Church of England Diocese of Birmingham Frankley

Food for the Hungry

25 Jul 2021, 2 a.m.

Jesus multiplied food so that over five thousand hungry people are fed. He walked on water showing power over wind and waves.

In Christ, the creator of the world, there are infinite riches to feed the world and stem our climate crisis yet according to Christian Aid there are more than 41 million people in 43 countries teetering on the brink of famine. This is made worse by climate change, the pandemic, violent conflict and the reduction of aid given by wealthier countries because of the demands of the pandemic.

Britain has reduced overseas aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of its gross national income this year in order to free up more cash for domestic spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. £4.5 billion less will be sent on our behalf to help the world’s poorest. No wonder refugees from those countries keep pouring in

Are we selfless, helpless or helpful and faithful when we see others in need or face a crisis ourselves?

Jesus was faced with sick, desperate people in crisis. Even though Jesus and his disciples tried to get away by climbing a hill and sitting down to rest he could not escape from the pressing needs of the crowds. They were visible from where he was sitting, it was evening and they were hungry.

Desperate illegal refugees entering Britain on a daily basis and world news mean we are faced with what is happening globally.

When faced with escalating need, most of us feel helpless. This was how Philip felt when Jesus asked where bread could be bought to feed the crowd. Six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.

When we feel helpless and overloaded we tend to do nothing and avoid the problem. Philip couldn’t. Jesus was asking him for a solution. He came from Bethsaida and would know where bread could be bought there. Philip felt anything he did would be inadequate. He must have felt useless.

Another of the disciples, Andrew had asked the crowd if anyone had brought food with them. He was searching for a solution and trying to be helpful. He brought a young boy who had five barley loaves and two fish. Andrew too felt inadequate. They wouldn’t go far among so many.

The boy was poor. He brought the coarsest bread and tiniest of pickled fish, much like our sardines. He must have wondered whether he was going to be deprived of his meagre meal and go hungry. He was selfless. He gave what he had.

There may have been others in the crowd that day who didn’t respond to Andrew’s appeal to give up their meals. They may have still been sitting on the meals they were never going to need waiting for others who they thought were more fortunate than them to give first.

Because Andrew and the boy had done what they could and placed what they had in the hands of Jesus, they were about to see the miracle which those sitting further away would not be able to see.

“Jesus took the loaves and when he had given thanks he distributed them to those seated.” His prayer would be the traditional grace prayed at Jewish meals, sometimes used in our communion services. “Blessed art Thou O Lord our God who causes bread to come forth from the earth.”

In taking authority, asking people to sit down and saying grace Jesus was acting as Father of the large, diverse crowd. He was acknowledging that all our bread comes from God. We may sow the seeds, harvest the grain and make the bread but our heavenly Father provides the raw ingredients and weather conditions which enable this to happen.

When everyone present had eaten as much as they could and were fully satisfied Jesus instructed his disciple to gather up the leftovers.

The leftover food filled 12 baskets, probably the huge woven baskets which travelling Jews carried on their backs.

Jesus had provided more than enough and plenty for his twelve disciples to eat in the coming days. All were fed and no one went hungry.

In the face of massive human need and climate change we often feel helpless. Here we are suffering heat exhaustion as a result of global warming. Across the world flash floods are causing devastation throughout, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, India and China. Forest fires are destroying huge swathes of land in Oregon and Canada.

The richest countries on earth are now suffering food shortages along with the constant flow of desperate refugees from the poorest countries.

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The little we can do seem inadequate. Our meagre attempts to give and go carbon neutral and plant trees seem of little effect in a world addicted to plane travel.

Whist many die, billionaires compete commercially to supply space travel damaging the environment further

The billions spent could have been spent in efforts to save the world and provide food for the hungry

In this passage Jesus reminds us that the little we give and the differences we make to our lifestyle do matter.

When we are faithful and place what we have in the hands of Jesus he multiplies what we give him and helps those in need.

Oh that our world and nation would turn to the Lord in these times when we feel overwhelmed! The creator of the universe and the stiller of storms will provide more than enough when we call upon him.

This incident took place just before the Passover lambs would be slaughtered. Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world gives himself to us using the symbol of broken bread. In him we are truly satisfied.

He is not someone we can seize by force and make the kind of King and provider we would like.

Instead Jesus takes, breaks, blesses and moulds us into the people he would have us be. He became broken bread so we might become life giving bread for others.