Sometimes following Jesus can be inconvenient. In today’s Gospel narrative (Mark 6:30-44), we find the disciples in just this kind of position. The disciples have just returned from mission, and are reporting back to Jesus all they have done: they have proclaimed good news to the poor, they have cast out demons in his name, and they have anointed with oil and cured many who are sick. Power has gone out of them in ministry, and so the disciples are tired, and they need a break. Jesus perceives this and invites the disciples to a deserted place to rest. But Jesus’ fame has spread such that the encroaching crowd forbids it. The disciples ask Jesus to disperse the crowd so they can get on with their well-deserved rest, and so feel inconvenienced when Jesus compassionately commands them to feed the crowd with the meager provisions on hand. “What? Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” Having been with Jesus, having preached the good news themselves, having healed and ministered to others, the disciples must have known this was the right thing to do. But it’s not what they want, and frankly they don’t think it’s possible. There isn’t enough to feed all these people, they’re not up to the task, they’re tired, and they also need to eat. The whole episode is just rather inconvenient.
Much of what Jesus asks us to do can feel this way. Perhaps you’ve had the experience, where what God asks us to do, what we know in our hearts is the right thing to do, has seemed rather inconvenient. I don’t mean inconvenient simply in the sense of being untimely, or off putting, though this is often the case, but something can be inconvenient when it’s just out of reach. When what we are being asked to do is somehow just beyond us, just beyond what we think we want, just beyond what we feel capable of doing, just beyond what seems possible. It’s inconvenient. It may be that we are being asked to serve those we’d rather not (or feel unable) to serve, we may be asked to love those we find difficult to love, to forgive the unforgivable, or to let go of something we’d rather not let go of.
Yes, following Jesus can be inconvenient. In fact, following Jesus will almost always be inconvenient. For, a convenient spirituality is no spirituality at all. A convenient spirituality is no spirituality because if it is convenient it means we are simply doing what we what we want to be doing. If it is convenient it means we are simply doing what we feel able to do, or what we feel comfortable doing. If it is convenient it means we don’t have to rely on God very much.
The point at which we are inconvenienced, however, the point at which our spirituality becomes inconvenient, that is the point in which we are asked to go beyond what we think we want, to go beyond what we think we can do, to go beyond what we think is possible. The point in which we are inconvenienced is the point in which we have to rely on God. And when we have to rely on God (and if you are anything like me you only rely on God when you have to) the impossible becomes possible, and we find that we are able to do and achieve that which we never could do or achieve on our own power, because we couldn’t. We have to have God’s help. We can rely on it.
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