All you can eat
Reverend David Parry writes:
Mark chapter six tells how Jesus sent out His Apostles in pairs to change the world. They went with His authority to demand repentance, anoint for healing and drive out evil. Yet the same chapter opens with Jesus being rejected by His contemptuous home town. It goes on to describe the murder of John the Baptist for speaking truth to the powerful. The chapter ends with the Apostles (most of them experienced fishermen) terrified in a storm and needing Jesus to rescue them.
Not exactly the most promising, serene and competent launch for Christian ministry. How on earth did the Church survive at all when it was born into so much violence, opposition and fear? Perhaps the answer lies in the only story in Mark 6 which I haven’t mentioned yet: the Feeding of the Five Thousand from which today’s Bible verses come.
I love the calm assurance with which Jesus responded to an unexpected logistics problem – though it must have been completely exasperating to the Apostles at the time! They are surrounded by a huge hungry crowd in a remote place but He says, “You give them something to eat.” They only glean enough for one small picnic (five loaves and two fish) but He does an impressive grace as if opening a banquet. You know what happened next.
Now obviously everyone getting fed, with plenty of leftovers, was a miracle and demonstrated who Jesus really is. But what I also see here is a lasting principle of Christian life. The hungry people around us can never be strangers to us. Set in a world full of spiritual and material destitution, Jesus calmly says to us, “You give them something to eat.”
We feel foolish (and plenty will tell us we are) as we get people organised, and sit them in groups. We find our resources pitiful and dwindling. We pray, more for form than because we expect anything to happen – but then it does. People are fed, clothed, educated, healed, saved, called, sent … most of all loved. And it all starts with our (reluctant) obedience and (hesitant) prayer.
In our unpromising context, in the doubt, violence and danger of 2020, it is time to act. Let’s give them something to eat.
Dduw, ffynhonnell pob sancteiddrwydd
a rhoddwr pob peth da,
boed i ni sydd wedi cyfranogi wrth y bwrdd hwn
fel dieithriaid a phererinion yma ar y ddaear
gael ein croesawu gyda’th holl saint
i’r wledd nefol ar ddydd dyfodiad dy deyrnas;
trwy Iesu Grist ein Harglwydd.
God, the source of all holiness
and giver of all good things:
may we who have shared at this table
as strangers and pilgrims here on earth
be welcomed with all your saints
to the heavenly feast
on the day of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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