In some way when we pray give us today our daily bread, we are demanding from God the basic needs of all humanity. To eat and be satisfied is both a literal need and a metaphoric one. Symbolic of all the stuff we need for life. And our prayer is not only for ourselves but for all who are in need.
At text study this week a colleague of mine shared about his year living in a leper village in Korea. His friend was a pastor there and invited him to come and serve with him.
I was so moved by his story. It is powerful — about feeding, care, and having enough, even when we might look and think that what we have won’t possibly be enough to satisfy our needs let alone the needs of others.
He said that year was when he learned what hungry is. He lived on half a bowl of rice a day. One bowl of rice shared between the two pastors.
But the bowl had been created by each person in the community giving a little bit of rice from their own. The people fed their pastors as their pastors had been caring for their spiritual needs.
What stuck out to me in the story of Jesus feeding the 5000+ is that Philip notices what they have and then discounts it because he sees the roadblocks not the possibilities. “There is a little boy here with five loaves of bread and two fish, but what are these among so many people?”
In a time when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, daily bread is becoming less and less certain for more and more people. And those of us who are striving toward upward mobility often get caught in the fear of not having enough. It is the dis-ease of the middle class — to want what the rich have. And to not be satisfied with having just enough. Because we believe that enough is not enough.
I watch this show sometimes called Expedition Unknown. A recent episode was about the Mayan Empires’s pre-classic period. The archaeologists pointed out that the conspicuous consumption of the elite, who built enormous pyramids and temples, ultimately led to their downfall. In order to build roads and structures bigger they deforested the lands around their cities. They wanted more and more. Ultimately they ended up poisoning themselves when the clay soil was not longer held in place by trees. It leeched into their agriculture, destroying the crops.
What if Philip focused on the fact that they had people in that gathering who were willing to share what they had for the sake of others? The little boy offered his food to feed others.
I also had a new understanding of this passage. It seems like the loaves of bread and fish that Jesus multiplies are not just food for those 5000. The gathered remnants of their hillside picnic symbolize the people themselves who will be fed by the abundance of God. Jesus tells them to gather up the leftovers so that none will be lost.
The loaves feed the people and they are the people. Or rather we, the people, are fed by God to be bread for the world.
We will live with the Bread of Life for six weeks. This is an important chapter for Christians in understanding the will and action of God in Jesus for the sake of the world.
It’s why we come and gather around this table every week. And we act out the drama of just a little bread and sip of wine feeding us with the abundance of God. That is what the meal Christians share is about. The reminder that we don’t need as much as we want to be satisfied.
The other thing for us to remember is that our vision of what is possible is often much too small. “God is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine…” As a small church that does big things, we know a bit about doing a lot with a little. But we are facing uncertainty because of funding and wondering what we’ll be able to do. But the real question is what do we have. And we have a gathering of amazing people willing to give a little of themselves to the mission of God in the world.
When we come here and take a bit of bread and a little wine together, we receive the abundance of God's grace. And when we leave here we feed each other as we are fed by Jesus. So that none will be lost.