Hunger is something that often surfaces as an issue in our lives. For most of us, we get hungry having not eaten much for a few hours. Whilst we do not really need to eat as much as we usually do, we feel hungry. When hunger becomes fierce, we can be desperate and grab at any food we can find, whether good, bad or in between. Hunger can drive us to all manner of binge eating, grabbing at fast food and satiating the hunger we feel any way we can. For those who are truly hungry, it can drive them to quite desperate responses to feed themselves and their family. After all, many of those who populated this new British colony were desperate people who stole as little as a loaf of bread to satisfy their family needs.
This morning I awoke feeling tired having lay awake for a bit through the early hours of the morning pondering some issues that wouldn’t go away. I felt the intensity of some of these issues and the restlessness that comes from being out of balance as things around me in the wider feel somewhat out of control and I cannot resolve them. As I wrestle with some of these issues, big and small, I become worn and weary, tired by the stress of thinking through them whilst feeling somewhat powerless to change them.
As I sat in bed drinking my early coffee I turned to the passages for this week and read through them. At first my mind was too chaotic to engage, and I had to focus down on what I was reading. One of the stories (John 6:1-21) was another version of the story of Jesus feeding a large crowd. The image of being fed sat in my mind as I contemplated the story. Being fed.
What does being fed mean for me this day? I don’t really feel like much food – I probably overdid it last night. It wasn’t feeding my body with food – eating. I needed to be fed in another, perhaps deeper manner, in my spirit. I needed something to quieten my mind and open me to the beauty of the day and the wonder of life – the grace of God.
When I got up, one of our dogs was quite insistent that it was time to go for a walk – he wants to walk whenever possible but always first thing in the morning if we are around. I confess I wasn’t feeling overly energetic and it was still quite cool but he was insistent, looking me in the eyes with his pleading big brown eyes, so I dressed for a walk. As I put my walking shoes on he got the point and started jumping in circles. Our older dog awoke and slowly joined the activity. Susan and I and our two dogs, Nico and Nebo went for the morning walk. There are a few routes we take, all around Toongabbie Creek. Nico was insistent he wanted to go to the dog park (an off-leash park a couple of kilometres away). When we arrived we were the only ones and he ran around chasing the old footballs in the park. Nebo, the elder dog, wandered aimlessly sniffing and enjoying the park.
As I chased the ball or stood awaiting Nico to bring one back, I felt the sun warm on my face. The trees all around were drenched in the early morning golden rays of the sun rising in the sky. The air was cool and fresh, and I began to breathe deeply. There was a still beauty in the morning, a beauty that touched my spirit. God was in this place for those willing to look and listen and feel. The sacred and holy in our midst – playful dogs; a still sunny morn; trees, tall and delightful. In the quietness and beauty of the morning there was something that fed me, fed my spirit and being.
I have pondered this deeper feeding of spirit and being over recent times – not only in my own life but in the world around. People I speak with and whose stories I listen to, reveal the deeper yearning we all have for something that touches us at a deeper level, a hunger for that which is more real than some of the superficiality of life. I hear news stories of violence and anger, of people who lash out at those they claim to love because that love is not reciprocated. Others feel anger or shame at having been put down by another and seek revenge. There are the tragic stories of people who take their own lives as things seem to come unstuck and they cannot go on. Other people are lonely and alienated from friends, family or even society.
There is a hunger that is not satiated by eating enough food, a deeper hunger that pervades the Developed World as we have too much to distract us, too much materialism and individualism that deny us community and a satisfied spirit. We don’t see nor hear the eternal, the sacred, the holy that pervades our world and our lives. We don’t stop to ponder and contemplate the beauty and wonder of life. We don’t recognise God in our midst, a Reign of love, grace, justice, hope and peace that wants to draw us into the place of life and joy and satisfaction. This is also a place of community and generous sharing with each other.
In the story I read this morning, Jesus responds to people who are seeking him. They are drawn to Jesus and his teaching and ministry of healing, which is as much about embracing outcasts and marginalised people back into the community of God’s love and grace, as making their bodies well. John forms this story as a sacramental meal where people are fed in body and spirit. There is no ‘Last Supper’ in John’s Gospel. It is this story that presents a meal to which all are welcomed and there is enough for all people to eat, with some left over. The story reveals the hunger of the people in body, mind and spirit but the disciples react to physical hunger. Jesus invites them to feed the people and they cannot – there are too many people and they are overwhelmed.
Jesus gathered the little they had and blessed it, broke it and gave it to the people to eat – there was more than enough. It is a story of grace and feeding from God. There is enough for all to share and eat. All are welcomed into this community of God’s grace. When we share a meal with others, along with conversation and community, God is mysteriously present in our midst. When we wander through the sunny morning, being touched by warm sunlight through trees and accompanied by birdsong, God is there, a mysterious, wondrous presence. This morning I was fed through word and Spirit.
Too often we rush through life seeking the next thing we must do or have or… We rush right by the sacred waiting for us to stop, look, listen and experience – to touch our spirit and fill us with peace and life. Even in the church we become so focussed on doctrines, beliefs, music, property and we argue and struggle against one another. We can become exclusive and resistant to change or a deeper experience of God’s grace that might challenge us. When we hunger, in our desperate desire for food that fills our yearning we will reach for anything, even junk food that feeds exclusivism, individualism and a need to ‘be right’. God invites us to another meal that expands and fills our being with life. It is a feeding story that will change everything and draw us into deeper, richer community!