06 August 2017
Feasting and covenants. These two ideas are always linked in Scripture and they signify God’s commitment to us and God’s invitation for us to be included in God’s family. While this is certainly Good News for us, it is also a huge challenge when we face the truth that we are to become agents of God’s covenant and carriers of God’s invitation. This means both proclaiming and living out the inclusivity of the Kingdom and facing issues of hunger and poverty in our world and our communities.
May we feast on God’s grace as we worship, and go out to create both physical and spiritual feasts at every chance we get.
Genesis 32:22-31: Jacob spends the night on the banks of the Jabbok River where he wrestles with a man until dawn. In the fight, Jacob is injured, leaving him with a limp, but he is also blessed and his name is changed to Israel.
OR Isaiah 55:1-5: An invitation to God’s feast, and to enter a new covenant with God.
Psalm 17:1-7, 15: A prayer for God to listen to and rescue the psalmist, who affirms his commitment to follow God’s ways and be faithful, and to trust in God’s willingness to answer his prayer.
OR Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21: A song of praise for God’s grace, compassion and love, and for God’s care and protection of those who trust in God.
Romans 9:1-5: Paul expresses his love and concern for his Jewish brothers and sisters, and celebrates the covenants, promises, law – and the Christ – that the Israelites received from God.
Matthew 14:13-21: Jesus tries to get some time to himself after hearing of John’s death, but the crowds find him, and end up, late in the day, in a remote place and without food. Jesus instructs the disciples to feed them, but they object that they only have few resources. Jesus then feeds the crowds with the disciples’ food, after which baskets of leftovers are gathered up.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The two ideas that come together in this week’s readings are God’s covenant with God’s people, and the invitation to feast with God. Of course, these are simply two ways of expressing God’s commitment to us, and of showing the care, compassion, faithfulness, grace and salvation of God that the psalmists celebrate and rely on. In Genesis, Jacob is visited by God and, in the struggle, is both wounded and blessed – which is always the case when we are touched by God in our broken world. In Isaiah, the restorative invitation of God is proclaimed loud and clear. In Romans, Paul celebrates the Israelite people – the descendants of Jacob – to whom were given the invitation and the covenant, and expresses his longing for them to respond to God’s new invitation and new covenant in Christ. Finally, in the Gospel, the crowds who come to Jesus discover that they are welcomed, taught and fed, discovering, truly, a new Moses in Christ – one who gives them both a new law and a new manna.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: It is hard to read Isaiah’s prophecy and the Gospel story of the crowd which is fed without thinking about the reality of poverty in our world. The challenge of the Scriptures becomes even more urgent when we recognise that there is enough food being produced to feed all the people in our world. The problem is not with the food, it is with people not having money or opportunity to get the food they need. The story of the feeding is a prophetic word challenging us to work for ways to provide for the needs of everyone. This may mean working against unfair farming subsidies, or unjust trade laws, or it may mean ensuring that the way we buy and use our food is supportive of just practices. These are complex issues, but eating simply, minimising waste, and buying from producers and distributors that pay a fair wage and engage in just practices is a relatively easy first step. The readings from this week’s Lectionary can also be expanded beyond just this one issue, though. God’s gracious covenant with humanity is a challenge for us to recognise the dignity and humanity of all people, and to ensure that our attitudes, our ethics and our worship are free from exclusionary or diminishing language and practices, from dominance and power abuses, and from compliance with any system that unfairly oppresses or disadvantages some in favour of others. Essentially, we are called to become the people of God, welcomed at God’s table, and living as global citizens with a world-centric perspective and a God-inspired longing for healing, justice, peace and inclusion of all. It’s a dream, perhaps, but one worth striving for.
LOCAL APPLICATION: In our communities, homes and churches we all have resources that can be used to care for, to ‘feed’ others. As people of God we are recipients of God’s commitment to, God’s covenant with, us. We are those who know God’s provision and abundance – even if we aren’t financially wealthy. The call we must face, though, is to be those who can trust in God’s care for us, and lean into God’s commitment to us, and allow this to release us in generosity, in inclusivity and in service of others. Paul’s care for his Jewish brothers and sisters meant that he was willing to sacrifice and serve them wholeheartedly. And Jesus’ words to the disciples ring through the centuries to us: “You feed them”. This means that we cannot avoid the responsibility of learning to care for and seek to serve those in our neighbourhoods, churches and even our own families. It means that we cannot hoard what we have, but must be willing to live simply and share what we have, inviting others to sit at the table with us. It means that we must be willing to become God’s provision, God’s welcome, God’s commitment and God’s service to others. Inevitably, we will find ourselves wrestling with God over these challenges, because it is never easy to be called by God. And inevitably we will find our hearts broken, our souls and bodies wounded by the grief and need we will find ourselves facing as we seek to serve others. But, in spite of this, we will also know the joy and ‘reward’ that comes when we know we are being used by God, and we are growing the community that knows and shares God’s feast.
A Liturgy for the Spiritual Feast