The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill (Liz) is the author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers: Growing a Relational Food Ministry and is the pastor of Ashburnham Community Church in MA.
Scripture: Isaiah 55:1-5 (NRSV)
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
Matthew 14:13-21 (NRSV)
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Reflection: Wine, Milk, Bread
As the pandemic approached, the people from many congregations came to Jesus and said, “This is crowded and chaotic, and it’s already getting dangerous. Send the hungry away, so they can go buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We don’t have enough masks or hand sanitizer,” they answered.
Some of the reaction to our present state of lockdown has been to end our outreach ministries—our pantries, meals, thrift shops, AA meetings, and language classes, closed. These programs are Christian ideas, growing out of Jesus’ promise that there will be more than enough when we share what little we have.
It was in an age of danger and separation and unexplainable illnesses that the prophet Isaiah declared the Lord’s Day would be one with enough bread, milk, and wine.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
This image of the God’s rule on earth is so simple, and yet in this time of pandemic, we can see how revolutionary it is. It’s not just food and drink for everyone, it is food and drink at a time when everyone is afraid to get too close, afraid to move outside their own circle, afraid that the risk is just too high.
Some church-based food ministries have insisted on staying open. At Brighton Allston Congregational Church the food pantry has moved from the basement to the front lawn—a change they are likely to keep in place when we can be near each other once again. Ashburnham Community Church changed their pantry from once a month to three times a week—the better to keep smaller gatherings as families pick up bags of food. UrbanMission in Pomona, CA is stretching its meal over a longer time so smaller groups can eat and leave. Other churches have moved to take-out meals, delivered at their doorways.
As I sit with a young writer in the basement of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul (Episcopal) in Boston, a volunteer from MANNA (Many Angels Needed Now and Always) comes around with a cart. I take a grape juice. The writer asks “can I have more coffee?” There are two cups in front of her now.
“Of course,” the volunteer smiles through his eyes, his mouth covered by a mask. “Two sugars with cream?” He calls her by name, remembers her, and reminds her of the writing group meeting tomorrow. He will come back later with lunch.
The room that once fed 100 has only 25 people, with 50 more in other spaces throughout the church. Instead of cafeteria style, two volunteers in the kitchen pack the food in to-go containers. At the front entrance each person is given hand sanitizer and a mask.
When I ask, he explains that the new way of serving—bag breakfasts, bag dinner, and lunch three days a week—is much more expensive than it was before the pandemic. “But we ask for what we need and we seem to get it.”
Jesus looks at the small supply of fish and bread and says, “Bring them here to me.” He has people sit in household groups, allowing six feet between them. Then looking up to heaven he gives thanks, breaks the loaves, hands them to the servers, who then serve the people. Afterward they gather twelve basketfuls of broken pieces.
God of bounty, help us to see all that we have to give, and all that we can receive. Be with us, guiding us to take enough risk to make a difference in people’s lives. Amen
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the more than 145,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease
- For those who have been injured during protests in cities throughout our nation
- For the safety and health of all as we face extreme heat in the coming days
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For educators who are working now to find safe and practical solutions to the challenges of starting a new school year in a month
Please Pray for the Following SNEUCC Churches:
First Congregational Church of Lyme, Lyme, CT
Grassy Hill Congregational Church, Lyme, CT
United Parish of Lunenburg, Lunenburg, MA
First Church in Ludlow, UCC, Ludlow, MA
Union Church of Ludlow, Ludlow, MA
Christ Church United in Lowell, Lowell, MA
Lao United Church of Christ, Lowell, MA
Pawtucket Congregational Church, Lowell, MA
First Church of Christ in Longmeadow, Longmeadow, MA
Congregational Church of Littleton, Littleton, MA
This Week in History:
July 30, 1945 (75 years ago) the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sank within minutes. Nearly 300 sailors were trapped inside the sinking ship. More than 900 sailors escaped overboard and entered shark-infested waters. Help did not arrive until August 2. In those four days, most of the sailors either drowned or were killed by sharks. Of the 1,196 sailors aboard the Indianapolis, only 316 survived. It is still considered the worst sea disaster in U.S. Navy history.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill (Liz) is a writer, pastor, and workshop leader living in Berlin, Massachusetts. She is the author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers: Growing Relational Food Ministries and the founder of Worcester ...