Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:13-21
Years ago, when we lived in Boulder, Colorado, we had a friend with some land north of Longmont. We had a group of friends that we had met at church and we all decided, at his invitation, to have a cooperative garden, to work the land together and to share the vegetables equally. He was generous with his land and we were eager to give it our best. We met, week after week to till the soil and to plant, making sure we had a rota of folks who came back during the week to weed and water. After several months and what looked like a bumper crops, we returned one Saturday morning to find that every last plant had been wiped out. It was the year of the locust and they hatched hungry and found our garden. Fortunately, none of us was relying on the garden for sustenance completely. But I am reminded how many, many folks rely on what their hands can produce, what they can scrounge in the streets or what they can beg and barter from soup kitchens and other charities. We were devastated by locusts but the hurt was surface. Many are still hungry and ache to be full.
We hear the very familiar story of Jesus feeding the five thousand and wonder how this incredible miracle of filling and abundance happened. God moves in ways we cannot understand but God's movement is always to fill the hungry with good things, to prepare tables in the wilderness and to sit with the poor and needy at all times. We live in a society that too often locks out the poor and the needy, and yet God invites us today to sit with those who have nothing and watch as God again preforms miracles. From a very little offering many can be fed, with leftovers to take home for the week. God urges to move where there is need and see how God finds a way to bring abundance.
Today, I invites us all to remember the hungry who are right in front of us and all around us. Those who are hungry for food and those who are hungry for spiritual strength, for sustenance deep and sustaining. Today we are invited to hear old words ring anew, of the struggle for people to be free and well fed, for the poor to be seen and included in our communities. The abundance we lack is of our own devising. God's abundance is for everyone, at all times. May we be the agents of change, so that everyone mat sit in the cool of the meadow, be full and satisfied and listen to the heart of God in their midst.
Pastures of Plenty
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie
It's a mighty hard row that my poor hands have hoed
My poor feet have traveled a hot dusty road
Out of your Dust Bowl and Westward we rolled
And your deserts were hot and your mountains were cold
I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes
I slept on the ground in the light of the moon
On the edge of the city you'll see us and then
We come with the dust and we go with the wind
California, Arizona, I harvest your crops
Well its North up to Oregon to gather your hops
Dig the beets from your ground, cut the grapes from your vine
To set on your table your light sparkling wine
Green pastures of plenty from dry desert ground
From the Grand Coulee Dam where the waters run down
Every state in the Union us migrants have been
We'll work in this fight and we'll fight till we win
It's always we rambled, that river and I
All along your green valley, I will work till I die
My land I'll defend with my life if it be
Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free.
Link to hear Pete Seegar play this song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0-w50YZgoI&feature=related