Jeremiah Denlinger and family

Jeremiah and his wife, Kristine, enjoy eating their Easter dinner outside with their children – Isaac, Lucas, Mila and Lydiana.  The three oldest are students at Locust Grove.

We are certainly living in a strange, scary, and unprecedented time. I have been thinking about Jesus’ words and actions and looking for wisdom and comfort during this time. As we celebrated Holy Week last week we were reminded of the power and teachings of Jesus. On Maundy Thursday, the night before his death, Jesus broke bread and shared the cup with his disciples saying that “this is my body and blood, broken and poured out for you.” Jesus also washed the feet of his disciples, demonstrating that a posture of humility, sacrificial love, and service is the way of Jesus and is the true sign of a believer. After his death, Jesus rose again, forever breaking the power of death and giving us hope and giving us the promise of new life each day and, perhaps, especially during difficult days.

I have also found hope and inspiration in two miracles that I count among my favorites as recorded in the gospels. The first is the miracle of Jesus healing and forgiving the sins of a crippled man. The second is the feeding of the five thousand people. Jesus’ power, glory, and ability to forgive are on full display in these miracles and it is also evident that Jesus cares for people and for basic human needs such as health and sustenance as he provided food and bodily healing. These miracles should provide comfort during these days when we fear for the health and wellbeing of loved ones and ourselves and when we are concerned about scarcity and whether there will be enough resources to go around. These stories remind us of God’s love and care for us and for our world.

While I appreciate Jesus’ role in these stories, I also find comfort and inspiration in the actions of the boy who shared his loaves and fish and the friends who literally “carried their friend” to Jesus for healing. As humans we often lament about the state of the world and it is easy to retreat and to act out of fear, self-preservation, helplessness, and hopelessness. I am guilty of this. I consume news about this pandemic, about war, starvation, natural disasters, and a myriad of other heartbreaking injustices and tragedies and I feel helpless and hopeless.

The actions of the boy who shared his lunch and the men who carried their friend to Jesus for healing are inspiring to me because it is yet more proof that God chooses to use imperfect humans (like us) who may not always see the big picture but who step out in faith and who do their part to further God’s Kingdom. We are not told anything in the gospels about what the small boy and about what the friends of the crippled man were thinking about or feeling as they responded to the needs of others, but we can probably assume that they at least had some degree of uncertainty and were likely asking very natural questions such as:

  1. What will I eat now?
  2. What will my parents say if I told them I gave away my lunch?
  3. What difference will this make?
  4. We are going through the roof?
  5. Is this going to work?
  6. What are we doing?
  7. Should I trust this guy with my food?
  8. Is this a waste of time?

It would have been completely understandable for the boy to keep his lunch for himself. After all, he was a child. He needed his food. It would also have been completely reasonable for the friends to see a large crowd and to tell their crippled buddy, “Hey, look at that crowd. I am sorry about this but there is no way we can get to Jesus now. Maybe we can try another time?”

I am grateful that the boy and the friends of the crippled man thought beyond themselves and beyond what they had, up to this point, seen as possible. Again, we are not privy to the conversations going on between the friends or the thoughts swirling in the head of the boy. Perhaps they had witnessed Jesus’ miracles before and were certain that Jesus could and would perform a mighty miracle if they could “get to him.” On the other hand, perhaps they had only heard about Jesus and had not personally seen or witnessed miracles and were warily trusting him. Or perhaps they sensed something different about Jesus. Perhaps they sensed great love and compassion and were compelled to act out of the same love and compassion they saw in Jesus.

Whatever their reason and motivation, their actions were a great example of love and compassion. Jesus performed the “big miracles” of multiplying food and healing a body but I also think that the actions of the friends of the crippled man and the young boy with the small lunch were also miracles. Perhaps the miracles began with the spirit of Jesus stirring up something in them that gave them the courage to act.

We, likewise, are called to do our part. I am grateful for those in my life who have “carried me to Jesus” at different points in my life. I am also grateful for people who, motivated by hope and love, have chosen to share their resources and in doing so have furthered God’s Kingdom. During this global pandemic AND always, we have the opportunity to participate with God in the healing of the world. I have been inspired by the stories of those who are stepping out with courage and faith to make a difference during this pandemic and I am sure that we can collectively think of many ways, large and small, that we can make a difference. Here are just a few examples of many ways we can care for each other.

  1. Physical Distancing – perhaps one of the best ways to care for others is to not expose them to something
  2. Checking in with friends and family via phone, text, social media, etc.
  3. Contributing to organizations that are responding to the needs of others
  4. Offering to get groceries or other essentials for a vulnerable neighbor or relative (while following appropriate safety guidelines, of course)
  5. Praying for and thinking about others.

It is important to remember that we are not doing these things alone and that we are not called to do them alone. Following Jesus and looking out for the wellbeing of others in our community and in our world is a team sport. Yes, we are now in a period of time when it is safest to be physically distant from one another, but that does not mean that we are to be socially and spiritually distant from one another. In actuality, this is a time when we need to recognize now more than ever that we need each other. I need you to reach out to me, to check in on me, pray for me, AND make wise decisions about how you live to protect me. Likewise, you need me to reach out, to check in, to pray for you, and to make wise decisions to protect you. We do not live in a vacuum and following Jesus is not a solo event. We are meant to live in community and this means thinking about the impact that we have on others, perhaps now more than ever.

As Christians, may the story of the friends and the boy and the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection give us hope and move us from a place of paralysis and fear to a place of love, abundance, and generosity in Jesus.

Jeremiah Denlinger
Guidance Counselor and Chapel Coordinator