Matthew 14-19

Posted: April 19, 2010 in Uncategorized
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My church never followed the pot luck dinner trend of most churches—where you tested Mrs. Ogilvie’s three bean salad and bragged about your Sunday School teacher’s banana bread. I grew up in south Florida—the land of…service. Even from the early 70s, my combo school/church had a cafeteria tucked into its Fellowship Hall. The warm dinner rolls were to die for; the rest was to die of. One dish consisted of round bologna slices melted into the molds of muffin tins with mashed potato plopped inside with an ice cream scooper.

I consumed 6 meals a week there—five lunches during the school week and one dinner on Wednesday nights before the church service. When I turned into a teenager, I graduated to the youth building on Wednesday nights where we pitched in two bucks to eat pizza. Youth Ministers must consist of cheesy muscles and doughy bones as they must have eaten close to a million pieces of pizza in their lifetime.

On Friday (like the Catholics who were heathens) we ate fish sticks. This was before the “baked” reformation, so ours were fried in butter and had that browned greasy coating that made the stick flexible as rubber once you stood it up in your scoop of mashed-potato-bologna-bowl.

church potluck

Perhaps the fish sticks were to remind of us of the fish and loaves story that we were familiar with. The story went—Jesus took 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread and fed 5,000 people. Every time he broke a piece off, more would just keep coming.

When I read this story in Matthew 14, once again, I was struck by all I did not know. Christians, well people at large, are great at isolating pieces of information.  I don’t remember that the feeding of the crowd happened twice—right in a row. Chapter 15 and then in 16. The same formula was followed. Jesus gets off a boat, talks a bit, then–in the first story–there are 5,000 people who need to be fed. So he gets the 2 fish and 5 loaves and does his thing. Then he gets on a boat and departs. In the next chapter-redo. This time he gets off the boat and there are 4,000 people, 7 loaves and a “few” fish. He does the same thing, then gets on a boat and departs.

The odd part is not just that it happens twice back to back (and only the story of the 5,000 gets any airplay in sermons), but that the wording is similar:

Matthew 14: 19-21

Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up the 12 basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate were about 5,000 men, besides women and children.

Matthew 15: 36-39

He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up 7 basketfuls of the broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was 4,000, besides women and children.

Once your miracles become mundane, it is time to move on to the water into wine maneuver.

A few years ago Perdue University did a study gauging the relationship between Body Mass Index and the church. It found that the church population had a higher ratio of fat people than in the general population—and at the top of that was the Southern Baptists (think deep fried Hershey bars and butter-laden corn).

The new KFC Double Down

I have always had a prejudice against listening to people’s advice if they are worse off than me. Seeing that obesity is a visual thing, then you can see that this gives me problems. We get flyers in our mailbox all the time with pictures of dumpy white men telling us that they would be the best person to be our 1) doctor 2) preacher 3) political representative.

Unless there is a caption under their name that says “And I have a glandular problem,” it is hard for me to trust that they really know what they are talking about.

As I stick my head in this book every week, I try and curb the thought that it really comes down to—who do I want to be like. Who do I respect? I want it to just be about what I read. I want to be influenced by these ancient words and nothing else. But, I’m not.

I look at people and their actions and I can tell you this: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” doesn’t cut it anymore.  At my age, we’ve all been living life long enough to have worked some things out. If you want people to think that Christ in your life has enhanced it, you need to have good friends, have your bank account in order, be successful in work, be in shape, give to charity, be educated, know your Bible, know world and local news, have a good marriage and live responsibly. Minimum. Otherwise, you have nothing to offer those without Christ except an afterlife that they may or may not care much for.

* I just reread my post after a publishing it a few hours ago and think that the ending sounds really harsh. I didn’t mean for it to be that at all, but still–it’s there. I apologize. Perhaps I should state that it is hard to take life-changing advice from anyone who does not embody the precepts laid out in his/her belief system. No one should take marriage advice from Liz Taylor nor parenting advice from that crazy blond lady with 8 kids.

(There is too much in these chapters to leave it at this. I will write again about Jesus’ sassy quips, paying taxes and devilment.)

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