Dylan's Lectionary Blog, Biblical Scholar Sarah Dylan Breuer
Prayer Loving God as a mother tenderly gathers her children and as a father joyfully welcomes his own, so in the compassion of Jesus you nurture and nourish us, feed us and heal us. Let the bread Jesus multiplied then in the wilderness be broken and shared among us now. May the communion we experience with each other in this holy meal, compel us to seek communion with everyone in loving service toward all.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year A, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Some Thoughts: They need not go away
Not unlike the grace imparted in the Eucharistic meal the feeding of the five thousand connects Jesus' ministry of feeding people with God's continuous outpouring of love.
Certainly, the Gospel author tells his story in such a way that the feeding events in the Matthean narrative are linked. They give shape and image to the final feast. Matthew's vision of Jesus as Christ and as provider shapes the story even in the telling.
This passage comes in the midst of the fourth largest section of the Gospel. It echoes the abundance of the previous passages on the kingdom of God and not unlike a sacrament it puts flesh on the images of parables that Jesus has been offering those who have ears. In a way, the feeding of the five thousand is an incarnation of the kingdom parables. Jesus is showing that the kingdom is all around and that God's grace abounds in the fields and on the hill tops not only in the sanctuaries. He is showing that the mandate to care and love and feed one another is a commandment that will not be confined to the rules of the religiously powerful.
He is also manifesting a very real kingdom community. The signs and stories, the symbols and the miracles, are now embracing an ever expanding vision and reality which is the growing kingdom.
The New Testament scholar Gerhardsson comments:
In Matthew's time the Eucharist had probably not yet been made fully distinct from the satiating common meals in the early Christian communities. Thus Eucharistic symbolism does not exclude the possibility that the story is concerned with the satisfaction of elementary bodily hunger -- and vice versa."(Allison/Davies, Matthew, p 492)
The Davies and Allison Commentary continues the theme:
In other words, the spiritualizing of 14:13-21 on Matthew's part does not discount the equal emphasis upon Jesus as the one who can meet mundane, physical needs. Our pericope therefore both shows Jesus' concern for such 'non-religous' needs and likewise demonstrates his ability to act in accord with that concern. So the christological assertion that Jesus is Lord of all seems implicit. (Ibid)In the miracle of the multiplication of fish and loaves the Christian Church as a vision of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, through whom all things were made. We have a vision of Jesus modeling a stewardship of abundance that insures that the world is not simply a place of consumption ("This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away"); but rather that all creation is seen as bountiful for a sustainable kingdom of God ("They need not go away.")
The miracle challenges us to see the possibilities of a church at work in the world. It challenges us to move out as missionaries into our culture of scarcity and seek to transform the world by bringing real food to all those who are hungry. Instead of sending them away to other agencies or expecting the government to care we, the Episcopal Church and the Church, must take our rightful place as the hands of God. We must feed the world and make real the kingdom. We must make the Gospel story of our bible, the one of parable and miracle, a reality. Only when we re-engage the world as the incarnational body of Christ at work (meeting the very real needs) will the world listen to the Good News we also offer.
For far too long the Church has squabbled over the idea that it is either evangelism or outreach. This Gospel lesson reminds us that service to the poor, with whom Jesus identified himself, and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God go hand in hand.
A Little Bit for Everyone
Oremus Online NRSV Text
General Resources for Sunday's Lessons
Textweek Resources for this week's Gospel
Some interesting articles on this passage:
Chris Haslam's clippings blog
William Loader's First Thoughts
The Scripture: Matthew 14:13-21
The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.
The Kaleidescope Institute has reworked the questions somewhat and can be found here.
Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question
Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.
2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.
3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.
4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.
5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.
6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.
7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"
8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.
9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father..."