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Tony's Reflection 46
Now we switch from interior design (last week’s story of the lamp) to one about shopping (Mark 4:24-5). Imagine Jesus in the boat, telling his story.
Jesus suddenly springs up in the boat. He’s had enough of his lamp. It’s time to go shopping. Jesus walks around the boat, full of purpose and determination. Yes, he is off to the shops. There is so much he needs to buy. Food for the family. Oil for the lamp. Clothes for the kids. He mimes reciting his list, carefully memorising what each person is going to get. Were the shoes for the kids, or for Granddad? Would the shop have enough olive oil for all the lamps at home?
Jesus walks in circles around the boat, reciting his shopping list until eventually he gets to the shop. He play acts the moment he arrives before the shopkeeper. Breathless he runs through every last detail of the shopping list, fetching out what everybody needs from the furthest corners of his memory. Done it! Jesus stands back in triumph, giving himself a huge pat on the back, with a look of relief and pride that not one thing has been forgotten.
He acts out looking at the huge pile of shopping in front of him. He mimes scrabbling under his coat for the ancient equivalent of a carrier bag. He knows it is in there somewhere. He couldn’t have forgotten it, could he? Here it is… Jesus pulls out his imaginary carrier bag with a great flourish. Only to find it is far too small for all the shopping. He is absolutely crestfallen as he looks at the crowd, pretend-brokenhearted.
The crowd giggle once more. “When you go shopping,” says Jesus, “make sure the carrier bag you take with you is big enough.”
Okay, so I have modernised the story a bit. Jesus was actually talking about a “measure” in our Bible translation, not a carrier bag.. A “measure” was the jug or container you took to buy grain. If you took a little measure with you, you would only receive a tiny amount of grain. That would be all you would get, because it was all that would fit in your jug. Bring a nice big “measure” and you would get plenty.
Gardening… interior design… now shopping tips. We cracked the code on the first two, but what on earth could be the point of the shopping story? There are some tantalising little clues, thrown out to the crowd, that this is not just a story about shopping. If only they would pick up the clues and come and ask, Jesus would be all too delighted to make everything clear.
Have you picked up the clues?
Look at how the story starts. “Consider carefully what you hear…” (Mark 4:24). The story of the lamp ended with an appeal about “hearing” (Mark 4:23). The one about the sower was also about “hearing” (Mark 4:18). Both of the previous ones were about how we hear God’s message to us. Could this one be the same? The clues are all there that it is… and if we think this latest is just a funny story about going shopping, we are sadly missing out.
Let’s crack the code and see what Jesus has hidden for us in this story.
This “measure” or “jug”… or carrier bag, in my modernised version of the story. What is that?
When you went to buy seed, your “measure” was what you would use to take the seed home in. The bigger your measure, the more seed you could get.
The “seed” in this sower story and the two stories following our “shopping” episode is God’s message to us – we have already cracked that bit of the code.
So, as we set ourselves to hear what God is saying, our “measure” or “jug” is what we bring to the business of listening.
As you come to listen to God, perhaps even as you are reading this reflection, what do you bring with you?
You bring your time. Do you bring unhurried, quality time, or do you rush through reading, so you can move on to your next “more important” task?
You bring your mind. Are you full of distractions, your thoughts dancing here there and everywhere? Do you rein your mind in, always bringing yourself back to what God might be saying to you?
You bring your spirit. Strange to say, we can sometimes “do religious stuff”, even looking at the Bible or these reflections and miss the spritual dimension between us and God out of the equation altogether. We take in what we listen to or read with our minds, but our spirits stay closed. As you read this, is your spirit open? Are you opening yourself up before God, humbly asking him to speak to you and plant his truth deep inside you?
If you bring the very best of all these things, time, mind and spirit, to listening to God, that is the equivalent of bringing your big jug, to get lots of seed.
How will God respond? He won’t dismiss you for being greedy. He will be absolutely delighted that you are serious about hearing him. He will take huge pleasure in filling whatever you bring to him – your time, your mind, your spirit. Jesus says he will give you “even more”… God will be so pleased with you, he will carry on pouring into your time, mind and spirit until you are absolutely overflowing. That is a promise. Jesus said it.
How big a “jug” do you bring to God to receive the “seed”?