As a rule, Christians think it is a good thing to be a Christian. It follows that they want others – especially friends and family – to be Christians as well. So far so good. The challenge is then a double one: to be able to live in such a way that the Christian life is inviting, and to be able to put things into words. It seems puzzling that what is so obviously beneficial (to us) is not snapped up.
We delight in stories like today’s, the feeding of the 5000. There you go, this is what Jesus could and can do.
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. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 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.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 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. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14.13-21)
It’s a miracle! Yet miracles by their very nature are the exceptions. They may, in a sceptical age, be part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. This means that we leave open the question of what actually happened, which you may find unsatisfactory. Accept my apology if that is the case.
Let’s look at it in a different light. There is a problem: people need sustenance, they are in a deserted place and it is getting late. Solution: send them away. “No,” says Jesus, “you do something.“ Protest: “We have nothing here!” Not quite true, we do have “five loaves and two fish.“ We have something, but it is not enough.
We never have enough. Never enough faith, patience, love, compassion, hope… You name it, we never have enough. The secret is to offer what we do have, however inadequate.
“Bring them here to me.”
Then the crowd are fed, “And all ate and were filled.”
Consider the phrase “send them away.” People can be so demanding, so awkward, so annoying, so…
Lockdown has been a nightmare for some, cooped up close together. For others it may have been bliss, away from the demands of other people. The disciples say, “Send them away.” Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.”
Giving people what they need to eat is something simple. We can do that! And it has been so impressive to see many doing just that in these last few months, with foodbanks rising to the challenge and people cooking meals that have then been delivered by volunteers. It’s a miracle! More than 5000 have been fed. Thank God so many people – including Christians – have done something themselves. Not my bread, not your bread, but our bread.
We give thanks for those who have fed us, especially family and friends.
We give thanks for those who are feeding the hungry in this land and elsewhere.
Forgive us for thinking that we never have enough, for always wanting more for ourselves.
Teach us to share what we do have and to think about our bread, especially when it comes to the bread and wine that help Christians remember Jesus and his self-giving love. Amen.