How many Loaves Have You to Share?
The story today is about bread. Bread is the stuff of life, it is life for the world. We all need some sort of bread to survive. I make bread every week. It is cheaper than the bread from the supermarket and it tastes much better. It is a meal in itself.
The story in I Kings tells us that Elijah has to flee for his life from King Ahab in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. At Zarephath he meets the widow, a poor underprivileged nameless woman, and her son who have only enough food for one more meal. Elijah, a foreigner and stranger, asks her for water and bread. She explains her desperate situation “as surely as the Lord your God lives, I do not have any bread.” Elijah brings her God’s promise that the oil and flour will not run out; she trusts and believes and shares what little she has left.
The context of the gospel passage in Mark (6:1-10:52) is the journey to God's mountain, our journey, our soul journey. There is growing discontent. The disciples are wearied by the Galilean mission and draw aside to a quiet place to rest. But, the crowds follow, like us in our lives when we try to take time out, the phone rings the door knocks. Jesus felt for them having and began to teach them. In the wilderness the people find the sustenance of manna, and as Moses, under God, fed the children of Israel in the wilderness, so Jesus similarly feeds the sheep without a shepherd in a solitary, wilderness place. How true is it that God feeds us when we are most alone, most low. Jesus sustains them with the bread of life, both spiritual and physical. In contrast to the drunken debauchery of the Herodian feast, Mark exhibits God’s way through the provision of bread in the wilderness. The sign is a foretaste of the messianic banquet when all will be fed at God,s table rather than the stark divisions of first world and developing world we have today when many children in our weary world go to bed hungry. This is an introduction to God’s way the communal life of the kingdom of God. This wilderness place (like the first reading in Lent) would be on the north-east side of the lake Galillee. When Jesus told the disciples “Give them some food, yourselves”. And they told him it would cost eight months of a man's wages!
So he collects together bread (probably barley bread and it would most likely be flat bread) and fish-probably cooked fish, or more likely, pickled fish. He told the people to sit down in groups
And they sat down in groups like garden beds of hundreds and fifties, a hundred rows of fifty. He blessed (eulogew and eucaristew take the same meaning when used of a prayer said over food) and distributed the bread and fish. And were satisfied- they were filled,
They filled 12 strong wicker baskets full of the broken pieces, the leftovers. Other than women and children, there were many more than 5,000 people present.
Jesus has put his needs after the peoples. He was hungry. He fed them first. Its why those helping at the communion table should feed others first and themselves last. It is not enough just to be aware of others needs. Jesus asks us to meet those needs with what we have; no matter how little, it will be enough if we are willing to share.
So is this a story about a miracle or about sharing? Had the women prepared food for day out and people been shamed into sharing?Jesus of course as Johns gospel tells us is the Bread of the world. At the last supper with the disciples he shares bread and says it is his body broken for them. The beginning of our Lords Supper, our eucharist "The body of Christ broken for you…and you".
Jesus touches our lives in a tangible way. We share and others share and it cascades. The quality of the bread we share is important, like the wine in the story of the wedding at Cana, we must give the best.
The women of Chile who wrote the service this year, challenge us to acknowledge what gifts and possessions we have that we might share. What bread do you have to share?