Feeding the Five Thousand
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
I’m looking forward to a bit of vacation next week, taking my son to climb a couple of mountains! Which, quite frankly, all of us need a break, don’t we?! It seems like life has been so disruptive and full of change, and a fair bit of anxiety. Whether going somewhere (while maintaining all of the covid guidelines), or staying at home and unplugging. We need that time.
Jesus can relate.
It seems like Jesus was wanting a vacation, some time to pull away, recharge, reconnect with ourselves, others, and God. Jesus was trying to get away, yet the moment and the crowds kept on following him. And, he had compassion on them and kept on loving them.
Thinking of this story and reminded me of a vacation a few years when my kids were much younger.
We went to spend time with my brother-in-law who was living in Philly at the time. One of the beaches that we spent time at was Brigatine Beach. It’s a great area and they have a deli that we heard so many good things about, called Earnest & Son’s Meat Market. After an amazing day of building sand castles, a nap on the beach, and jumping in the waves with my family and Paul, we went to check out this deli. Come to find out, it was featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” show recently. We ordered some hoagies and they had us pick out some bread for the hoagies. Sure enough, these were great sandwiches, so much so that my son and his Uncle Paul bought more and made the statement that these were the best sandwiches they had ever had!
One of the elements of the sandwich was the bread. It was just right. It filled us, but it didn’t overwhelm the sandwich. It was simply perfect!
In today’s Gospel lesson, the focus seems to be on bread. Jesus performs this miracle where he fed the 5,000 from a few loaves of bread and fishes. There was so much food that they had leftovers. The Gospel narrative implies that folks had their fill, they were well fed.
But, it started with the disciples seeing a need, and not knowing where to start.
It reminds me of how we, in the church, and in the non-profit world in general, often ask, what are our needs or even the needs of those around us? Sometimes those are good to identify, but there is a deeper question to ask, what are we aiming for? Who are we? What do we have already? I think those questions are exemplified in the feeding of the 5000. Jesus knows that folks need to be fed, but instead of asking how do we get to a place, he simply says, what do we have? Jesus sees the assets, then he uses those assets to bless the people gathered.
Which, is what Jesus is driving his listeners towards. In a different gospel, the disciples keep on asking questions and go to the place of trying to connect Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 to Moses providing Manna from heaven. Moses’ Manna lasted for 40 years and helped the Jewish population stay alive physically, but the point of that is that it came from heaven. God provided through Moses. Jesus says this, says this is truth telling, God has given them, and us, the true bread from heaven, that gives life to the world, everyone.
Friends, this world needs this kind of bread. When I coached cross country, I would tell my runners all of the time that there are good carbs and bad carbs. Bad carbs can fill you up but have no nutritional value other than making you a larger person, but good carbs give you energy and are building blocks for getting stronger, healthier.
Jesus is coming to us with the promise of Presence, of relationship. A promise that he will be with us, even in the darkness of our lives. He doesn’t promise some self-help technique, he simply gives us relationship. He knows that he, like us, need time to ourselves, but that we can’t forget that we are connected to the world, and that we are the body of Christ, bread for the world.
Jesus is the bread of life, and that bread starts with yeast rising. That yeast has been planted in this world through Jesus’ coming to us, entering humanity, being one with us, while also being one with the Father and with the Spirit.
God’s Spirit is also moving in and through us like yeast in dough. We’re being molded and moved around, it’s sometimes a bit awkward, but that yeast is working its way through the dough and Christ is rising up within us and around us.
Friends, as we participate in the Lord’s Supper, let’s remember that God’s yeast is working in us, God’s very self, God’s Presence, is working it’s way through every part of our lives, giving us ideas and new life, and is moving us towards being the body of Christ to the world around us and to each other.
INVITATION TO THE LORD’S TABLE
Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you.
and also with you.
People of God, lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the One who invites us to rest in the heart of the Trinity.
People of God, give thanks to the One who offers you rest.
We bring our thanksgiving to God, who sings to us of peace.
With those who have found their rest in you,
with those who long for their burdens to be lifted,
we thank you.
Watching our restless striving
for more and more,
Jesus modeled the life
of self-denial and service;
seeing us weighed down
with the burdens of sin and death,
he picked up his cross,
carried it to Calvary,
where he died to give us life.
Pour out your Spirit of rest and shalom
upon this bread and this cup,
that these gifts might nourish us.
As we find our rest in you,
may we become restless
in service to your children;
as we engage with you
may we build a community
of justice and righteousness;
as we listen to your silence,
may we speak out
for all whose voices
are ignored by the world.
We leave with the presence of the Holy,
so we may show others the way to grace and hope.
We leave with Jesus, who draws living water for us,
so we can share it in the heat of summer,
and in the bitterness of winter.
We leave with the Spirit, who teaches us how to listen,
so we may hear the cries of the lonely
and the voices of all who are ignored.