Today’s Gospel reading was a passage I have always considered myself to be very familiar with. I have known it since I was a child. I have taught it to pre-school children in Sunday School. I even have a children’s pop-up book version of the story that we used in Sunday School. Today we heard the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish at told in John 6:1-15:
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days?’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.'” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Today, the priest highlited an aspect of the story I hadn’t given much thought to before. Before the miracle is performed, Jesus tells His disciples, “Have the people recline.” And the food was given ” to those who were reclining.” Before they were able to witness and partake in this miracle, Jesus wanted to the people to trust that He would provide for them. He wanted them to relax. To Keep Calm.
I’ve seen versions posted with sayings such as “Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate” or “Keep Calm and Buy Shoes” or even “Keep Calm and Blog On.” In the Gospel story today, there was an enormous crowd and they were hungry! They had followed Jesus to witness His miraculous healings and hear His teaching. But now they were far from home and were all quite hungry. Once it was discovered that food was not nearby, it would have been easy for the people to panic. To go after their own human desires and leave Jesus to search for food or to head back to their homes. They could have turned to chaos, or given up on following Jesus because of their own impatience and hunger. They could have gone in search for what they thought they needed most instead of relying on what Jesus would provide.
I think that if this same situation were to occur today, we might create our own “Keep Calm” sign, with this saying, “Keep Calm and Just Recline.” Actually, I think this sign is quite fitting! Jesus knows that we are subject to human desires. To our own wants and needs. He knows it is our human nature to want to take care of things our own way. He knew that many of the people in the crowd may have left to find their own food. Instead, He has a message for them, and for us. Keep calm, and just recline. Just recline in the grass and trust that our God will provide all that we need in His own perfect timing. Sometimes we need to be active in our search for God’s will and plan in our lives. But other times, we have simply done all that we can do. And in those instances, instead of becoming stressed or nervous or filled with doubt over what we should be doing next, we just need to keep calm and trust in God’s plan.
My husband and I are all moved into our new apartment. He begins his new job tomorrow! While I absolutely love the new place, I’ve been feeling the stress creep in lately as I continue to search for employment. Even though I know I am doing all I can in searching and applying for jobs, there are times when I feel like I need to do something more. I feel like I can’t sit still! Maybe a new job has just been posted. Maybe I should search again. Maybe I should…..
Maybe I should Keep Calm and Just Recline. Maybe I should Keep Calm and Trust God.
God will provide all that we need. If we trust in His plan, in His perfect timing, in His constant presence in our lives, we have no need to stress. All we need to do when we begin to feel overwhelmed is to take a moment to relax. Take a moment and recline. Think about all the wodnerous things we have already been given. And then take a moment to trust and pray. Take a moment to find true calm. The peace and calm that comes only from our Lord who watches over us in every moment of our lives. So the next time we feel overwhelmed, we need to keep calm. Not the kind of calm that can be found by simply carrying on in our own human stress. Not the kind of calm that can be found in chocolate or in a new pair of shoes. The kind of calm that is found only by reclining for a moment to remember all our Savior has done for us and in trusting His glorious plan for our lives.
*The “Keep Calm” posters I used here were created using http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/. They offer free programs to create your own saying but do request that you link back to their webpage. At first I was hoping I could create one with my own image inserted in place of the crown, but then I thought the crown image fits perfectly! Only by placing our trust in the one true King of all the heavens and the earth can we ever find any peace or calm in our lives.*