More Than a Meal

Lenten Devotion: Week Two

Matthew 14:13-21 (NRSV)
Feeding the Five Thousand
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
 
One could say that the feeding of the 5000 is a story that “buries the headline.” Jesus wouldn’t be content to just “wow” us by stretching the food supply, would he? So what is the “headline” we could learn in this story?
 
Jesus cared about fellowship, about community. And so much of that fellowship involved food. Jesus had some famous meals: He ate with Matthew, the tax collector–scandalous! People were often scandalized by Jesus’ dinner partners, Jesus was not. He was not shocked by people’s life choices or past mistakes. Jesus ate with Judas, his betrayer. Could we do that? Jesus ate with a Pharisee, who tried to trap Jesus into violating the Sabbath by inviting a man with a disease, but compassion won. Jesus saw a fellowship opportunity. Jesus ate with Zacchaeus, a perceived sinner. Jesus had breakfast on the beach with the disciples. The woman anointing Jesus’ feet did so at a dinner table. Why do so many stories of Jesus revolve around food? I don’t think he was a compulsive over-eater, so it must be the fellowship!
 
Think about significant meals you’ve had – Christmas feasts, your wedding feast, the meal when your spouse proposed, the meal that became pizza after Fido ate the turkey, the meal you learned your daughter was pregnant. When else do you discover your co-worker takes care of a parent with Alzheimer’s, or your friend is battling an addiction, or your sibling is getting a divorce? Heart-revealing and heart-rending information has been shared at meals throughout history!
In simply sharing food, Jesus shares the profound message that you are loved and accepted, right where you are. Right in the middle of your pain, in the throes of your mistakes, in the shell of your loneliness, in the guilt of your past or future fears, in the exhaustion of your trials, or in sadness over health problems.
 
Jesus modeled this depth of fellowship for us, and calls us to bring this deep love and acceptance to others. Maybe that day the crowd got hungry, Jesus wanted them to have the fellowship that’s uniquely tied to a meal. Maybe he knew hearts would open, encouragement would be given, laughter shared, or tears consoled. He could’ve sent them home like the disciples wanted, but then the opportunity for fellowship would have been lost. The lives changed in that famous meal may have had nothing to do with loaves and fishes stretching!
 
Could we have a fellowship adventure? Yes! Eat with someone scandalous, or someone who needs your love and acceptance. Break bread with someone who needs to bare his or her heart, or who needs to hear what your heart has to say. Allow for the wonder or the scandal of fellowship and community this Lenten season!
 
Prayer:
O Jesus, my role model, broaden my heart (and my table!) to bring your deep love and acceptance to others. Amen.

Lenten Resources for Families

From Priscilla Stapleton and Sarah Richter
Ritual/Tradition: Begin your time together in your family worship or devotion space. Light your candle and have a family member open with prayer. One way to think about your prayer time is to use the word PRAY as a guide. (P-is for Praise, praising God; R-is for repent, asking forgiveness; A-is for another, pray for another person; Y-yourself, pray for yourself).
 
Share: After praying, share your highs and lows for the week. Allow each family member to share his or her thoughts, feelings or observations from the week. Be mindful that sharing in a loving, safe and non-judgmental manner is important, so your child will feel comfortable opening up about thoughts and feelings.
 
This is also a good time to read the entries in your family’s 40 Day Lenten Journal. Hopefully everyone had a chance to write down something that can be shared during this time together. Perhaps it was something as simple as your children sharing their toys, or maybe you noticed how everyone was helping out at home with chores, maybe your child scored well on a test at school, or you decided not to scream and yell at the driver who just cut you off and instead offered a prayer for that driver. Your family journal will be unique to your family.
 
Read/Reflect: Matthew 14:13-21 (NRSV) Feeding of the 5,000 People
 
It is interesting to note that the feeding of the 5,000 people is told in all four of the New Testament gospels (Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-14). There is an important lesson here to be learned–God will provide. If you could, take time to read all four accounts and then compare each account. One phrase that you will find in each of the passages is the following: “…he gave thanks…” When there didn’t seem to be enough food to handle feeding the thousands of people who had followed Jesus, something miraculous happened. God provided for all their needs. Don’t you love the fact that there were left overs and how God works things out?!
 
Here are some questions that you might discuss after your reading.
  • Why did the disciples want to disperse the crowd of people from Jesus?
  • What do you think the disciples were feeling when Jesus said to tell the crowds to sit down on the grass?
  • Why was it important for Jesus to give thanks before eating?
  • How could two fish and five loaves of bread feed that many people?
  • Would this story be as impactful if there were only a handful of people in the crowd?
  • Have you ever doubted that God could provide something in your own life?

Activity: Our topic this week is “We hunger for community.” Being part of a church community means a sense of belonging to a faithful group of believers. Perhaps your family can extend this sense of community to relatives, friends and neighbors who do not belong to Epiphany. Here is a list of ideas:
  • Invite some neighbors over for a potluck dinner. Getting to know your neighbors is a bit of a lost art. Spending time together and learning about each other is an important step in creating community within your neighborhood.
  • Host a popcorn/movie night with your children’s friends and families. Getting to know your children’s friends shows that you want your children to feel comfortable bringing their friends to your home.
  • Have a game night and dessert bar. Invite families to join in a family game night and bring a dessert to share.
  • Invite a group of families and friends to take a hike or ride the bike trails.

These are just a few ideas, or your family can come up with its own idea. Whatever you decide is great–just be open to completing your activity on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. The more you are together, the greater the opportunities to form a lasting bond and a sense of community. We were created to be in fellowship with one another.

“But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” –1 John 1:7
 
Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for this time together. We ask that you forgive us for not treating others as you would want us to. At this time we offer prayers for the following. . . (include any personal prayers at this time). We pray that you will bless our family this week, that we may be a light for you. Please guide our thoughts, and words; may we speak kindly to one another. Help us to reach out and share our faith with others in our community. Amen.
 
Bless: Say these words as you bless one another, “We have been blessed to be a blessing to others. May God give you peace.”

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