Sunday, 3 August 2008

Feeding the 5000

[Sermon for Pentecost 12, August 1, 2008 @ Belair. The reading was Matthew 14:13-21.)

What did you notice in the reading? The miracle is pretty hard not to notice! I'm not one of those who in principle disbelieves in the possibility of miracles. That Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes seems possible to me. But it in this case is is easy to let the miraculous take us away from the point of the miracle.

Some things to notice about the story:
  • the compassion of Jesus leads him to heal and feed
  • the disciples thought there were just too many people to feed from their meagre resources
  • Jesus asks the disciples what they have. 'Just this little bit' is their reply.
  • the eucharistic overtones of the feeding (Jesus takes, looks to heaven, blesses, breaks, and gives; see Matt 26:26)
  • the huge amount left over
There was so little to share, but in the end so many more could have been fed! A recurring theme in the Bible:
  • the mustard seed (Matt 13:31-32)
  • the yeastin the loaf (Matt 13:33)
  • a cup of cold water will get the reward (Matt 10:42)
But pre-eminently, the cross of Jesus. The defeat of a peasant by the might of Rome, yet a defeat that saves not only those who directly sinned by crucifying and deserting him, but the whole world.

And a recurring theme in the history of Christianity:
  • St Francis of Assisi
  • Charles de Foucauld
  • Brother Roger of Taize
But they are famous examples. What about putting yourself in that list? What about putting this church in that list? Have you ever felt that, in comparison to the world's needs you are just five little loaves and two fish? Of course.

Now continue the story. Christ takes the loaves and fish, blesses, breaks, and distributes. And all are fed, and it turns out more could have been fed.

Does it feel like I am stretching the story a bit? Not really. Think about what we are about to do at the Eucharist. We will say that we are the body of Christ, then we will, at the altar, take bread, bless it, break it,and distribute it. We, the body of Christ will receive the body of Christ; we will eat it, it will become one with us. At the end of the service we will say, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. In the name of Christ. Amen." We are that bread, we are that body in the world.

Today it doesn't perhaps matter all that much whether you believe this miracle happened or not. What is of real interest is whether you think you could be that miracle, the church you are part of could be that miracle, taken, blessed, broken, distributed, with much left over.


  1. You've given food for thought and backed up your message with good points and their references. To me the Bible speaks to the 'here and now' as much as 'way back then'. The message you promote seems directed to the 'way back then' and the ubiquitous message to spread the Word. Both messages are important. Today's congregations need the here and now messages...
    I'm new to blogging so forgive me if I've overstepped. May the Holy Spirit guide you in all your endeavors!

  2. Thanks for your comment Lore11, and welcome to the world of the blog.