This story of food for all and leftovers for many is used to talk about a whole range of God-related topics: God provides for our needs, thanksgiving, trust, etc. There is much that can come out of this story. But I often wonder about the crowd. Those 5,000 or more who followed Jesus into the wilderness and listened to him with full hearts and empty stomachs. Who were they? Faithful followers, hungrier for God’s word then they were for bread? Spectators looking for a miracle? People sick and desperate for healing? A mix, no doubt. Jesus was a magnet for all sorts.
But all were fed. Whether their hunger for food was accompanied by faith, curiosity, greed, or desperation, everyone gathered that day received a meal. No questions asked, only loaves given.
Christ the King Lutheran Church runs a mobile food pantry. Once a month different groups volunteer to unload a truck filled with food, organize that food into boxes, and then load those boxes back into the cars of the hungry who line up down our church’s driveway. Rain, shine, snow, or 90 degree heat, the food is always distributed. The hungry are always fed. No questions asked, only loaves given.
This is something of a scandal to the people who I eat breakfast with during the week. “They’re working the system!” they grumble. “If they want to eat they should work!” They regularly threaten to sign up themselves to prove their point: we are feeding people who don’t need to be fed, people who are scamming us.
And maybe we are, but that’s not our business, not really. Our business is to build the Kingdom of God, a place where the hungry are fed, where no questions are asked, only loaves given. Our business is to see our neighbors with the eyes of Jesus. They are people who have come to be fed: no more no less. Really, they are not all that different from the people who fill our parking lot on a Sunday morning. We too come to be fed. Perhaps we come distracted, angry, or hurt. Maybe we arrive because our family made us or out of habit more than faith. But however we come, we come hungry and however we come, we are fed by God's word, fellowship, and the body and blood of Jesus.
That is why we do the same once a month. We feed the hungry. We feed them with a smile of welcome as they pull into our parking lot. We feed them with a word of blessing as we load vegetables and bread into their cars. We feed them, even as God feeds us. No questions asked, only loaves given.
The next truck arrives January 21st. We always need volunteers.