Last week’s parable is one that is quite heavy. It is dependent upon twisting a particular moment in the life of Jesus on it’s head in order to make a point. Like the others, it is not exploring doctrine as much as practice. It is not describing the life of Jesus, rather it is challenging us to live into the life of Jesus.
The story begins in very familiar fashion, weary, hungry people listening to Jesus teach. Food is needed, but all that can be scrounged is five loaves and two fish. Then Jesus sends the disciples out to find more. One expects, or at least I did, for them to find more food, and the point of the parable to be that the miraculous happens when we all make what we have available. And while this would be a wonderful twist to this parable, this is not the direction it takes, it is more poignant that that. Instead, masses of food are found, then Jesus and the disciples help themselves to a feast, exploiting the weary and their resources and leaving them hungry, with nothing.
Obviously, the shock of this story is the point, that is simply not what Jesus did, nor is it what Jesus would do. My opinion is that the author is making a critique concerning the western church. As I mentioned in an earlier post, followers represent the one they follow. This is part of the reason Paul calls the church the body of Christ. We represent Jesus. There are many who are extremely critical of the Church, especially in the west, in regards to our consumerism, our levels of consumption, and the ways in which we thrive on the backs of the poor. I personally am not so critical. I think that much of this happens unbeknownst to most of us, at least I know that has been the case for me. A couple of years ago I came across various statistics that really took me aback. Things such as the fact that the projection for what it would cost to end world hunger was actually less than the U.S. and Europe spent on ice cream that year, that most of the chocolate we consume comes from the ivory coast where children are stolen from their homes and forced to work in the cocoa fields. For the author, I believe, the shock of the parable lies in the fact that Jesus would never do such a thing and in the idea that this is exactly what he does, because this is what we, his followers, the body of Christ, do.
Now, before reacting, please realize a couple of things. I hate guilt driven religion. By and large it doesn’t work. When our faith becomes about a list of things not to do it loses the beauty and life it should give. So, there is no list of things not to do coming. I personally am still trying to figure out what to do with all of this. However, the point for me is not, hey we should feel guilty about these things. For me the point is hope. There is brokenness in this world and we have the ability to do something about it. Our faith should not be about a list of things not to do, it should be about giving our lives to something larger than just ourselves, about putting flesh and blood on the prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” For me it’s about asking how can we move forward differently. How can I help to put and end to this stuff, what do I need to be throwing myself and the resources I’ve been blessed with into? The issues are thick, there’s not simple, easy answers and I’m still bewildered by all of it.
If this is all new to you, let me offer a couple of introductory resources. Rob Bell explores this a bit in his nooma films Rich and Corner www.nooma.com and for more on the chocolate issue visit stop the traffik http://www.stopthetraffik.org/