John’s text for today recounts the feeding of the 5,000. It is a story spilling over with God’s grace and abundance. God’s blessing seems to go a little too far for the disciples’ tastes. The boy with five loaves and two fish is called upon. God’s grace spills forth and more fragments and crumbs are collected than we began with.
I have been to a church right off the shores of the Sea of Galilee called The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. To me this was always an exceedingly long name for a church. I really don’t wanna be the pastor that church because I don’t want to put that on my letterhead. But what a good representation of the abundance!
In the floor of this church is a mosaic from the 2nd Century representing the five loaves and two fish. Since the beginning of Christianity this has been seen as a significant symbol of Christ’s work on earth. Perhaps it is because, at least in my mind, it ties in with his death as well. In order for us to have nourishment, things must die – grain, grapes, fish, olives – you name it. Christ came to give life abundantly. In that lurks death.
In all his miracles and healings, Jesus represents the beginnings of the kingdom breaking forth.
The paradox of Christianity is that in death, Christ gained life, destroying the cycle. Who is really being fed in this story? As it turns out, all of us are thrust into the feeding, forced to encounter God’s extravagant abundance and inbreaking kingdom.