URC Daily Devotion Friday, 16 February 2024

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Friday, 16 February 2024
St Mark 8: 14 – 29
Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’  They said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’  And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’  Then he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’

Reflection
Who hasn’t, when told a parent or authority figure knows something, guiltily confessed only to discover that was not what they were talking about at all?  

Jesus and the disciples are talking at cross purposes, and Jesus shows his exasperation – do you really still not get it?  Is it a problem with your mind (thinking), your heart (feeling), your senses (experiencing), your memory?

Jesus talks about how a little yeast works its way through the whole batch – once a metaphor for the kingdom of God, now a warning that mindsets of the Pharisees and Herod might infect.  The many recorded conversations between Jesus and the Pharisees highlight  their emphasis on rules and the letter of the Law and his on the Spirit, and on love.  Herod abused his power to imprison and kill John the Baptist to preserve his status and the high opinion of others.  Sadly, the Church has not been immune to either of these types of infecting yeast over its history and is certainly not free of them today. Jesus is warning we need to be on our guard against personal and corporate yeast infections.

Miscommunication arises because Jesus is speaking in metaphors whilst the disciples are thinking concretely.  It is a mistake we often make with young children who take things very literally.  So Jesus helps the disciples to tune into their concrete experiences of his miraculous crowd-feeding, when they gathered up the leftovers – they don’t need to worry about enough bread – reconnecting to that experience of abundance.

Our challenge is to involve all ages, but particularly those for whom metaphors are confusing, in concrete experiences of life with Jesus so they can make sense of his promise of life in all its fullness and abundance.  Trusting that promise could grow our immunity to the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod, so we become once more the yeast of the Kingdom.

Prayer
Why are we, your Church, talking about not having enough?
Jesus – change our minds and thinking, our hearts and feeling.
Help us see and hear where your Spirit is at work.
Help us remember your promises.
May we name and fight the racism, sexism, ageism 
and abuse of power that infects our Church and world.
May we be a little yeast used to leaven the world around us.
May your kingdom come. Amen.

Today’s writer

Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, member of Messy Church Team, Chalgrove.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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