Feeding the crowds

For Friday

Matthew 14

File:US Navy 051104-N-3455P-001 U.S. Navy Sailors, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), take time to give back to the community.jpg

Volunteers packing food boxes for the San Diego Food Bank. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Paul Polach

19Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

Do you think the disciples ate first, before passing the food on to the crowds?

I wrote this simple question for Friday’s reflection. After writing the question, I couldn’t find the next words. I tried. I tried several times. And every time, it seemed like they were just words, that all the power was in the question. But I was unwilling to post just the question. I wanted people to probe the depths of the question.

Do you think the disciples ate first, before passing the food on to the crowds?

In a way everything hangs on this question: Is the church’s first obligation to feed itself or to feed the crowds?

This isn’t meant to be a stick with which to beat upon our congregations (it’s not that we don’t deserve it; it’s that beating us with sticks doesn’t make us more loving.) It’s meant to be one of those simple incisions that open us up for heart surgery. Hiding in the question is the reminder and profound truth that Jesus didn’t eat first, either.

He didn’t eat first on the night of the last supper; he got up and washed everyone’s feet. He didn’t eat first when the soldiers came to arrest him; he stepped forward so his followers could get away. He didn’t eat first – he didn’t take care of himself first – when he stood before Pilate, or when he carried his cross, or when he bore our pain. Alright, maybe he ate first on Easter evening when he appeared to his followers and asked for something to eat, but that wasn’t to serve himself, it was to show his disciples that he was not a ghost. That night he ate first for our sake, as everything else was done for our sake. Jesus gives himself to us and for us. And when we understand this, when we are truly grasped by this faithful love of God, then we start to understand that the meal doesn’t end with us: we were sent to feed the crowds.

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