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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Today’s Reading | Matthew 14:13–21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “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.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (NRSV)


It is hard to imagine such abundance—enough food to feed five thousand men as well as women and children and to have twelve baskets of bread and fish remaining. Even though the story of Jesus’ feeding of five thousand is quite familiar to me, it never ceases to astonish me.

I think we are called to pay attention to those times when we are astonished. As students of the Bible, we are called not to dismiss but to take seriously every astonishing occurrence, not because we have to believe everything we read, but because we believe in a God who can act in astonishing ways. 

Well-versed in stories of God creating the world out of nothing, emancipating slaves from an Egyptian empire, forming a people out of no people, raising Jesus from the dead, and in the stories of Jesus working wonders (feeding five thousand and making the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the lepers clean, and the debts of the poor canceled), we are willing to be astonished. We are open to the possibility of miracles and to the reception of gifts. We know how to rely on the power of hope in the face of adversity. 

At a time when it seems like there is everywhere a shortage of what we need, a shortage of resources both public and private, it seems especially critical that we exercise our capacity to be astonished—astonished by new gifts to be given or by a Giver of gifts. 


You, O God, give me more than I could ask for—more love, more grace, more forgiveness, more hope, more bread. I am truly astonished. So saturate my heart with appreciation, God, that I always feel full and overflow with your grace. Amen.

Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life

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