4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
‘Bring and share’ meals have advantages when catering for large numbers: many hands make light work if each person brings something. The cost is rarely great, and people need spend only what they can afford. Then at a common table everyone is equal yet different—a good model for the kingdom of heaven. More importantly, these meals are based on the idea of sharing, such that you do not necessarily eat what you prepared, and you enjoy what others bring.
This model of hospitality reminds us not only of the feeding of the five thousand but also of the practices of the early Church. When the first Christians met on the ‘Lord’s Day’, they ate together.
One of the earliest examples of a Communion liturgy, attributed to Hippolytus of Rome (c. 160-235), involves not only bread and wine but olives and milk, and represents the transition from a communal meal to an act of worship. Yet when Paul wrote to the Corinthian churches, around AD60, he rebuked, them for not ‘sharing’ properly; ‘each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk’ (1 Corinthians 11:21).
‘Bring and share’ lies at the heart of the feeding of the five thousand. As a consequence of a willingness to share resources and trust in God, everyone is satisfied. When it is put as simply as that, we might well wonder about our own national and international unwillingness to share resources and trust each other and God. Part of Christ’s call to us is to pray and worship God and part also is to provide the hungry with bread.
Father God, as we share our resources, may we demonstrate the Kingdom of God has broken into our lives. Amen