Reflection on the readings for Proper 13A by the Rev. Camille Hegg
Good old Matthew tells us that besides feeding 5000 men, there were women and children at this event in Jesus’ life. Must be triple that amount when one does count the women and children. And I’ll bet it was a woman that baked the five loaves, too.
I am a baker of bread and over the years have come to believe that bread is a miracle of life. When my daughter was little, she enjoyed ‘punching down’ the dough after the first rising. Now my granddaughters help me when they are here when I am ready for punching down and then shaping the loaves.
This of the miracle of bread: flour, yeast or some sour dough starter, oil, water. So simple. Add almost anything: cheese, olives, rosemary, nuts, raisins, spices. It can be endless what can go into the dough. I like to use a variety of shapes and sizes of pans. That is part of the miracle of bread.
Another miracle of bread I have experience: A member of one of my parishes found herself going deaf. When I went there I was told she was away for a long period of time before I met her. She was dealing with her loss of hearing through counseling and staying with family. And she was learning to communicate in new ways. Her friends told me she was very sad and angry as well as fearful about the future held for her. It was several months before she came back. For months she didn’t talk to people, including me. She sat and sat. Came early, left right away after church. I never saw a smile on her face. When people she knew spoke to her she sort of acknowledged their presence, but didn’t say anything. I think she could hear only a small bit of the service.
Frequently, for parish suppers I would bring several loaves of bread, different kinds and different shapes. Everyone seemed to love whatever my offering was. One night she actually came to a parish supper. She sat there and said nothing. Then she came to another dinner, sat there the whole time and didn’t say anything. At the end of that dinner, however, as people were leaving, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was my deaf parishioner. “I thought you might like these recipes of my mother. We were all quite fond of her bread.” And she handed me two sheets of paper with recipes of her mother’s on them.
The gospel this week helps us look both forward and backward. Backward to the experience of God from early scripture to the Lord’s Supper. It also helps us look back at our lives and see what God has done in our lives, when we have been nourished by the vast abundance of life that always surprises us. And it encourages us to look forward, to the abundance og God’s love and grace.
All of the gospels have a story of a miraculous feeding of people. The disciples want the people to leave but Jesus tells them to give them something to eat. They are astonished when he tells them that. Then Jesus takes what they have and blesses, breaks, and gives it. It is near and dear to the heart of the church and gives us a model for Eucharist, but more importantly, for ministry. We are to take the gifts God has given us, bless them and then give them to the world as God’s head, hands, heart, feet in the world. Jesus is saying to us, “feed them yourself.” As the Body of Christ in the world we are given the miracles of the Bread of Life in the many sizes and shapes and flavors of life. Let us feed them ourselves. And maybe someone who won’t speak, will. And we count everyone.
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