Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
There were three animals who came to the rescue of a bear. He had been going to the river to catch his dinner and had tripped on a root, breaking his leg, and throwing him into a painful roll where he incurred more injuries. As he lay there he lamented out loud, “Oh! and now I shall starve! From mighty to worthless!”
A bird was hopping by and showed his broken wing to the bear. “Do not despair giant. I am unable to fly but I still hunt. Grubs are my meal for this time while my wing grows strong again. I know what it means to be hungry.
The bear took a small amount of courage from the words of the bird with the broken wing and began crawling toward a log. He was able to overturn it and found many grubs and, for a time was sustained and strengthened. It was not long however before he grew despondent again.
“Oh. I shall never taste the sweetness of salmon again. I am a shadow of myself, crawling and groveling from dead stump to dead stump. I was the king. Now I crawl like a crippled bird.”
A badger came up from her den and regarded the condition of the bear. After a time she said, “Cousin, I understand that for a time you forfeit the thing you love the most. I too, must go underground for months during the winters. I desire the meals I basked in during the high weeks of summer. For a time, I rely on my memories of the goodness. I know that winter is not the end. It is only a season.”
The bear took heart again from the thought that he was merely enduring a season. He would once again be reunited with the thing he loved most. He continued to gain strength each day, but soon he was in despair again. “Oh, that I were strong enough to climb a tree and harvest the honey from the bee’s hive. Life is not worth the struggle without honey.”
A squirrel was at the very moment passing the limb with the honey hive attached. “Bear! Have hope. You only have to ask, and I can be your claws and strength.” And with that statement the squirrel pushed the hive from its high place to the ground. The hive broke open at the feet of the bear spilling all of its rich sweet gold. The bear relished the honey.
In time he developed a relationship with the birds, squirrels and badgers. He soon was basking in the cold waters of the river.
He had learned lessons that he never forgot. He learned to be sustained by grubs, because they were the gift of the bird. He rested in caves waiting for spring, but appreciated even those hungry days in reminiscent anticipation. This was the gift of the badger. He learned that sweetness was a gift from the squirrel who became his claws and strength at each hive. Although these friends had been strangers to him, his crisis brought him into a new relationship with each, who understood his plight in different way.
God understands our plight.
I read an article a little while ago.
Well, actually I have read a few more than the one. This particular article was written to express that rural ministry is worth it. I wondered what the “it” was. Time? Money? Manpower? Prayers? The premise of the article I’m sure was to bring to light a need in a community that most have forgotten about. It reminded me of a conversation I had a few months prior. A Christian leader talked about how the concept of rural ministry was likely to become a new trend. I had to digest that for a little while.
In the end, I was a bit offended by both the article and the statement.
For the fifty-eight to sixty-two million people (equivalent to the number of residents living in Great Britain) living in rural communities, we already knew that we were worth ministry. Frankly, we are not sure that we want to become a ministry trend. Those seem to last for a handful of years. You see, when we determined that God had placed a call on our lives, it was only a matter of where he would send us. Somehow, in our cultural evaluation of whether a ministry is valuable, we have forgotten that God does not evaluate the worth of ministry based on population or location.
Jesus went out of his way to a well in order to encounter one woman of eternal worth. God transposed Phillip from what amounted to a revival in Jerusalem in order to win one Ethiopian official on a road through a desert. For our God, ministry to the one lost sheep has always been something he does.
This phase of our ministry development has been exciting. It has allowed us to meet and share love stories with leaders, pastors, and students from rural communities. Whether it is a fifty year old with memories of the days when men went to work in the mines, thirty-two year olds who recall the day that the crop was bumper, the eighty-three year old that remembers when the football team went to state, or the sixteen year old that can’t wait for the county fair in the fall, these are stories of love. The smell of the combine dust, the vision of the sunset over the herd of whitetail, the sounds of the stands filled with cheering classmates are tales that resonate more deeply than a sonnet.
There is plenty of nostalgia here. Maybe there is more than in most suburban places. After all, families have names on road signs and class pictures filling school hallways. These rural places are home. They are valuable. They are filled with history and hope.
You see, whenever you take the time to hear the stories, some tragic and some wry, you see the value of the ministry. It happens when a shepherd falls more in love with Jesus. The shepherd begins to chase the sheep into the hills, women of ill-repute to out-of-the-way wells, and Ethiopians to the edge of deserts. It is always worth whatever cost the love demands.
I can’t wait to hear the end of the story.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.