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      The Miracle Meal

      Matthew 14 August 6, 2023 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
      Filed Under:
      Pr. Sebastian

      Ten years ago, I was fortunate to lead a tour group 

      to the Holy Land. 

      It was amazing to see some of the places where the events of 

      Jesus likely occurred. 

      The sites around the Sea of Galilee were most meaningful to me, 

      as some of the landscape hasn’t changed much in 2000 years.

      A place that particularly impressed me was Tabgha, by the Sea of Galilee, which commemorates the Feeding of the 5,000, 

      and has a church there built over a very old mosaic representing the loaves and fishes from today’s story. 

      This place impressed me because the Feeding of the Multitudes is one of the most important miracle stories. 

      (It occurs in all 4 Gospels) and is one of Jesus’ miracles that stretches our imagination the most.

      What first struck me in this version from Matthew is that Jesus is hurting.

      He has just heard that his cousin, John the Baptist, has been beheaded, brutally murdered, for telling truth to power.

      Jesus goes to a deserted place to mourn, and cry, and pray, and process these events, 

      but yet the crowds find out where he is, 

      like throngs of fans following a pop star. 

      Even though Jesus is hurting, and needs time for self-care, 

      his compassion shines through. 

      He sees the needs of the crowd, he notices that many are sick, 

      that many are in need of some words of comfort and guidance, 

      so he sets aside his own grief, to do what he’s been called to do.

      (Matthew, Douglas R.A. Hare): 

      And what he does defies imagination: 

      he feeds 5,000 men, plus thousands more women and children. 

      An arena full, 

      starting with little more than enough food for his closest friends. 

      How do we make sense of this story as 21st century folks?

      Some interpreters explain this miracle by proposing that maybe everyone had a little bit of food they brought along for an emergency, 

      like some snacks stored in their pockets, 

      and then when they were moved by the generosity of others, 

      everyone shared, and then a little miracle happened, gradually. 

      If everyone shared the little they have, it all adds up, 

      and many small gifts together can change the world.

      Other have speculated that the meal was more a spiritual meal than a physical meal, 

      in that people were satisfied spiritually after being fed first by Jesus’ sermon and then by a tiny symbolic nibble. 

      Kind of how we are hopefully satisfied spiritually at Holy Communion with a small dry wafer and a tiny sip of port, 

      which of course doesn’t satisfy a real physical hunger, 

      but reminds us that we are all family around God’s table, when Jesus gives himself to us.

      However, the point with this miracle is that we don’t know and can’t really ever know what happened in the countryside in Galilee that day. 

      There were no video cameras around at the time, 

      and we weren’t there either. 

      You can’t really prove or disprove anything, 

      if you’re looking at it from a literal perspective in 2023.

      What is more interesting is what the meaning of the story is for us.

      In this feeding of the 5,000, 

      we see Jesus as a Shepherd king who cares for his flock, 

      someone who sees the need, and does what he can to help.

      Jesus provides the bare necessities;

      Bread and fish were a simple peasant’s meal: 

      There is no wine or fruit or desserts at this feeding.

      In the Lord’s Prayer we pray:

      Give us today our “Daily bread”, 

      not give us today our daily feast.

      Like the simple but nourishing manna which was provided by God

       for the Israelites in the wilderness with the help of Moses,

      Jesus gave enough so all were fed.

      (God provides enough for God’s people through Jesus).

      We pray too that in difficult times we will receive enough to get by.

      And sometimes enough is just enough.

      There were hardly any leftovers or wastage after the feeding.

      If you imagine 12 baskets after feeding 20,000 is actually quite a slim margin, and given how many were fed, 

      that’s a very small percentage of food wastage at the end…

      The other important message for us is when Jesus tells his disciples: 

      you give them something to eat!

      Jesus empowers the disciples to help, 

      Jesus doesn’t do it all on his own, 

      but commands his disciples to get out there, and do some heavy lifting, and help make the miracle into reality.

      In the task of God’s reign to bring daily bread to all people, 

      we gotta get up and do something too!

      We are partners with God in making sure that all 

      have the bare necessities of life.

      When we help out too, then the miracle of abundance can occur. 

      We may see scarcity,

      but God sees opportunity.

      If we take what we need, and share what we can, 

      then lives can be changed, and miracles can occur.


      I’d like to share a story you may have heard before, called

      The Christmas Orange.


      Jake was nine years old and for as long as he could remember he lived within the walls of an orphanage. 

      He was one of ten children supported by what meager contributions the orphan home could obtain in donations from local townspeople.

      Throughout the year there was very little to eat, but at Christmas there always seemed to be a little bit more than usual. 

      The orphanage seemed a bit warmer and there was time for holiday enjoyment. 

      But most importantly there was the Christmas orange!

      Christmas was the only time of year that such a rare treat was provided and it was treasured by each child. 

      They each enjoyed their very own orange and prized it as they slowly savored each juicy section. 

      It was truly the light of their Christmas and the best gift of the season. Jake had been looking forward to his Christmas orange all year long!

      On Christmas Eve, Jake somehow managed to track a small amount of mud from his shoes onto the new carpet in the orphanage. 

      He didn’t even notice it had happened. 

      But it was too late and there was nothing he could do to avoid punishment. 

      The punishment was swift and grim. 

      Jake would not be allowed his Christmas orange! 

      It was the only gift he would have received from the harsh world he lived in. 

      Now, after a year of waiting, it would be denied him.

      Tearfully Jake pleaded that he be forgiven, but to no avail. 

      He felt hopeless and totally rejected. 

      Jake cried into his pillow all that night and spent Christmas Day feeling empty and alone. 

      He felt that the other children didn’t want to be with a boy who had received such a cruel punishment. 

      Perhaps they feared he would ruin their only day of happiness. 

      Maybe, he reasoned, the gulf between him and his friends existed because they feared he would ask for a little of each of their oranges. 

      Jake spent the day upstairs, alone, in the unheated dormitory. 

      Huddled under his only blanket, he read about a family marooned on an island. 

      Jake wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his life on an isolated island, 

      if he could only have a real family that cared about him.

      Bedtime came but Jake couldn’t sleep. 

      How could he say his prayers? 

      How could there be a God in Heaven that would allow a little soul such as he, to suffer so much all by himself? 

      Silently he sobbed as he prayed for the future of mankind, 

      that God might end the suffering in the world, 

      both for himself and all others like him.

      As Jake climbed back into bed from the cold, hard floor, 

      a soft hand touched his shoulder, startling him momentarily. 

      He was surprised when an object was silently placed in his hands. 

      The giver disappeared into the darkness, leaving Jake with what, 

      he did not immediately know!

      Looking closely at the object in his hand in the dim light, he saw what looked like an orange! 

      Not a regular orange, smooth and shiny, but a very special orange. 

      Inside a patched together peel were segments of nine other oranges. Together they made one whole orange for Jake! 

      The nine other children in the orphanage had each donated one segment of their own precious orange to make a whole orange for Jake.

      (It was at that moment that Jake learned how comforting true friendship could be).

      Like those orphans shared a little of their Christmas orange treat so that Jake could celebrate too,

      Trusting in God, putting faith in God to give us our own daily bread, 

      Letting go of our worries,

      let us share a little so others may be fed too. Amen.

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