Wherever you are today, whatever you are feeling, know that you are loved and valued.
Jesus said to them…This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.
The feeding of the 5,000 is a story about the here and now, but also the patient living into the future.
The crowds of people were actually hungry.
It would not have been enough for Jesus of Nazareth and his followers to ignore that and simply encourage people to wait on the Lord in order to rise up with wings like eagles.
Had that been their plan of action, I suggest that there would have been a riot or an uprising. Patience? Hard to be patient when you’re hungry.
And yet, it’s not as simple as filling people’s bellies and going home feeling better. After all, it’s not as if the crowds of people were actually starving. They would not have died without the gift of loaves and fishes. Jesus was making a point with a tangible event: actual food is necessary to live and thus, we must always feed each other–especially those who are actually suffering from famine or poverty. But in the long run, feeding someone for a day only lasts a short while. In the near future, that person will be hungry yet again. And then what?
The teachable moment here is in recognizing the “food that lasts” or the “manna” that requires patient living. What Jesus offered was tangible for the here and now, but also sustainable for the coming days and even years. Jesus referenced the story of the ancient Israelites wandering in the wilderness, and how the bread they ate didn’t last too long. Eventually, they wanted more and kept complaining. They were stuck in their lack of big-picture mentality.
And so, my friends, this story resonates with me right now during a time in which many of us are hungry for pandemic relief and certainty, in the here and now. And while removing masks and doing certain things we did before certainly feels good in the moment, it doesn’t last, does it? In the last few weeks we have gone from talk of a post-pandemic world to renewed mandates and strict protocols. It’s trying on us all.
But I do think that there is a great opportunity here. We are actually being put in a situation akin to feeding of the 5,000 scenario. Here we are, all hungry in this moment. And yet, here we are, also seeing that the bigger picture looks much different than instant satisfaction. As I have been speaking with clergy colleagues across the country in our beloved United Church of Christ, their stories sound similar. Many of them “re-opened” their congregations a short time ago with many restrictions but also with the hope that this would be it. Now they are once again considering closing the doors to the buildings that house worship, activities, and community. There is a great sense of loss there and almost a feeling akin to having a small taste of something delicious and opening your appetite, only to have it yanked away. And then there are many other congregations like ours, Love In Action UCC, who are still not meeting in person inside a building.
So friends, here’s a thought. We never “closed” during this pandemic. Spiritual communities should always be open. Yes, many buildings have not been used for indoor activities that we certainly enjoy. But there are other ways for us to gather, worship, serve, learn, commune. That’s the Spirit at work in us. That’s the Manna to embrace and explore. It lasts. I prayerfully ask you to join in this journey of discovering what community will be and do–both in the here and now, and in the future. Much love and peace!