Thursday, March 8, 2018

some pastoral implications of the feeding of the crowds


"Bread is given by Jesus to bind his followers together. The great irony is that bread of certain sorts can produce pain and inflammation. It has led to a practice in the Lord’s Supper of offering two or more sorts of bread, gluten free, for example.  That might be seen as an accommodation of the sufferer of gluten. But the symbol of unity is lost. Far better is that we acknowledge the sick among us (as Jesus did) and find bread that can be shared by all in the congregation and, preferably, a bread that is wholesome, tasty and (like the Orthodox Christians) made with yeast so the dough rises.

A second pastoral implication of the feeding of 5000 and 4000 suggests itself: Jesus feeds the entire crowd, women and children, with the numbered men. The feedings are a sign of unity. So, we of the Uniting Church in Australia would do well to revisit our worship practice when it comes to bread: generous, and a frequent ‘breaking of the bread’ (as in the Acts of the Apostles), and so become a sign to our divided humanity of a meal of peace. If peacemakers are blessed, so Jesus’ companions are also to bear the unity he offers. Think globally, and as we act locally we are Christ’s witnesses. Something similar may be said about the sharing of the cup. It is time for us to share one common cup from which all at the meal drink from the same cup. The Lord Jesus who offers his cup, asks us to take the risk of eating and drinking together, even those called enemy.

A third implication is this: Jesus who feeds the crowds is one who feeds all humanity, and does this by beginning with the desolate poor. As Jesus’ followers, we are also called to stand with the poor, to be in solidarity with those whose humanity is smashed, as in warfare (in Syria, for example, and Afghanistan), and who are torn from their homes seeking asylum in other lands, like Australia. Support of refugees is not just a political issue; it is the claim Jesus puts on us in our sisters and brothers who seek our welcome, a readiness to share our bread (food and money), just as Jesus calls us to eat at his table.
So as we commit to preparing for Easter in some form of Lenten discipline, remember that Jesus asks us to receive the free gift of bread, and with it free grace; with that he calls us to long for justice, and so to live for the new world God is making."
Rev Dr Wes Campbell

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