I’m hungry. How many of you are feeling hungry? It’s alright to admit that sometimes we feel distracted by basic human needs like hunger and thirst. I remember being a child in church and being excited that it was communion Sunday because in my mind it was the one Sunday in a month that Jesus said, “It’s ok to have snack time in church”. The bread was always homemade and the crust was slightly buttery and the center was wonderfully soft. Communion bread always had a special yumminess to it. The wine was always grape juice and if it was the good stuff it would be wonderfully sweet and if not it was really sour and couldn’t be swallowed without making a face. To this day, I cannot drink grape juice without thinking of communion.
You might be thinking that there is something somehow wrong with viewing communion in this manner. Let’s be honest this is why some churches restrict communion to a certain age. But I think Jesus was saying something different in our scriptures for today. Our miracle today is about hunger and not just the spiritual hunger that it alludes to. There was a real physical hunger referred to in our miracle for this morning. The disciples saw that it was getting late and let’s be honest their stomachs may have begun speaking to them as well saying that it was time to eat. There was an emptiness that needed to be filled. This is the beauty of Jesus. With Christ it was alright to be who you were. If you were hungry, he invited you to a banquet that fulfilled more than just a physical hunger. If you were thirsty, he invited you to the well and offered you water that quenched more than just that physical thirst. If you were sick, he offered a healing that affected more than the physical ailment.
Christ dealt with humanity just as we are and he still does. Our gospels all use the imagery of being hungry or thirsty. All of our Gospels, including John, have this particular miracle. So let’s do some work with it. What do you see in this miracle? What’s the importance of the feeding of the five thousand? What is it telling us? Jesus and his disciples had a very limited amount of food, probably just enough for themselves for the evening. Yet what Jesus did was invite everyone to join him at his table. He shared what he had with all who wanted or needed to partake. Christ was teaching the people by taking care of them. He was offering them all he had to offer, all he had was theirs to partake in. There was no discrimination. And the people accepted his gift. They accepted his teaching and they accepted his offer of nourishment in whatever form it came.
Jesus dealt with the human condition holistically. Sometimes I feel as if we have forgotten this. Beatrice Stoner said, “In the church we have overemphasized one’s ‘response-ability,’ the capability and inclination to respond, almost to the exclusion of one’s ‘receive-ability,’ the capability and inclination to receive. A reluctant receiver gives reluctantly, while a conscious receiver is more likely to give generously”. Christ understood this and thus reached out to people on every level and welcomed them and helped where he could. In the same vain, Christ also received from those who cared for him, gave him gifts, provided for his humanly needs as well. Christ got hungry; he got thirsty; he needed clothing, love, and respect. At the time that Christ spoke these words, he was fully human like you and I.
If you were raised like I was, it was not ok to voice your needs for fear of becoming a burden upon someone else. It was not ok to say that my needs needed to be taken care because I should be putting the needs of others before my own. I am sure that some of you have felt this way at one point or another. Yet Christ didn’t live this way. And he certainly did not encourage others to live this way. When Christ called the disciples, he told them to take nothing with them for the journey. Yet that did not mean that they should go without. Instead Christ was teaching them how to receive so that they could more freely give when the time called for it.
Now the people from today’s lesson followed Christ to the deserted place that he traveled to by boat. They traveled because they had needs; they were seeking. They came seeking health, healing, spiritual enlightenment, and connection with God. They sought wholeness and compassion. Our scriptures say, “When Jesus went ashore he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick”. The passage goes on to describe further Christ’s compassion. Yes he cured the sick but that seems to be a side note the focus of our passage is that he fed them. This passage reminds us that Christ will provide for us in all of our needs. It is not just about spiritual enlightenment. It is about our every day needs and struggles.
Christ promises to feed our hunger and at the same time encourages us to also feed the hungry. We accept the food of Christ in word, in the gifts of others in our community, in the receiving of communion. We should know that Christ has not forgotten our needs. So come before him and be fed. Trust in him as the people from our scriptures and see him provide what we need. See his work in the works of others and in the care of community. Remember the Christ understood that to truly experience the depth of compassion of the Holy and to truly live into his message then we too need care and compassion for all of our needs. So come to Christ hungry with the crowds and be fed in more ways than one, then go out in to the world and feed those who come to you hungry.
 Beatrice Stoner, 21st Century.
 Matthew 14: 14, NRSV.
(Based on Matthew 14: 13-21)