July 28, 2011

Needing to be fed

I haven't looked in the official Revised Common Lectionary (Episcopal Version) Lectern Book, but I'm guessing it follows pretty closely to lectionarypage.net in the way it leads the reader in to the opening verse (14:13) of the Gospel lesson for Sunday.  Here at St. Paul's we use the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) for our lessons.

Here is how verse 13 reads in the 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."

Here is how verse 13 reads, pulled from its context in the larger story of Matthew, "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."

Do you see the difference?

In context, we read that Jesus withdrew because of what he had heard. In the RCL we get no reason for Jesus' withdraw. So, what did Jesus hear that we didn't?

Matthew 14:1-13 is the story of a different kind of meal; one held in the the comfort of the Herod's palace. There was food beyond measure, wine beyond debauchery, that awkward scene with Herod's step-daughter dancing much to Herod's pleasure, and finally John the Baptist's head on a platter.

That's what Jesus heard before he withdrew to a deserted place by himself, and I don't blame him. Jesus felt what most of us feel when tragic news comes, he was hungry for God. He needed to spend sometime with His Father in order to sort it all out. He needed to hear again that the Father's will is good and perfect even when people are bad and ugly. He returned from his time away, short as it seems to have been, fed and ready to share with a crowd of people who were hungry as well. God's gift was shared by Jesus through compassion. Sure, real bread and real fish were consumed, real people were cured of real infirmities, but the real gift was God's amazing grace poured out from the perfect vessel of love, God incarnate.

I rag on the RCL a lot. I know that choices have to be made, we can't read all of Matthew in one sitting on a Sunday morning, but sometimes the context tells the story. Leave those few leading words in and make the preacher explain what is happening. And since they aren't there, dear preacher, do the work of telling the whole story. The people are hungry, we ought follow the example and feed them.

1 comment:

Keith Talbert said...

Read "When Jesus heard this." I have always felt that was an important part of the story no matter which gospel is used. Why Jesus withdrew puts it all in context. The abundance of God vs. the abundance of man. Similar to the Widow story we watched today.