“Then Jesus ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people…and all ate and were filled.” – Mark 6:36-37
This past Thanksgiving, a man in my church helped give 180 Thanksgiving turkeys away to low-income neighbors. It felt great, to be able to feed that many people—until the turkeys ran out. Fifty families went away, depressed. Every year, the food pantry has to turn away more and more people.
In the miraculous feeding, Jesus has everybody sit down in small groups “on the green grass,” itself a little miracle, since they were in a desert. He looks heavenward, just as a lot of us have done when faced with an impossible problem. And then everybody—everybody—gets fed. How did He do it?
The realist’s explanation of the miraculous feeding is that Jesus shamed the crowd into sharing their bag lunches. The dreamer’s explanation is that it was an out-and-out, nature-defying miracle.
Whether you come to your meaning logically or magically, you’re more innovative than the disciples. “Jesus, send them out for fast food,” was their big, bold idea. They were slaves to the existing economic order, and couldn’t conceive of another possible way to get everybody fed.
But maybe we can.
God, replace our well-meaning but tired old ideas of feeding the hungry until the turkeys run out with something innovative and miraculous. There’s still plenty of time before next Thanksgiving to make a new resolution: to do one thing toward changing an economic system that makes turkeys of us all. Amen.
Molly Baskette is senior minister of First Church Somerville UCC in Somerville, MA, and the author of the book Real Good Church: How Our Church Came Back from the Dead and Yours Can Too.