On Sunday 2nd August, our service was led by Chaplain. Rev. David Reid, a member of the congregation at Christ Church, Clermont Ferrand. Reflecting on the story of the feeding of the five thousand, he reminded us of how Jesus invites us to look at possibilities and to seize the day...
Genesis 32:22-31; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21
Carpe Diem captures the story of the feeding of the five thousand on the shores of Lake Galilee, this has to be one of the most well-known New Testament stories, notably the story is told in all four Gospels, Mathew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, and John 6. We therefore have four versions of the story to learn from.
In the Gospel of Mathew, before Jesus took care of feeding everyone, he spent the day healing the sick.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus spent the day teaching because he said; “They were like sheep without a shepherd.” When the disciples raised concerns about the people needing to eat, Jesus first suggested that the disciples go and buy some bread. However, they explained to Jesus that this would take a half year of their wages.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus spent the day healing and also told the Disciples to find something for the people to eat. When the Disciples told Jesus that they only had 5 loaves and 2 fishes, Jesus then came up with a plan.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus asked Philipp, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Philipp replied that it would take a half years wages to buy enough bread for just one bite!” Then Andrew the brother of Simon Peter said; “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
I remember hearing this story as a child both at school in the Religious Knowledge class and at Sunday School in the Anglican Church. As a child when I heard the story, I was fascinated by the miracle of Jesus managing to feed five thousand people with only 5 loaves and 2 fish, perhaps they all took very small bites but somehow Jesus managed to magnify them, so everyone was fed. I was always confused about the fish. In the 1950’s my mother would shop at our local “Mac Fisheries” on the High street in Pinner and I remember seeing the fish lined up for sale on the wet tables. Fish had to be cooked so I could never understand how Jesus managed to serve fish to the five thousand unless he also had a frypan and a fire. There was never any mention of cooking the fish in the bible stories, so this like so many bible stories you have to fill in with your imagination. (As far as I know the fish in Lake Galilee were most likely Tilapia, not a sushi grade that I am familiar with!)
I love the story of the Loaves and Fishes because it shows the compassion of Jesus of Nazareth, let’s put this in perspective, Jesus was Jewish – the Christian faith was yet to be. Jesus was not an ordained minister or rabbi, he was not being paid by any organization, he had no funding. He travelled with his group of fishermen volunteers and they were fed and looked after by all the people that they met along the way. The Gospel stories tell us that Jesus spent his day healing and teaching people, from everything we know there was no payment for his service, nor do we hear about a collection being taken up among the five thousand gathered on the shores of Lake Galilee. Jesus had no office space or church building. He healed and preached where he found the people or where the people found him. Two thousand years later Christianity the faith group named after Jesus has become a global enterprise with close to 30% of the world adhering to the Christian tree of faith though its many branches. The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England have vast wealth held in land, buildings, art, gold and investments. Given the humble start on the shores of Lake Galilee – the healing and then the feeding of five thousand people for free has become a global enterprise that has established governance over the brand and has learned how to market the religion of Christ to create a financial return on investment. I wonder what Jesus of Nazareth thinks about what has been done in his name?
How should we interpret the story of that day on the shore of Lake Galilee? For me the story of the Loaves and Fishes is all about “Possibilities.” You will note that Jesus did not dictate how the people would be fed, he first asked the disciples to take care of the catering. I like the way Jesus first delegates the challenge to his team. When the disciples clearly exasperated by the scope of the challenge came back to Jesus to explain that they would need a half year’s wages to come up with a small bite per person plan – that was when Jesus demonstrated his power to use the Laws of Increase to expand the supply of food. The disciples could not visualize the possibility of taking such a small amount of food and expanding it to feed all those present. The principle of the Law of Increase is that as humans we are constantly seeking more in our lives, this may be a matter of health, wealth, love or that thing we call happiness. Every time I say the word happiness, I always think of the late Ken Dodd the British comedian and singer who sailed into the charts in 1964 with his song Happiness. For anyone not familiar with the lyrics:
Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess. I thank the Lord that I've been blessed With more than my share of happiness
The Loaves and Fishes story is a reminder that we all need to be compassionate, just as we desire those around us to show compassion to us. This is the very essence of the Golden Rule – To do unto others. But we need to do more, and the Loaves and Fishes story illustrates the power of giving and sharing perhaps we should call it the Spiritual Supply Chain. When we give and share to others, we also magnify our spirituality in ways that we cannot imagine. This is the real power of the Gospel story that we heard again today. Right now, our world is gripped with the fear of a global pandemic that continues to escalate with no end date in sight despite the usual promises that it will; “All be over by Christmas.” The virus has a unifying element because it is invisible and does not recognize any barriers, it therefore will infect anyone without regard to their wealth or politics or faith. We have witnessed a number of coronavirus outbreaks that blossomed at religious events – this happened in South Korea, France and in the USA. This reminds us that being a member of church or attending a church service does not provide immunity from this virus or any contagious disease. God has provided us with infinite intelligence and that gift gives us the opportunity to overcome the many challenges of life and to seek the Happiness that Ken Dodd sang about. “I Thank the Lord that I’ve been blessed.”
Ann and I never expected to find ourselves living in the center of France, since the dawn of confinement in early March we find ourselves counting our blessings every day. Two-years ago we were giving thanks after Ann almost died from Septicemia, as the Doctor said: “A 12-hour delay and Ann would have been at Hospice.” Perhaps that experience pushed us forward on our spiritual journey. We had spent a month at a Gite in France and really enjoyed the experience, we saw France as a nice place to visit. On our third visit something shifted in our consciousness and we both realized that we needed to put down roots in the Allier. This made no practical sense, we do not speak French, we had recently built the home of our dreams overlooking the Susquehanna river in Pennsylvania. I had successfully completed my training as a chaplain and volunteered my time in the service of others.
The truth is that when that little voice in your head speaks to you – we really should listen, some might say that this is the frequency that God transmits on and provides us with spiritual guidance. Others might call it our intuition, the accumulated toolbox of experience that our neurons have stored over the years. Nevertheless, Ann and I both got the same message and within a few days we started mapping out the mechanics of how we could turn this message into a reality. We bought the house last September, in the months pre-Covid we were able to make the initial renovations to call Vichy our new home. In late February and early March as we watched what Churchill called, “The Gathering Storm” we knew that we would not be returning to Pennsylvania for many months. Over the 56 days of Confinement and the 12 weeks of deconfinement we have literally Counted Our Blessings Day by Day.
The. Loaves and Fishes story is about healing, compassion and the spiritual supply chain that makes all things possible, if you are not happy then perhaps you need to volunteer to find your happiness. As a hospice volunteer, I was often asked; “How I could work alongside dying people, does it not make you depressed?” In fact, it is the opposite, I have had so many uplifting experiences that I always felt better after a patient encounter. Jesus spent a lot of his time volunteering, healing the sick and teaching, his giving and sharing empowered others.
Listen to your spiritual supply chain; what can you do with the Loaves and Fishes in your life? Find and explore ways to expand your consciousness to take advantage of the infinite intelligence that God provides to us. Put the Golden Rule into practice and when you sense that you are being guided to change something in your life “Carpe Diem” Seize the Day and remember what they always said on Star trek: “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
Blessings to All.