Here we are mid-week and we repeat the story from last Sunday! This is Matthew’s second telling of the feeding of the many. Matthew and Mark both include two accounts of the miracle feeding, with minor variations. While Luke and John write of one event like this, John invites us into deeper exploration of the significance of this event by devoting the whole chapter to its telling. This repetition is a story telling technique that implies significance, but it also highlights differences that tell us more about God and God’s generous love. In the first story, the crowd is predominantly Jewish. In the second story, the crowd are predominantly Gentiles. God’s generosity encompasses all. The disciples often fail to comprehend Jesus as the Messiah and therefore God’s presence in human history. Through the repetition of these stories, the narrator also reminds us of our own misunderstanding as we too, endeavour to journey with Jesus into deeper understanding of what being a follower of God means for us and for our world. The stories of the feeding point us to the more encompassing reality of our lives: life for all in God’s generosity. We do need bread; Jesus saw that and he ‘had compassion on the crowd.’ We do need to look after our physical and emotional needs, to eat well, to exercise, receive and give human love, intimacy and friendship. These are vital in human life and an important reminder to live well in pandemic times. But the stories also invited us into a bigger life, one that looks beyond our own wants and need, beyond our tribe into a ‘God view’. From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus points to a fuller life: ‘No one can live by bread alone’ (Matthew 4:4). In reality we are ‘spiritual’ beings, beings-of-God, or, as Genesis has informed us from long ago, we are made ‘in the image of God’, created by God and co-creators with God. We are more than molecules and DNA and we have fundamental needs and desires beyond the basic. We need poetry, music, the arts, and faith. But while we are not mere ‘brutes’ nor are we ‘angels’! Too often self-interest or ego get in our way and distort our moral judgement. We need the practices that help us connect daily to our Creator, the Holy Spirit. The story of the feeding is therefore, inviting us to dig deep, to pause and look to what matters in these current times of stress and uncertainty, and to find hope. This is why in John Chapter 6, Jesus says explicitly, ‘I am the bread of life’! In these stories of God’s generous provision, the gospel writers reveal to us that ‘the secret of our being is not only to live but to have something to live for.’ (The Brothers Karamazov) Jesus invites us to live with and for him and so live into the richness of life with and for others because our whole being is challenged and enlivened by God’s life-giving Spirit. It is this aspect of our faith that challenges and feeds our hearts and minds in this time of COVID.
The words of one of my favourite hymns say it well: ‘Living is to love him, serving him to know his freedom.’ Living is to love him, serving him to know his freedom. Come along with us to oin the praise of Jesus. Come to Jesus now, Go to live his word rejoicing. Text: Jeff Cothran; Tune: Shibbolet Basadeh (Jewish melody) Fr Don