Loaves and Fishes by malj


									Loaves and Fishes
This is not the age of information.
This is not
the age of information.
Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.
This is the time of loaves
and fishes.
People are hungry,
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.
--David Whyte

Matthew 14 (New International Version)
N   I   V   a   t   I   B   S   N   I   V   a   t   Z   o   n   d   e   r   v   a   n   Z   o   n   d   e   r   v   a   n

Matthew 14
John the Baptist Beheaded
  1At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, 2and he said to his
attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous
powers are at work in him.”
  3Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of
Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, 4for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for
you to have her.” 5Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because
they considered him a prophet.
  6On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so
much 7that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8Prompted by her
mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” 9The king was
distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be
granted 10and had John beheaded in the prison. 11His head was brought in on a platter
and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. 12John's disciples came and took his
body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
  13When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary
place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14When Jesus
landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
  15As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place,
and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy
themselves some food.”
  16Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
  17“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
  18“Bring them here to me,” he said. 19And he directed the people to sit down on the
grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks
and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to
the people. 20They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve
basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21The number of those who ate was about
five thousand men, besides women and children.
Jesus Walks on the Water
  22Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the
other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23After he had dismissed them, he went up on
a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the
boat was already a considerable distance[a] from land, buffeted by the waves because the
wind was against it.
  25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.
26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It's a ghost,”
they said, and cried out in fear.
  27But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.”
  28“Lord, if it's you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
  29“Come,” he said.
  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save
  31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,
“why did you doubt?”
  32And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33Then those who were
in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
  34When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35And when the men of that
place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all
their sick to him 36and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all
who touched him were healed.
    Matthew 14:24 Greek many stadia
       The story goes that Rabbi Jesus heard about the death of his cousin John the

Baptist. It was a gruesome, stupid death. Herodias, Herod‟s wife, hated John because he

was preaching that it was wrong for her to be married to Herod. She had been his brother

Phillip‟s wife. Herod had a big party, and Herodias‟ daughter danced the dance of the

seven veils, and Herod was so enchanted, so drunk, that he said “Whatever you want, my

dear, I will give it to you!” She consulted with her mother, who told her to ask for the

head of J the B on a platter. H had not wanted to kill J the B. The people thought he was a

prophet. There was going to be a mess. He couldn‟t lose face in front of the guests,

though, so he had the guard behead John, bring up his head on a platter, and present it to

the girl and her mother.

       Everyone would have been upset at the news, especially his family. Rabbi Jesus

wanted to go off by himself and be quiet for a while. He couldn‟t make it happen, though.

People followed him. They were beginning to know who he was, and they wanted to hear

what he would say, see what he would do. He didn‟t yell at them or whine. He talked to

them, healed the sick. There were a lot of them. The gospel accounts say five thousand

men, along with women and children. Evening came, and this disciples said he should

send them back into the towns so they could buy themselves something to eat. “You give

them something,” he said. For the first time it was on them. They had been watching him

do it all, now it was on them? They resisted. We don‟t have that kind of money. It would

take 200 days wages to feed this crowd, they said. We have done the feasibility study and

this thing isn‟t do-able. We have five loaves and two fish. There are 5,000 people here.

More, if you count women and children. Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and broke

them. Then he gave them to the disciples and they distributed the food. Everyone there
ate until they were satisfied, and there were twelve baskets of pieces left over.

       Did it really happen? Who can say? Let‟s set that question aside and look at it as a

teaching story. You have people gathered and they are hungry. What are people hungry

for? Food, of course, but you know, we are always hungry for something. In the banquet

in the story right before this one, they are gathered, hungry for power, hungry for

stimulation, hungry for position. They get crazy and drunk and it ends up in destruction.

In the second meal, they are hungry for healing, hungry for the stories the teacher is

telling, and the meal is an occasion for sharing and the creation of abundance. Bruce

Springsteen says “Everybody has a hungry heart.” I was reading a detective novel the

other day by James Lee Burke. I found some words I think we are all hungry to hear in

some form or another. In the book they are in a Christian form. A preacher said to the

main character, right after he comes up out of the river water at his baptism “You done

been joined in spirit to God, to earth, to sky, to water and trees. Jesus is your light, your

sword and shield. There ain‟t no place in his kingdom you don‟t belong. You ain‟t never

got to be afraid again.”

       In this life we need a light, a sword and a shield. For some of us it‟s truth, for

others its love, for some it‟s God, or our Higher Power. We‟re hungry to hear we belong.

We‟re hungry to know we ain‟t never got to be afraid again.

       The food that feeds the hunger in this story is shared loaves of bread and fish.

Many preachers say the bread is Jesus, the bread of life, the fish is a symbol of

Christianity. I don‟t think so. I read the letters of Flannery O‟Connor, where she laughs

about a teacher writing her to ask what the symbolism of the black wide-brimmed hat is

the man is wearing in the story “The Misfit.” O‟Connor replied, “. . . Most countrymen
in Georgia wore black hats.” …. “its significance . . . was to cover his head” (O‟Connor,

Habit 334).

       The most important part of this story, to me, is when the disciples hand Jesus

what they have. He gives thanks for it and breaks it open. He gives thanks for it and

breaks it open and there is enough. With the way of looking at the Bible that is my

favorite, I get to ask: “What grows when you break it open? What expands as you share

it?” Answers come flooding in. Love is like that. Energy, when you hoard it, lessens,

and when you spend it, grows. Blessings are inexhaustible once you start blessing

everything and every one. Time -- as you try to control it and do seven things at once you

are left with nothing done and no mind left. Spending time on a spiritual practice,

breaking time open to give some to the soul helps everything else go slower and one

thing at a time get done. Community -- the reason we have an empty chair in each

Covenant Group circle is that when you close down on community, when you say “We

have enough people now, no new ones please,” the community tends to curdle and dry


       When you clutch tightly to what you have, you can kill it. We are told to hold

love lightly. I think the same is true of money, of what we possess. There is supposed to

be a flow. We use clothes, furniture, money, then we let it go. If we have clothes we

aren‟t using, they belong to someone else and we should get them to a resale store or a

thrift store where they can find their rightful owners. If we have money piling up we need

to think seriously about what is enough, and let some of it go. If we have furniture in

storage (and I have a basement full) we need to figure out who we‟re saving it for or let it

go to the folks who are supposed to be its owners now.
   We think of conservative Christians as usually being conservative politically, but there

are those with left-leaning politics who see this story as one of the stories of Jesus that

talk about economics. This is a story about the redistribution of food. Those who had,

gave it , and it turned out to be enough. Reagan‟s economics was trickle-down

economics. “A rising tide raises all boats,” say some. Rabbi Jesus told a story about

trickle-down economics. Lazarus the beggar lived outside the rich man‟s house and he ate

the crumbs from the rich man‟s table. In the afterlife, Lazarus is in the bosom of

Abraham, and the rich man is in the flames, begging for a cooling taste of water from the

man who used to depend on bread to trickle down. It„s almost enough to make me want

to believe in hell. It‟s not there, literally, but the point of the story is that in Rabbi Jesus

teachings, trickle down is wicked. Those who have should share. We all have different

amounts of money, time and skill here. Most of us feel tight in all those areas. Yet we are

promised by this story that if we begin to open up, if we begin to share what time we do

have, what skill and energy and good will we do have, there will be enough. We are not

promised happiness or crazy drunk ecstasy, just that the community will last another day.

Another day of teaching, of healing, of sitting side by side and doing what it is we do.

  Was this a miracle? Yes. Which miracle was it -- the loaves and the fish multiplying

magically or someone seeing someone else give what they have, then deciding to pull out

what they had and share it, then someone else pulling out what they had and sharing it?
Either way, magical food or hungry folks deciding to share -- it‟s a miracle.

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