Every Meal is a Story
Story 3: An Invitation to Mission at Bethsaida’s Miracle Meal
Read Luke 9:10-17
Jesus took (the apostles) with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”
He replied, “You give them something to eat.”Luke 9:10-13
Commitment to serving others often invites interruption not just to our plans but also our prosperity. Hungry crowds of homeless on our streets and refugees at our borders can be overwhelming and costly to feed, prompting us to keep the needy, the broken, the hungry out of sight and out of reach. Yet for those on mission, it means being interrupted and looking in the crowds at the faces of those desperate for food, medicine, or words of truth and justice.
Basha and his family live in a remote hill station in an impoverished region. He travels the country training believers how to welcome those who live and believe differently into their faith communities. His family was ready to move to another country when the pandemic lockdown interrupted their travel plans. Basha says they chose not to stay idle at home, but gathered resources and distributed food packets to the poor, especially those they knew like Nazima, a street vendor who depends on daily wages to live. They took personally the directive to action Jesus gave to his leaders , “You give them something to eat.”
In Luke’s gospel story, the twelve disciples have returned from a mission assignment, reported to Jesus, and are taking a much needed rest. They were out of money, food, and energy and suddenly their retreat with Jesus is interrupted by the relentless crowd. To their surprise, Jesus didn’t see the needs of the crowd as inconvenient, rather “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and healed those who needed healing.” Jesus modeled love that welcomes all people into relationship with him. Then he turned over the responsibility of meeting needs to his disciples who found shared resources within the community.
The (apostles) answered (Jesus), “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.Luke 9:13-17
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, blessed, broke, and provided a miracle meal from scarcity to abundance: “they all ate and were satisfied.” The miracle is full of symbols we still use today in sharing communion. We look up to our Father God, give thanks for the redemption bought through the broken body and blood of Jesus, and go out to serve in Christ’s mission. Those called to follow are now sent on mission to nourish the hungry with the bread of Christ, blessed and broken. Through shared meals, meeting needs, and miracles that show who He is, Jesus welcomes people into relationship with him.
Reflect: How do you respond to needs that are inconvenient, overwhelming, and that you personally don’t have resources to meet? What does it mean to you to show the Kingdom of God to others through your life broken, blessed, and freely given? Pray about finding someone whom you can show the compassion and welcome of Jesus.
Summer, a wife and mother of young children, and a brilliant educator, was disappointed in having to stop her volunteer English classes for immigrants in her city. One day she proudly proclaimed, I’m going to do missions with youth from Europe. I was so surprised until she revealed her classes would be online. Summer doesn’t allow being a stay at home mom to interrupt God’s call to use her gifts of teaching and hospitality. Spend some time waiting and listening, then looking for a new way to use your gifts and resources.
Practice: Spend some time waiting and listening, then looking for a new way to use your gifts and resources. Take an inventory of your personal, family, intellectual, material and spiritual resources. Choose one or two of your resources you can use in community with others on mission.
You can look in your community for ways to help with food insecurity. Living in a major city, I volunteer in a local non-profit just five miles from my home that not only feeds the homeless and poor, but is a fully-integrated resource center, providing humanitarian aid alongside housing navigation, and mental healthcare.
Chaouki and Maha Boulos, mission partners and friends, have ministered in Lebanon for 20 years, but now the country faces a severe and prolonged economic depression, compounded by the pandemic and a devastating explosion. Their family relief programs have continued even in lockdowns as they find ways to get food packets and assistance to those in desperate need.
Consider giving a gift towards a food packet: https://www.classy.org/campaign/chaouki-and-maha-boulos/c106585