Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"Jesus Feeds, We Remember"

Matthew 14: 13-21

2 Kings 4: 42-44

      One of the most powerful catalysts for our memory is food.  In other words, certain foods

bring back certain memories.  The sight, smell and taste of particular foods often trigger happy

thoughts and good vibes about people we’ve known; places we’ve been; stories and characters

from the chapters of our life stories.  Anytime, for instance, I have a mountain of mashed potatoes with

rivulets of butter streaming down the sides, I can’t help but think of my grandmother

Ogilvie.  I can picture her in my mind’s eye standing over that old-fashioned GE electric mixer

that turned the bowl all by itself; I with my nose just above the counter top trying to catch a

whiff, and maybe a sample.  Or anytime I enjoy a cup of vanilla pudding, I have loving thoughts of

my mom; she ironing in the living room on Tuesday evening, while I sat on the floor watching the

Red Skelton Show, eating the pudding she had made even before it had fully cooled.  What are

those special foods for you which trigger happy thoughts of chapters written and people passed?

      On one level, that is how the Sacrament of Holy Communion functions for the family of faith,

the church.  On the first Sunday of each month, and on special liturgical days like Ash Wednesday

and Maundy Thursday, this family gathers around the Lord’s table and remembers the stories of

our faith.  The elements of loaf and cup – the smell, the taste, even the sight of them – help us

remember with gladness and thanks the reasons we are part of this family called the body of

Christ; the bread and juice trigger for us thoughts of those chapters and people passed who are

part of our common faith ancestry.  In our reformed heritage, we bring together sacrament and

Scripture into the fullness of remembrance.

      We remember this morning a story about food and faith; about broken bread and miraculous

multiplication.  It’s a story so vital to the early church that it is the only miracle story common to

all four gospels.  The memory of it is especially activated when we, in our day, break the bread of

Holy Communion, and pour out the cup of divine sacrifice, then distribute it like so many loaves

and fish among the multitudes; the smells and tastes carrying us collectively to another place and


      Matthew’s particular account tells us that when Jesus heard news about the death of John the

Baptist, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”  It was not unusual

for Jesus to go off to have quiet communion with the Father to recharge His spiritual batteries

with prayer and contemplation; something I’m afraid we do way too little of.  And in His full humanity, like us,

Jesus sometimes wanted friends around when He was hurting.  At other times, He didn’t.  The latter seems the

case on this day.  Jesus just needed to be alone.

     But Jesus was so in demand that hurting and grieving people followed him incessantly, allowing

Him little time to address His own grief over his cousin John’s death.  When Jesus saw the crowd

pressing in, rather than thinking to Himself:  Father, give me a break.  The last thing I need now is

to be dealing with their mess when I’m in the middle of mine,” Matthew tells us that “he had compassion

for them and cured their sick.”  Evidently, this healing and pouring out of compassion

went on for the rest of the day.

      Nearing nightfall, the disciples urged Jesus to dismiss the crowd.  Their alleged concern was for

the people’s hunger.  Jesus shocks them with a straightforward instruction:  “They need not go

away; you give them something to eat.”  With only the meager resources of two fish and five

loaves [according to John’s account, procured from a lad who was in the crowd], the disciples

seemed flustered by Jesus’ unrealistic command.  Nevertheless, Jesus asked the disciples to bring

Him the loaves and fish, and instructed the people to sit on the grass.  Looking up to heaven, Jesus

 blessed the food, perhaps a reminder to us that each time we give thanks over our food, we in a

sense re-enact the miracle of God’s providence and provision for God’s world.  After He broke the

loaves, Jesus gave them to the disciples to distribute to the hungry masses.  Despite the skepticism

of the disciples, Matthew concludes the story by telling us that “…..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.”

      When we gather around the Lord’s Table, we hear and remember stories of our common faith

such as this.  I wonder how many who were with Jesus that day when He fed the five thousand –

witnessing the miracle of God’s provision – remembered that miraculous story from the Old Testament of

God’s feeding one hundred hungry men through the ministry of the prophet Elisha?  In that story from 2nd Kings

which Bev read for us, a man brought his “first fruits” to Elisha. Much as Jesus had done near the Sea of Galilee,

Elisha instructed his servant to take the “twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of corn” and “Give it to the

people and let them eat.”  The servant however, in a voice reminiscent of Jesus’ disciples asked, “How can I set this before a

hundred people?”  Elisha insisted, and for good measure, even predicted a surplus of leftover

food.  And so it was.  Many of those who were with Jesus that day when He fed the five thousand

would have viewed Jesus as a prophet with Elisha-like power from on High. 

     One of the greatest miracles is that God calls and gathers us together – as alike and as different

as we may be – to share in common loaf and cup.  When Jesus hosted the Passover meal for the

diverse group of disciples, from fisherman, to tax collector, to scholar, He said to them as He says

to us: “Do this in remembrance of me.”  About a generation after the death and resurrection of

Christ, the apostle Paul held to this concept of memory, powerfully triggered by food, when he

wrote to the church at Corinth:  “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that

the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given

thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In

the same way, he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my

blood.  Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For as often as you eat this
bread and drink the cup, you proclaim he Lord’s death until he comes.”

      Every time we break the loaf and share the cup, these elements serve as catalysts for our collective memory,

triggering thoughts of characters and stories passed which have shaped and

formed who we are as a faith family:  God’s provision of manna in the wilderness for the children

of Israel; God’s provision of barley loaves and corn for a hundred men at Gilgal; God’s provision of

loaves and fish for over five thousand by the Sea of Galilee; God’s provision of God’s own Son as

the paschal lamb which carries the sins of the world; God’s provision of even the loaf and cup

which grace our table here at Central this morning.  All of these wonderful stories, and many

others, bring to our recollection the joyful truth that God’s providence and provision far exceed

every need, even to the point that “all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over

of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.”  How thankful we are as we celebrate this Holy Com-

munion that Jesus feeds, we remember.

 Divider of loaves and fish, as we are now prepared to approach Your table of grace, may the

sight, the smell, the taste of the elements upon it trigger our collective memory of the many

ways You have blessed Your people in ages past, even as You bless us again today.  Amen.