St Mark 8: 1 – 13 In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.’ His disciples replied, ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven.’ Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed.
They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’ And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
Reflection Feeding the world through compassion! This story comes to us right on the heels of the first feeding of 500 men plus women and children. Perhaps the people following Jesus were motivated by the promise of a meal in a time of serious scarcity. Some scholars suggest that this was a symbolic meal taking place, maybe something like the Holy Communion we often share. Others suggest that this is a lesson in people overcoming their selfishness and sharing the little they had. Perhaps they are both right. I wonder though; would a multitude of people follow Jesus that far from home without packing a lunch? We read that after Jesus blessed the 7 loaves and some fish, they all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples collected 7 baskets of leftovers. On this second occasion, Jesus turned a frugal meal into a feast for thousands.
Today, we are easily paralysed by the enormity of world poverty and suffering but instead of getting caught up in the difficulties and politics of hunger, why not just perform a single act of generosity consistently? You do not need to travel abroad to combat poverty: there is plenty of it in our own backyard. All we need is to see those on the margins through Christ’s eyes. Thomas Chisholm puts it this way: ‘Great is thy faithfulness O God our father. There is no shadow of turning in thee. All I have needed thy hand has provided.’ Our little, combined with God’s grace becomes more than enough. 7 baskets were collected after the multitude were fed!
We have enough to eat, share and spare with all sisters and brothers in the world if we are compassionate enough. And we should, after all, we are God’s appointed agents – Amen.
Prayer Generous God, in a world where millions hunger, provoke us by your spirit to willingly share the bread and fish which we have with our sisters and brothers. Open our eyes to the suffering of millions in our world helping us to respond in acts of compassion to the glory of your name we pray – Amen.
Rev’d George Mwaura, Minister, Church of Christ the Cornerstone, Milton Keynes.