Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Loaves and Fishes

Since last week, John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod. Jesus hears the news and slips away to be on his own.

Matthew 14:13-21

13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.

Retreat to get away from Herod. Retreat from the multitudes pressing in around him. Retreat to talk to his friends. Retreat to mourn the loss of John who was the voice who cried out in the wilderness.
Retreat -- by himself; prayer in a deserted place; peace and quiet. Perhaps the need for prayer and meditation was as a deep hunger in him; I know that I get that way at times.

From Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency by Tom DeMarco
Another entry in the small but growing management library that suggests purposely slowing down and smelling the roses could actually boost productivity in today's 24/7 world, Tom DeMarco's Slack stands out because it is aimed at "the infernal busyness of the modern workplace." DeMarco writes, "Organizations sometimes become obsessed with efficiency and make themselves so busy that responsiveness and net effectiveness suffer." By intentionally creating downtime, or "slack," management will find a much-needed opportunity to build a "capacity to change" into an otherwise strained enterprise that will help companies respond more successfully to constantly evolving conditions.
But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

What is the "it" that the crowds heard? Would have any of them retreated to the wilderness without Jesus? They must have craved his presence -- Nonetheless, he had compassion for them -- tender compassion, his heart is stirred, down to the core (guts) of his being; however instead of teaching (like in Mark), here Jesus cures their sick. He takes care of a first and immediate need -- healing.

15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

The hour was late -- past dinner time. He didn't want to send them away to fetch food -- YOU will give them something to eat. He had just had heartbreaking news about his cousin. Maybe he didn't want to be alone; maybe they were in good fellowship; maybe he was still stirred by his compassion. Nonetheless, he was not deterred by the scope the of need -- he told the disciples to give them something to eat. Now he takes care of a second pressing need -- nourishment. He asks THEM to do it but in the next few phrases, it's apparent that he is willing to talk them through it, bolstering their actions and faith.

17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

Blessed ... broke ... gave. Foreshadowing the Last Supper, Jesus' actions are those of a patriarch at the family dinner. Here ALL are part of this great table -- all are part of the family. "Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth." He thanks God for what he DID have; even though it might be seen as woefully inadequate. It's an attitude of gratitude --

20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

All ate and all were filled (glutted a better translation) and yet all the people were fed and there were 12 baskets leftover (one for each of the disciples.) The children of Israel were filled and yet there is plenty of leftovers for otheres.

5000 men = maybe 20,000 people total. Bunches.

Food Crisis

In the States:

THE SKYROCKETING commodity prices that have made the Farm Belt one of the most prosperous regions of the United States have had a rather different impact on large areas of the developing world. Foodstuffs have gone up 41 percent in price since October 2007, pushing many people over the line from poverty into privation or even hunger.
From Washington Post

In North Korea:
Flooding and poor harvests have caused North Korea’s worst food crisis since the late 1990s and have put millions at risk, the UN’s food body said yesterday ...
From Taipai Times

In Australia:

Glen Phillips kneels down, scoops up a handful of dirt and squashes it in his fist to test whether the soil in this dry patch of the Australian Outback is ready to take a crop of wheat.

"It should clump together when you squeeze," says Phillips, whose family has lived off the land on the edge of the Great Australian Bight since 1949. "That's how you know it's good to plant, it's moist enough to hold the roots."

He opens his hand and the earth sifts dustily between his fingers. Phillips looks up, lifts his hat slightly and squints into an empty blue sky with no sign of rain.

"We'll plant anyway," he says. "We don't have a choice."

One of Australia's worst droughts on record is hurting wheat farming just as the world needs it most. Australia is usually the world's third or fourth-largest exporter of wheat. But exports dropped 46 percent from 2005 to 2006, then fell 24 percent last year.

Most of its exports go to the Middle East and Southeast Asia to make bread and cereals, but the fall in supply has led to a spike in prices. A ton of Australian wheat now costs $367, compared with $258 in early 2007, an increase poor countries can ill afford.

"When they pay high prices, they pass on an increase to their poorest people, who can no longer afford it," says Kunhamboo Kannan, director of agriculture, environment and natural resources at the Asian Development Bank. "Just look at Egypt." Riots over rising bread prices and shortages have led to at least 10 deaths in Egypt this year. July 13, 2008

In Uganda, Egypt, In East Africa, In West Africa. Too many to list.

What now? Where are our loaves and fishes? Are we to ask for Christ to help? Are we to be as the disciples and share the leftovers?

Other Notes:
Meals on Wheels are taking a big hit. Gas prices and rising food prices mean that some of the neediest of the needy are not going to be taken care of; volunteers not being able to afford the gasoline.

5 loaves = the 5 books of the Torah for Matthew (he IS the Gospel writer for the Jewish people...) King Saul fed his followers at one time with 5 loaves of bread demanded from the priests of the Temple (I Samuel 21:3 -- parallels for Jesus being a Kingly Messiah).

This feeding is in stark contrast to Herod's banquet earlier in the chapter -- simple and nourishing.

Also, some think that the loaves and fishes were just one great "sharing" of resources that already were existent in the crowd.

It was late, and the people were hungry. Men, women and children all clamouring for a meal from five loaves and two fish. There have been many theories over the years that attempt to explain away this miracle. Some have claimed that the crowds were whipped into a frenzy of religious fervour on hearing Jesus speak, and that fervour suppressed their appetites.

Others have speculated that the mood of harmony and selflessness spread by Jesus' teaching might have inspired the crowd to offer up their own private supplies of food and share them with each other. But as with Jesus' healing of the widow's son at Nain, the key element here is the belief of the crowd that a miracle had taken place. They were convinced that from such meager rations Jesus had fed everyone, and left them all satisfied. As with the miracle at Nain, what the crowd witnessed would have made a huge impact on them, but that impact would come as much from the explosive message - the symbolism contained within the miracle - as from the supernatural feat with the bread and fish. From BBC Religion and Ethics

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