Weekly e-Devotion: July 23 Edition

John 6:1-21

The Gospel Lesson for  7/25/21

 6After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  2A large crowd kept following him because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.

    Scrolling through commentaries on our upcoming lectionary passage from John 6, I ran across a detail to which I hadn’t paid much attention highlighted in an article by Robert Hoch.
    The story of the feeding of the 5,000ish (Women and children not included in this figure.) is one of relatively few events, and the only miracle story, that is narrated in all 4 Gospels.  I have loved John’s version most of all, principally for the appearance of the boy who bears the lunch which ends up being broken for the masses.  A child is not too humble a vessel to bear the means of this miracle, which serves as an important sign of Jesus’ identity to those who witness it, and bears beautiful Eucharistic overtones immediately recognizable to later listeners.
    On this reading, another particularly Johannine detail jumped out at me; it’s only John that tells us what kind of bread it was!  Barley loaves, we are told, five of them, and two dried fish.  It’s interesting, because barley was likely the first grain ever to be cultivated by humans, beginning some 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, and gradually became a staple crop across much of Eurasia and even some of North Africa.  By Jesus’ time, wheat had replaced barley in prominence throughout the Roman Empire.  But barley bread remained a staple food of the peasant class.  Barley was the bread of the poor.  Thus it was the humblest of loaves, taken from the humblest of humans (a child) that fed the crowd to satisfaction, yielded 12 baskets of leftovers, and prompted the people to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is come into the world.”
    How deeply and intimately he comes, the Bread of Life as common fare, familiar and sacred all at once.
    Perhaps I’m thinking about this detail because today we began to discuss what a return to pre-COVID patterns of communion might look like, when we might be able to supplement the convenient but blah-tasting and hard-to-open little packages we’ve been using during the pandemic with something a little more fresh and accessible.  Not having grown up with wafers, but instead in a tradition that used “real” bread for communion, I had always marveled at how churches could choose such bland substance for the means of grace.  However, John’s barley loaves have me re-thinking my perspective.  It’s not the bread that’s special, it’s what happens when he breaks and shares it.  The fact that it is common, ordinary, and forgettable on its own just reinforces the point.  Jesus indwells the ordinary, uplifts the humble, sanctifies and multiplies our meager gifts.  Next time I place that wafer on my tongue, I will marvel a bit at what miracles the Son of God can perform with such means… and be thankful to be part of the receiving multitude.

e-Devotion author: Pastor Kristin Rice.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Pastor Dan at dhoeger@allsaintsphoenix.org or 602.866.9191.
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website.


Heavenly Father, thank your for the miracles of your Son that uplift us. Amen.

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July 25
9th Sunday after Pentecost
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2 Samuel 11:1-15

Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21 *

August 1
10th Sunday after Pentecost

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Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

Psalm 78:23-29
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

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