Year A Proper 13 Matthew 14 2011
Our Lord's Abundant Table
"Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them. So the Jews ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea. The Egyptian Army was gettin' closer and closer. So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Egyptians. While that was happening, the Israeli Navy built a pontoon bridge so the people could cross over. They made it!
By now old dad was shocked. "Is THAT the way they taught you the story?"
Well, no, not exactly," Danny admitted, "but if I told you the way they told it to us, you'd never believe it, Dad."
With childlike innocence the little guy put his finger on the pulse of our sophisticated adult world where cool skepticism reigns supreme. It's more popular to operate in the black-and-white world of facts…and, of course, to leave no space for the miraculous.
And so when we read the story of the feeding of the five thousand, we tend to focus our attention on the question, "Did it really happen?" There have been a number of attempts to "explain" the miracle. One attempt says that the people were so moved by Jesus' generosity and the generosity of the little boy that they brought forth the food they had hidden under their clothes and in their traveling pouches. This way everyone was satisfied. Another theory says that the story is not really talking about physical hunger but spiritual hunger. When the small amount of food was passed around everyone tore off a minuscule symbolic fragment. In this Jesus is said to have satisfied the thirst of the soul not the stomach.
I think these questions say more about us than they do Jesus. If Jesus is the Messiah, and I believe he is, then there is no question but that he performed miracles, and on a regular basis. The point of the story of feeding of the five thousand is not to prove that miracles happen. The point of the story is to teach us three things:
- Jesus is the Fulfillment of the Word.
- We Are to Serve at the Table of the Lord.
- We Can Use Our Abilities in Service.
Sticks, forks, fingers: the three ways people of the world eat their food. The majority today still use fingers, as has been the case throughout history. In fact, forks were unknown until the 10th century. Knives and spoons only appear in 5th the century.
We all still love to eat with our fingers. Ever notice that the first food to disappear on a buffet table is always the "finger food?" The first to go are those little bites and nibbles we can pick up, pop in, and chow down, without having to mess around with a knife, fork, or spoon.
Every culture has its own favorite finger foods— hors d'oeuvres, tapas, dimsum, pupu. Whatever shape these morsels take they are as fast and easy to eat as they are time-consuming and challenging to make. Chopping, rolling, filling, and frying a table full of one-at-a-time bite-sized creations takes a lot more hands-on time than throwing a big turkey or pot roast in the oven to cook. But all the effort is worth it. For the pleasure of eating a variety of perfect little one-bite goodies with our fingers.
Maybe eating with our fingers recalls in us one of our first "accomplishments" as toddlers. Watch any baby just learning how to use that great gadget known as "the opposable thumb" to pick up Cheerios off their high chair tray — or more likely, the floor — and you will see their eyes light up with delight when they finally snag that little round "O." Getting the cereal off the tray and then actually into the mouth is a moment of pure triumph and joy...