Are you familiar with the Biblical story of the feeding of the five thousand? It’s one of Jesus’ most famous miracles, in which he takes five loaves of bread and two fish and uses them to feed an entire crowd. Here’s the account:
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. — Matthew 14:13-21 (ESV)
Reading this story got me thinking about a mini-feast that I participate in each Thursday. I work out of a shared office with a bunch of other remote employees, freelancers, and contract workers. It’s a mishmash of people on laptops typing away at programs, novels, blog posts, marketing plans, and other work for employers around the globe. It’s a friendly bunch that has banded together to save ourselves from the boredom of being holed up in a coffee shop or home office.
Every Thursday we meet together for a potluck organized around simple themes like Salad, Soup, or Sushi. A few of us walk down to a local store; others pull parcels from home out of laptop bags or check on a crockpot they’d filled with meat and vegetables earlier in the day.
A wonderful little moment that happens around 12:10 every Thursday. The preparations coalesce and we gather around a table overflowing with food—enough to feed everyone, plus a bit for leftovers.
Everyone grabs a plate or a bowl and fills it up. We talk about what’s happening in our lives, in local politics, what’s being chatted about on Twitter, or just catch up. A crowd of folks who may have been perfect strangers a month ago sit down to share a meal we prepared for each other together.
There’s a healthy power in this act of community. “Hi, I’m Chris. Did you try the soup that Sandy made? Have some chips and salsa. Tell me about things. How did you get here? Where are you going?”
The group I eat with on Thursdays is full of all religious stripes, but they’re doing something that Jesus modeled when he fed the five thousand. He didn’t send the crowds home to eat individually or behind the doors of their own homes. He didn’t ask each person or family to bring their own food and eat it by themselves. He instead made it possible to slow down and spend time eating together. Food is a need that can be met with money, by returning to your home and feeding yourself, but Jesus taught us that sometimes it’s more than that. Sometimes the food is just an excuse to get a few people together to have a feast.