What is God like?

Children say the funniest things. I should also add, children say the most profound things. Several years ago, I experienced the wisdom of children, when I taught RE (Religious Education) to a group of Primary school children. During a lesson on What is God like?”. I had each child pair up with another child to discuss this question. It was satisfying to observe the children engaged in animated discussion with each other. One very interesting conversation I eavesdropped on and made me laugh inside, was whether God was a boy or girl? A simple, honest question, I felt. Later, as I reflected on what I had heard, I realised how profound the question was, for, at its heart is the question of the nature of God. The gospel reading for today is found in Matthew 14:13-21. It is the famous passage of the feeding of the five thousand. The text also serves to say some things, although indirectly, about the nature of God. We can find a clue to this at the very beginning of the text: “Now when Jesus heard this” (14:13) The first response is to ask what was it that Jesus heard? Earlier on in the chapter (14:1-12), John the Baptist has been executed by Herod while he is in prison. The news of John’s death impacted greatly on Jesus and he felt he needed time to be alone and grieve and the opening of today’s text states that he heads out on a boat for a ‘deserted place’. However, the text then goes on to say when Jesus saw the crowds following him, Jesus felt compassion for them, such that he changed his plans. Instead of heading off on his own, he ministers to the crowds, he heals the sick, tended their needs, and shared with them his presence and later when evening came and they found themselves without food, Jesus fed them. The juxtaposition of a murderous king (Herod) who executes the innocent, is in stark contrast to Jesus, whom at his crucifixion, would wear the crown of thorns with a sign on the cross that said ‘King of the Jews’. Jesus’ life reflected the very nature of God who is compassionate and mindful of humanity. One need only to consider the incarnation, of God becoming human, to be reminded of this. In his theological blog, David Lose writes: Rather the wonders Jesus performed were, as John is most consistently adamant about, always signs of the character of the God whose presence Jesus bears.*

The story of Jesus the feeding of the five thousand, as like the parables Jesus told which precede it in Matthew’s gospel, reveals a God who is like no other, full of compassion, generosity and grace, who extends these to all who would receive them. I wonder friends if you have experienced God’s compassion, generosity and grace lately, and how did they come about? As you reflect, be prepared to be surprised because they may have come about through other people without you even realising it – even little children.

More importantly, and this is where I want to issue you with a challenge to conclude by, as you go into this week and over the coming days, how might you demonstrate the nature of God, of compassion, generosity and grace to others?

Blessings and peace on your Pentecost journey.

*http://www.davidlose.net/2014/07/pentecost-8a-the-real-miracles/

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