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August 2, 2020

Pentecost 9, Proper 13

Genesis 32: 22-31

Psalm 17: 1-7, 16

Romans 9: 1-5

Matthew 14: 13-21 

The Rev. Fr. Robert L. Hart


In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Not long into the shutdown when we were all at home wondering what to do with ourselves, there were reports of a shortage of flour and baking supplies. Obviously many people discovered something to do. People began to bake—something maybe they knew how to do or simply remembered their mothers and grandmothers doing.

Suddenly on Facebook I began to see pictures of freshly baked loaves of bread. People were proud. They had successfully baked bread—the staff of life. The everyday task of our forebears is now a learned art. In many ways I am happy to see it.

Bread should bring us to a very important remembrance—a Gospel moment. A plaque hangs on my daughter’s kitchen wall in Athens. In German: Unser Brot gib uns Heute. Give us today our daily bread. In today’s Gospel story Jesus feeds the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. In John’s Gospel Jesus declares, “I am the Bread of Life.” At the final supper Jesus takes bread and says as he blesses it, “This is my body.”

In the Gospel account this morning Jesus sees the crowd who has followed him. He is deeply moved with compassion. He begins to heal the sick among them. As evening comes the disciples have practical suggestions as to how to feed the crowd. But Jesus says with utter directness, “You feed them.” And how? They wonder, with so little, five loaves of bread and two fish. As we know, in the end there is an abundance—twelve baskets of bread left over!

There are several layers of meaning in this story of human need and bread.

Jesus’ compassion for the people moves him to action. He says to the disciples and thus to us, “You feed them.” This basic, essential need of humanity stares us in the face. People are hungry. People need food. The compassion of Jesus compels us—feed them! There will be enough if we trust God and begin the work. Bread is the staff of life. The Lord of Life has given us this ministry.

The second layer of meaning has to do with trust. If we are told to pray for our daily bread, the emphasis is on daily. The prayer means bread sufficient for the day. Bread enough for tomorrow perhaps. Jesus means: Trust God for today. We aren’t to hoard for future months like some did with toilet paper. To hoard is to steal from those who need bread.

Jesus had much to say about lack of trust and anxiety. Bread brings us back to the essence of trust. Bread sufficient for the day—not more, not less.

For Jesus said, “Do not worry, regarding your soul, what you will eat …. Is not your soul more than food…. […] But who among you can, by worrying, lengthen the span of one’s life by a single cubit?”

The five thousand witnessed the providence of God—their daily bread.

The third thing the feeding of the five thousand brings to us is Jesus, Jesus our Bread, the staff of eternal life. Jesus is the Bread of Heaven. We are fed with Christ’s risen life. We are fed at this altar with the bread sufficient, food for the journey of life. God in Christ is abundant grace, the twelve baskets left over.

Dana Bowen is a food writer and a cook. Dana lives just across the river. She wrote recently, “Our world is hurting right now, and one way we help is to feed it, care for it, love it with food.” 

Notice her three verbs: feed, care, and love. With food!

It’s a wonderful statement to sum up today’s Gospel—the feeding of the five thousand. The bread of the table is all about feeding, caring, and loving. This feeding, caring, loving is at the heart of the ministry of Christ Church—food enough for those in need, bread for the body and bread for the soul, bread on the dinner table, bread on the altar. Feeding, caring, loving by sharing the Bread of Heaven.