!”).
People can also act as mirrors to us. If we are people filled with hate, we will only see hate in others. If we can’t forgive ourselves, it is hard to forgive others. If we are filled with fear, we only see others as threats. When we only see what we lack, then we can only focus on what others lack; and that is pretty frightening indeed.
Luke 9:10-17 tells a story about the time when Jesus and his disciples confront a crowd of 5,000 people. Jesus and his disciples were ministering all day, and they were trying to find solace in the quiet town of Bethsaida. The crowds, those who hungered for God’s Word and healing, found Jesus and the disciples.
Interesting thing about that crowd: The masses acted as a mirror for Jesus and his followers. Scripture tells us that Jesus gladly welcomed the crowds and ministered to them without hesitation. When he looked into the crowd, all he could see was God’s presence and the opportunity to have divine interactions with those who needed him most.
When the disciples saw the crowd, they only saw their lack of resources and scarcity. They asked Jesus to send the crowds away. “We have no food,” the disciples said, “And we can’t feed them because we are in a deserted place.”
The disciples had food, but from their perspective they didn’t have enough. Jesus, however, peered into that mirror and only saw God’s abundance, and he saw enough food to go around.
Instead of looking around and seeing desert, Jesus “looked up to heaven and blessed the bread.” Then, Jesus had the disciples feed the crowd. Scripture tells us that the masses were not only “filled,” but had left-overs as well.
In an economy of scarcity, we usually fail to see all that God has given us. We get so busy focusing on our lack, we fail to give thanks for what we have. We look around at others and see what they have and what we want, or perhaps we peer into our own situation and only see the dry landscape of a barren desert.
When we trust that God is a God of abundance and of the rich harvest (“I am the bread of life,” Jesus tells us in John 6), then we may begin to look in the mirror and see Christ starring back at us. When we look in the mirror and see Christ, then when we look at others we will see the Christ in them too. We can welcome others and nourish them with resources that we no longer hesitate to share.
(This is based on the sermon delivered at the community Thanksgiving service at Epiphany Lutheran on November 22. The service highlighted Family Promise, a local non-profit which hosted its first set of homeless families at Rockdale Baptist Church on November 13.)