Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest
I saw so many people coming towards us. Thousands descended the hill, like ants, apparently changing the texture of the landscape due to their sheer number. They continued across the land.
Some used boats to cross swathes of sea. All were searching for something to eat, for they had nothing. Despite their number, they were lost, unable to discern where to go to get to the food. One commented that although some were in boats they were seemingly rudderless.
Some knowledgable people saw this vast crowd, they ran ahead of them, they used boats to make land so that they could greet them as the number came ashore. But when the people arrived those who thought they knew what to do, were equally lost. How could they feed such numbers? They also had been travelling quickly, travelling light.
How might you have fed them?
They found some loaves of bread, dried in the hot sun, the crust thick and hard – that’s all they had. The bread had become stale. The fish they had with them was of the salted variety. It looked unpalatable and distinctly shrivelled and small. This would not feed all these people.
Then one said that with a belief as small as the smallest of seeds, perhaps a mustard seed, these people could be fed, led, supported.
But what would they eat?…
still came the response.
But what if they did believe? What if they could ask, invite, these people to just sit down in small groups? What if food was shared equally, and not only food but resources, assets? then the food would go around. All could eat to their satisfaction, not the individual’s satisfaction but the satisfaction of the group, the community. If these people followed a belief system that was originally created so that all were equal, of no hierarchy, where colour, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion was not a barrier, would this resolve the situation?
In Mark’s Gospel we read of thousands marching in the wilderness, searching for something. Possibly they didn’t know exactly what they were actually looking for, but it might offer a solution of their current predicament. Could these be refugees, migrants, people marginalised from their own community, our community? The disciples faced a dilemma how they were going to feed such a number of people.
The response was to see where God was already at work, where Jesus modelled a life of seeking God first, giving thanks for what they had and believing that God would provide. And God did. They fed a vast number of people in the wilderness.
Many of us do not live in the wilderness but for some it may feel like it, even if they live in suburbia. What we may see as development, may for some be a barren wasteland. No questions were asked of their ethnicity or background – they were fed, supported, nurtured. The disciples did ask how were they going to afford such provisions – a capitalist response possibly, certainly not a response based upon faith at that time. They saw what they had and made assumptions based upon the look of the bread, and even possibly how the fish smelt! Could we see beyond what things look like, especially other people?
The text from the Gospel may have been reimagined, seen from a different perpsective, but it may provide ‘food for thought‘ on how we deal with those ‘who don’t come from our neighbourhood‘ and how we seek to integrate and support all people.
What are your thoughts?