Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear you,
To receive your Spirit,
To be led by your Spirit.
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
We are thrust into the gospel narrative just as Jesus receives word of the brutal beheading of John Baptist at the hands of King Herod. He withdraws into solitude on the other side of the lake, desiring to be alone with Abba–to grieve and to face into the reality of the dark shadow of rejection and violence which now dogs his own path. But the multitude has spotted him and follows him on foot around the shore of the lake.
Rather than moving into motion as the “paparazzi police”, the disciples watch as Jesus lays his own needs aside and responds in compassion to the thousands of men, women and children crowding around him, reaching out to heal those who were sick.
As the day wears on, the disciples decide to intervene, saying to Jesus, “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.”
But Jesus’ response is: “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
We can only imagine their shock and consternation. There is no store nor inn in sight. And even Phillips admits that even if there was, they do not have enough money in their common purse to buy food for this huge amount of people. Andrew goes searching among the crowd, checking to see which people might have brought food along with them, but can only find a boy with a lunch of five small loaves and two fish. Overjoyed he brings the boy carrying his lunch to Jesus – only to awaken to the fact that this lunch could never feed so many. The impossible looms large.
I am struck by a piece of commentary which gets included in this narrative in John’s gospel: Jesus know what he was going to do. (John 6:6)
We are invited here to notice how we think, how we see what is before us, and how we respond. From a human perspective the early disciples were right, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” (Matthew 14:17) That kind of thinking and seeing casts its own shadow across our path, and we are unable to see a way forward.
But as we wait within the narrative we hear Jesus asking these disciples to bring the nothing and the little they have to him. They are invited to bring the impossible task of feeding the huge crowd to God, to lift their gaze and bring their thinking, their nothing, the few loaves and fishes offered by the little boy into the realm of God’s gracious Way.
As we gaze and listen,
Jesus takes the five loaves and the two fish,
he looks up to heaven,
and blesses these little gifts of food,
then breaks them,
and gives them to these disciples to give to the crowds.
This is no easy shift – to move from our human material reality into the greater realm of God’s Great Reality. But as we do, we are moving with Jesus, who, after the men, women and children had eaten and were filled, arranges for the disciples and the crowd to leave. This is now his time to bring his own human grief and need, to lift his gaze and his thinking to Abba,
to allow God to take the shadow of violent rejection and death
to lift his gaze as God holds his grief and his future
and blesses what Jesus brings
knowing that one day he, like the bread, will be broken
and his life given for us and for the world.
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
- 7/25 Monday: Matthew 14:13-16
- 7/26 Tuesday: Matthew 14:17-21
- 7/27 Wednesday: Psalm 145:8-9,14-21
- 7/28 Thursday: Romans 9:1-5
- 7/29 Friday: Isaiah 55:1-5
- 7/30 Saturday: Matthew 14:13-16
- 7/31 Sunday: Matthew 14:17-21