by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

February, 2004

A recent news story about the Kansas City Zoo reported that in another year or two the zoo hopes to allow visitors to purchase tiny cups of nectar to feed to the rare Australian lorikeets. These beautiful, colorful birds, also known as “lorries,” are members of the parrot family, and can make good pets if you can find one. Under other circumstances, I would’ve been more impressed by the zoo’s plans, except that our daughter and niece did exactly that two years ago at the St. Louis Zoo right here at home. The two girls had the opportunity to feed the small birds cups of nectar, graciously purchased by parents and grandparents. Both had a good time feeding the “keets,” as our then-three-year-old niece called them. I applaud the Kansas City Zoo for wanting to make this experience available to their visitors but I don’t have to drive all the way across the state of Missouri. I can do the same thing by driving across town.

Sometimes, in the pursuit of the new and the “special,” we forget to look “in our own back yard.” There’s a saying that “A consultant is an ordinary person 50 miles from home with a briefcase.” We frequently don’t appreciate the talented “ordinary persons” in our midst. Our local church is an example: I could talk about Allen’s preaching and Biblical knowledge, or Amy’s musical talents and the way she lovingly extracts every note from our small but dedicated choir, but there are many people who have gifts to give and contributions to make. Ours is a truly gifted church and we have many avenues for service and witness. I’m sure most other churches have similarly gifted individuals, and it’s worthwhile to take the time to remember them sometimes. The point is that you don’t have to go somewhere else to find these things or individuals; you can find them all around you, especially if you attend our local church.

The morning after Jesus had fed the five thousand (John 6:1-15), the people continued to follow him. But he said to them, “‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.’” (John 6:26b NIV). They didn’t appreciate Jesus for who he was, but for what they thought they could get from him. This was the morning after Jesus walked on water (John 6:16-21)–a true demonstration of his power–but the majority of people didn’t know or care. All they could think about was the fact that he had filled their bellies the previous day, and not the “miraculous signs” he performed (John 6:2, 26). He told them not to concentrate on earthly food but on heavenly food that brings eternal life (John 6:27b). They didn’t realize how much more he could offer them. He promised to give them himself, “the bread of life.” (John 6:35b). And yet, many would-be disciples deserted him (John 6:66).

Jesus had previously told the disciples “. . . that a prophet has no honor in his own country.” (John 4:44b NIV). It was only after he was dead and the curtain in the temple had been torn in two that the centurion, standing at the foot of the cross, exclaimed too late, “‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15:39b NIV). Frequently, we also fail to recognize the treasures we already have, in our pursuit of something “better.” But there is nothing “better” than Jesus, no greater treasure than the salvation he brings.

Today, someone is looking for “something better.” Someone is seeking “food” that satisfies. There’s a banquet table waiting (Matt. 22:1-14). You need to tell them about it. People are hungry, for both physical and spiritual food. Jesus welcomes them to the table, just as he welcomes you and me. He wants to give them his flesh to eat, the “bread of life” that brings eternal life. All are welcome. Come to the table today. And bring someone else with you.

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’” (John 6:35-40 NIV.)

Copyright © 2004 by David Phelps