Don’t Pack Lunch

By Elizabeth Baumann

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 8:1-10

1 In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, 2 “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way — and some of them have come from a great distance.” 4 His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?” 5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. 7 They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. 8 They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 9 Now there were about 4,000 people. And he sent them away. 10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.


One of the curious things that happens in both this lesson and its counterpart, the feeding of the 5,000, is that apparently almost no one brought food with them. It’s not clear if they brought food but it ran out as they stayed longer than they’d planned for, or whether they were just so excited or interested or desperate to get to Jesus that they just left with empty hands to follow him out into the desert.

One of my college roommates told me once that I was well-prepared. The truth is, I try. I’m a planner. I don’t think I would have been the person so eager to follow Jesus that I somehow wound up in the desert without food. I probably would have been so busy packing my knapsack to be prepared to follow Jesus that I would miss him.

Yet how many times does Jesus forbid planning on the part of those who would follow him? Don’t take a change of clothes, he tells the disciples as he sends them out. Don’t bury your father first, he told a would-be disciple. Sure, elsewhere he’ll tell us to first count cost and be prepared to carry our crosses, but those feel spiritual and metaphorical rather than practical: be prepared to lose yourself, to suffer, even to die — but don’t pack first.

I’m not likely to stop being a prepared planner anytime soon. Probably ever. But it’s a good warning to those of us so inclined, especially those of us with so many practical material things to spend our attention on. We’re more than halfway through Lent already, but don’t let that be an excuse. It’s always a good time to let go of a good thing, if it’s keeping you from following Jesus.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Koforidua – The Church of the Province of West Africa
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, McKinney, Texas


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