Ordinary Time (Proper 12)
This is one of several weeks in the lectionary dealing in one way or another with food and drink–in this case, loaves of bread and fish. Jesus, after all, spent a fair amount of time sharing meals. And in at least one instance as a guest at a wedding party he turned water into wine. Sounds like the kind of wedding guest a lot of folks would like to have. The story from John 6 is probably familiar to most:
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. –John 6:1-21 NRSV
Dining together and being social have always been an important part of life for Christian disciples. Of course there have been times when various strands of Christianity have gone down a less celebratory road (which is the nicest way I can possibly say those folks have tried to take all the fun out of life, whether for reasons of religious aestheticism or just plan party-poopers).
For Jesus, proclaiming that the kingdom of God was coming near meant both healing of body, mind, and spirit and celebratory sharing at table. In each, the power and presence of Divinity is manifest. Both lead to new, more abundant life.