A Letter from the Associate Minister for Discipleship to Pittsburgh Presbytery
July 23, 2015
“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?’” John 6:5 NRSV
As a brand new grandmother to a baby girl, Aria, who will be seven weeks old by the time this page is available to read, I have come to relearn that the first hours, days, weeks, and even months, of a child’s life are all about eating. The number one goal for a newborn is growth. Of course -- kisses, hugs, lots of gentle talking, and even singing are also important!
But growth does not occur without steady, frequent, meals. The baby and new parents’ lives really revolve around eating, broken up by periods of sleep. Eventually, if the eating enterprise goes well, there are periods of cheerful wakefulness in which everyone starts to get acquainted by introductions, conversations, and a whole lot of love.
We might think that eating and drinking would become less central over the years, but really, that’s just not true. God has made us in flesh that requires frequent “feedings” all through our lives.
There is the food that keeps our bodies alive and well. But there is also the spiritual food that nourishes our minds, hearts, and souls. God and Jesus care deeply about both kinds of food.
Jesus knew people needed to eat. He needed to eat! And so he gathered his disciples together to share meals. Jesus also knew that many of the “people” around him were frequently in need of both edible and spiritual food.
In last week’s passage from Mark, we read these words: “Jesus said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. As he went ashore, Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things."Mark 6: 31, 34
We see in this passage both kinds of hunger. Jesus ignored neither. In Mark, the very next event is the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
In John’s telling of this same miracle, Philip can’t figure out where they will find food for five thousand hungry souls. He answers the question Jesus posed above with these sarcastic words: “Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’”
In other words, “Give it up, Jesus! WE are hungry! Let’s go grab dinner in a nearby village.” To which Jesus responds by working a miracle of abundance from some bread and fish.
We live in an age of microwaves, snack-packs, and frozen meals. We can zap most anything in a couple of minutes and eat standing alone in the kitchen. We can go through this life increasingly by ourselves, alone, eating our yoghurt drinks on the run, and hitting the drive-through on the way home.
We can avoid the burdens of preparing meals for the community, and of opening our doors and hearts to the hungry. We can avoid making the effort to create a homemade meal to be shared sitting down around an actual table, or on a picnic blanket, or in a fellowship hall.
The early church looked like this: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42 We still need to be that Church!
So let us gather together whenever we can, to share a meal, to introduce ourselves, to have conversations, and to share ‘the whole lot of love’ of God in Jesus Christ with one another and a hungry world.
“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ ‘I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” Matthew 26:26; 29
From birth, to death, to life beyond death…we will still be coming to the table. So, let’s eat!!
The Rev. Dr. Beverly W. James, Associate Minister for Discipleship to Pittsburgh Presbytery
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