URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 8th May 2024

Wednesday 8th May 2024
Five loaves, two fishes and a compassion-filled heart

Reading  Mark 6:30-44

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.  By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass.  So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.  They all ate and were satisfied,  and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.  The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.


Every session at Stepwise starts with the question: Where did you see God today? I can guarantee you that my answer will either be: the refugee or asylum seeker at the drop-in, or the person attending the Warm Hub, or in my morning walk or weekly wild swimming adventure. I have learnt a long time ago that to deny one’s connection with the suffering needs of others is to detach oneself from divine communion.

The praxis of compassion brings us closer to the compassionate heart of God. The word compassion literally means “suffering with”. The Greek word is far stronger: it means “to be twisted up in the guts with empathetic suffering”. Compassion won’t rest until the suffering of the other person is alleviated. Arch Desmond Tutu said: “It is not enough to keep rescuing drowning people; at some point we have to go upriver to discover who it is who is throwing them in.” In other words, part of showing compassion is addressing the systems that exploit.

Elizabeth Johnson said: “Solidarity with those who suffer, being there with commitment to their flourishing, is the locus of encounter with the living God. Through what is basically a prophetic stance, one shares in the passion of God for the world”.

Although I frequently experience God through people and especially the oppressed, the preferential option for the poor must now include the vulnerable, voiceless, non-human species and the ravaged natural world itself, all of which are kin to humankind. Loving these neighbours as their very selves, committed religious persons develop moral principles, political structures, and lifestyles that promote other creatures’ thriving and halt their exploitation. 

Compassionate God,
who hears the cry of your oppressed people,
help us see and hear the world through your eyes.
Help us to not detached ourselves 
from Divine communion.
Help us to “suffer with” 
and not rest until the suffering 
are alleviated from oppression.
Give us the wisdom and courage 
to go upstream to challenge and transform 
the structures that exploit all of your creation.


Today’s writer

The Revd Daleen den Cate is URC minister working as a Mission Mentor in Lancashire.


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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