Genesis 32.22-31. Matt.14.13-21.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to thee, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
During this time of lock down even with some improvement in most areas, food prices have risen. The need for food banks has continued to be a lifeline for some families. Thank you to those who have supported the Food Bank in Yeovil. I made a visit there last week with a few bagfuls from the churches and also some much needed plastic bags for the food to be packed in. Two lots of friends have been having food delivered and have passed on the bags to a good home.
But the shortage of food is much worse for others; Covid 19, in affecting countries such as Brazil, South Africa and India, has made life even more difficult for the poorest.
It’s not a parable this week but one of the most famous stories of the New Testament, a tale about feeding and food. The most basic of our needs. Without food we die. Sadly, I think we still have enough food to feed the world yet a greater proportion of people go hungry. Serious hunger must be something really unknown to us. We often speak of feeling hungry or starving but it is a figure of speech more than anything else.
Anyone any examples of being seriously hungry? I have one:
Something I remember is being on a long distance walk years ago. It was the Cotswold Way. It was raining and cold. As we were bed and breakfasting, we always hoped for a convenient pub for lunch. This particular day no suitable village was passed through at the right time. However, we did cross a road and came across something I had always rather despised, one of those roadside caravan things dispensing hot tea, coffee and snacks. I have never looked down on such places again. And when I see one I think of what a service they give to those on the road for hours.
I worked in two boarding schools in my past life and I remember one of the headmasters saying, as far as he was concerned, the most important person to be there each day was the cook. There was a situation when one of the schools got snowed up. This time it was a Friday and, as the children were weekly boarders, the cook was not there or the appropriate food. However, he was a resourceful head and a Methodist lay preacher and he found the tuck shop stores and the children were fed on an interesting diet of Mars bars etc until the taxis and cars could get through. The school made the headlines of the local paper.
In agricultural economies, which are still the poorest parts of the world, food and life are interdependent. Jesus knew this well and so many of stories about him or his own parables are about food, as is the most important meal in history, the Last Supper.
Wheat, the component of bread, features so much in both Old and New Testaments. The staple ingredient of bread makes up the basic diet and, of course, its importance in the Lord’s Prayer.
We have in the New Testament the added bonus of much time being spent near the Sea of Galilee and the important source of protein, fish, is often mentioned.
We have two major images of natural ingredients in Christianity; it is either wheat and the vine or the loaves and the fishes. Today the 2nd of August is only one day away from Lammas Day, the Church's celebration of the first of the wheat harvest.
The feeding of the 5000 is in all four gospels. Some of the detail is slightly different but what happens is exactly the same. The context even tells us something of Jesus’ nature. He had just heard of the execution of his cousin John and was trying to get away to a deserted place to come to terms with this, instead he is found by the vast crowd. John’s gospel does not have the Last Supper but the washing of the feet and many people say that his account of the feeding of the 5000 prefigures the Last Supper in what is included. Jesus’ reaction to his sorrow over John and what may be ahead for himself is to have compassion on those around him. He begins by healing the sick. Then at the suggestion of one of the disciples that he send the people away to get food, Jesus suggests that they can feed them. In face of the impossible, Jesus transforms their small offering of what they had into plenty. He takes the food. He blesses it, then breaks it and gives it. The disciples give it to others. There was more than enough for everyone. Thinking of John's gospel and the last supper you will find all these elements in our own Holy Communion services.
We can offer the little we have, even though we know it is inadequate, Jesus can take it bless it and break it, there is always a personal cost, and give it back. We in turn must give it to everyone else. Think of this when we use the Eucharistic prayer.
Reverend Barbara Stanton
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