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Bread

By Rev. Rhonda Pigott Thorndale


Mark 6: 30-44


Miracle stories fascinate many people, even though they become deeply puzzled about how things happen, especially living in a world faced with scientific explanations for so many things. Because these ancient stories defy common sense explanation, many people feel compelled to choose between interpreting them as a factual or fictional account. Whichever way you view it, it is filled with the powerful symbols for the Christian community, bread for the hungry, food for the wilderness, abundance for all, thus we need to honour both the story and the listeners questions.



This is one of the best loved miracle stories with Jesus. It is found in all 4 gospels…  5000 men were fed that day as Mark says…not counting the women and children says Matthew.  Yet the grumbling disciples stand up with five loaves and two fishes between them to feed the hungry crowd. How did this happen? I really don’t know.

Some folks emphasize the mysterious multiplying of the loaves. Others describe it as an example of the disciples of sharing, stirring the crowd up so they too wanted to share what they carried with them that day so that there was enough to go around. How the crowd was fed doesn’t really matter to me. The miracle began earlier in the story.


Earlier in the week the disciples took a risk and touched lives in pain, people in need of healing. It is said that the disciples went out with nothing. They took a risk and depended on the hospitality of strangers and in doing so they went to all kinds of people - friends, foreigners, neighbours. The disciples discovered that each had something to give each other, and they did make a difference. Their gifts changed lives.

In the United Church, we affirm that God's love is abundant and overflowing, just like the baskets of bread and fish in this story of Jesus feeding the 5000. It reminds us of God's generosity and our call to share what we have with others.


God's abundance is not limited by our scarcity. Just as the bread and fish were multiplied, our resources, talents, and time can be multiplied when we share them. Our community of faith can also be called to be a community of abundance, sharing God's love and resources with everyone.


Jesus' compassion for the crowd is a model for our own compassion. We are called to see the needs of others and respond with love and generosity.  Being a community of compassion includes means being committed to, caring for the most vulnerable and advocating for justice.


We heard in the reading that the disciples were faced by a hungry crowd a long way from town. They wanted to pass that problem of feeding onto someone else and questioned Jesus on what to do. How often in our lives do we wish our problems could be passed on to someone else.


The biblical meaning of the word miracle when translated into English, comes from the root word that means possibility.


Jesus invites his followers to discover what God makes possible when we love our family, friends, neighbours, and strangers when we respond to people whose lives touch ours. Amazing, miraculous things happen when we risk and help someone, when we remember what we have on hand to share with hungry people. Here, in Lake Country we have the food bank, and just behind our church building, the Community Fridge is located. Both need constant refilling to meet our community’s need. They need donations, so people are fed with no questions asked.


I entitled the reflection for today, ‘Bread”. We can feed people in so many different ways –  physically, spiritually and emotionally. Every time I visit our thrift shop, I am in awe of how hard those people work, how much it adds to our community. The caring for people both in our congregation or people we meet is amazing and this can be as small as a simple smile or “hi, how are you doing”, but it can make the receiver’s day. Loneliness is another struggle some people have in our community.


Unfortunately, we can’t just rest on our laurels, there are still so many people in need. We can support policies that address the root causes of hunger, addictions, housing and many other things that give people support and security.


I remember a time when I was extremely touched by a neighbour.  The plant where her husband had worked, had partially closed.  In that process a third of their employees, including her husband, were laid off. They were a family of five struggling to make ends meet, yet she brought me over a basket of fresh vegetables from their garden. That year, I was hosting two foreign exchange students, one from China and the other from Japan. My neighbour wanted them to experience the delicious flavour of home-grown Canadian veggies. Although I thanked her graciously, I felt a bit guilty receiving her gift.  It was her act of kindness, that reminded me of the abundance of God's love and the importance of sharing what we have with others.


As a community of faith, we can advocate for food for the hungry by supporting policies that address the root causes of hunger, by partnering with local organizations and supporting our Mission and Service fund that are working to address the issue of hunger such as food banks, soup kitchens, and other organizations that provide food assistance to those in need. By working together, we can amplify our impact and make a greater difference in the lives of those who are struggling. As a church, we are called to serve the least of these, and advocating for food for the hungry is a critical way that we can live out this calling.


How many of you remember White Gift Sunday? As children, White Sunday was an exciting time.  The day before was wrapping day as mom had set out on the table food to be given away the next day. She would always talk with us about how lucky we were to have food to eat and how even when dad had short periods of no work there was always enough. The next day, my sister and I would gingerly walk down the long church aisle each carrying a bag of food carefully wrapped in white paper. Between us both, there was enough food to feed a family of 4.


I wonder if we partnered with others could we help with food drives and fundraising campaigns or raise money and collect food for those in need. Yes, there are organizations in our community that already do this but with the general inflation in housing and food the need has become even greater.


Educating people, our family, friends and neighbours, about these issues and the importance of supporting those who are struggling is something we can all do. By raising awareness, we can inspire others to join us in the fight against hunger.

As a church, we can advocate for food for the hungry by supporting policies that address the root causes of hunger, but we can also include fair living wages, affordable housing, and access to healthcare.


Today we will be celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion. As with the story of the feeding of the 5000, our sacrament is seen as a time of nourishment, not just spiritual but also physical, as we gather around the table to share in the bread and the cup. I wonder if this story could also be meant as a precursor to the Last Supper as Jesus takes the loaves and fishes, looks up to the sky and breaks the bread and gives thanks.


The story is inclusive, Jesus wants everyone fed.  We celebrate communion as inclusive and welcoming to all who seek to follow Jesus, remembering God’s abundance and generosity in providing for humanity’s spiritual needs.


May we, like Jesus, see the abundance of God's love and share it with others. May we, like the disciples, offer what little we have and trust in God's multiplication. And may we, as the United Church, be a community of abundance and compassion, reflecting God's love in the world. Let us continue to be inspired by the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 and live out our calling to serve the least of these.

 

 

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