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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Scripture Reading: John 6:1–14
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” (NRSV) 

The event of Jesus feeding the five thousand appears in all four of the Gospels. John’s is the only account in which Jesus asks where the disciples would buy bread for the crowd to eat. It was to test Philip “for he himself knew what he was going to do.”

Though Jesus knew he wanted the crowd to be fed, did he really know what would ensue? When he raised the few loaves of bread to the heavens and gave thanks to God, he was putting himself in a vulnerable position. Everyone could see he didn’t have enough food for such a huge crowd, though he was acting as if there was enough.

I don’t think the miracle was that “wonder bread” somehow magically expanded when it left Jesus’ hands. I agree with Parker Palmer, who wrote in Spirituality for the Active Life, “What may have happened instead is that Jesus and the disciples simply modeled the act of sharing for the crowd by giving thanks for what little they had and then offering it to any who wanted to eat.” I believe people were moved to emulate the trust and generosity of Jesus and his beleaguered little band of followers, giving away their own meager rations.

All were satisfied. That doesn’t mean everyone’s belly was full. Scarcity thrives on dissatisfaction. Abundance arises from and creates a sense of satisfaction. This crowd became community, sharing with one another a meal made possible because God filled their hearts. Leftovers come from our deciding we are content and have enough.

Bread of Life, deepen my trust in you and satisfy my hunger in ways that lead me to be a generous instrument of your abundance. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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