10 June 20152 Kings 4:42-44
“A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God.” (v. 42)
Psalm: Psalm 20
Immediately preceding this miracle is a story set in the context of famine when Elisha finds food that was at first unpalatable and then he converts into wholesome food (2 Kings 4:38-41). Then we read how 20 barley loaves fed 100 people and there was still food left over. Obviously this is a similar story to the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14).
There are two aspects to this story. We can choose to see it as fact - that a few loaves of bread were fed to a vast number of people satisfying all. Or we can recognise the symbolism here that bread has come to mean in our lives as Christian people. The bread that brings life is freely available and nurtures everyone who gathers around the table. All we have to do is come to the table; make that decision and move ourselves mentally, physically, spiritually to the place of hospitality and welcome and open ourselves to the possibility of being fed.
Freedom to choose the sort of life that is offered to us by God is not always felt by everyone. Often we find ourselves conforming to expectation, doing what we think we ought to do rather than listening to our inner desires and making our own individual choices. Sometimes the institution of the Church can eradicate a sense of freedom so that the gift of life-giving bread is hard to taste, touch and feel.
Seeing bread as a symbol of freely given, unconditional love may help us tap into who we each are as we are fed by it and who God created us to be and this may help us move out of the institutional ties that supress our longings and snuff out our hope.
- Symbols and images can have a very important effect on us - some we keep privately, but others we share as a common experience or understanding. Reflect on the symbols that are important to you. How far are you able to discern a sense of freedom that flows from the associations you make with your chosen symbol(s)?
- It is good to come together in worshipping communities, but sometimes the institution can take over and our sense of who we are can feel lost as we go with expectation. What kind of church can you imagine where you are free to be completely yourself, fed by the bread and wine of God who recognises the child God has created? To what extent is this a scary thought or does your imagined church give you hope?