Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.
1 Hear my plea of innocence, O Lord;
give heed to my cry; *
listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.
2 Let my vindication come forth from your presence; *
let your eyes be fixed on justice.
3 Weigh my heart, summon me by night, *
melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.
4 I give no offense with my mouth as others do; *
I have heeded the words of your lips.
5 My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law; *
in your paths my feet shall not stumble.
6 I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; *
incline your ear to me and hear my words.
7 Show me your marvelous loving-kindness, *
O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand
from those who rise up against them.
16 But at my vindication I shall see your face; *
when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding
I am speaking the truth in Christ-- I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit-- I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Jesus withdrew 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.
13Now when Jesus heard [about the beheading of John the Baptist], 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. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When 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.” 16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19Then 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. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
How many of you watched Captain Kangaroo when you were growing up? If you admit to watching this children’s show than you might remember the fact that he read books to the audience as part of the show. A rare occurrence then as well as now I’m sure. Any way one of the stories I remember hearing more than once was Stone Soup. At its heart it is a tale derived from observation of the human condition. That is to say it highlights the fear innate in humankind of not having enough of anything but especially of not having enough to eat. It lifts up for observation the fear of strangers and outsiders as well. Most of all it illuminates our self-centeredness. Hiding in the background is distrust not just of other humans but also a distrust in the nearness and provision of God. Many adult readers of this tale probably find themselves agreeing with the villagers in their assessment of the wandering soldiers. They are predators who cannot be trusted. They are people who are too lazy to work. They are not part of our community. They need to be stopped at the boundaries of our village or……
Or what? That we will be forced to remember who we are? And who are we? Disciples and followers of Christ, that’s who we are. We are the disciples in the crowd asking Jesus to send the crowd away to find food. We are the ones who hear Jesus say to us “Send then away? No you give them something to eat.” You give them something to eat.
The soldiers in the story do not ask for food but rather they ask for stones and water so that they may make some stone soup. The villagers are astonished at this request and as they observe the proceedings one after another decides that stones are not enough for a decent nourishing soup: vegetables, meat, salt and butter with bread are brought forward and he entire village joins in a great feast made possible by their sharing what they have, in great abundance.
The parable of the feeding of the 5,000 is a stone soup tale for all of us who claim to be follower of Christ. The multiplication of the loaves and fishes is more than a display of creating something out of nothing. It is a revelation of the abundance provided by God which is already there waiting to be shared by all. It is a call to trust God and step out in faith for the good of our neighbors, beloved or despised. God does indeed provide but it is our hearts and hands which are called into service to do God’s work. We are fed and nourished by God both physically and spiritually. The response to this grace is to share all that we have. God has fed us, we feed others.