The Power of Gathering Together
It was more than enough. What seemed like so little was more than enough. The brief outdoor graveside service was enough. The eulogy, the words read from scripture, the recorded songs we heard, the brief homily I shared, the prayers we offered up, the rose petals dropped into the grave…it was enough and actually more than enough. A beautiful hawk flew in just as we began the memorial service and sat on the edge of the mausoleum wall. Those who were grieving gathered together.
Before this week I had not ever thought of the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 to be similar to a wake- the context of this miracle sets the stage for it.
When Jesus heard this… when the crowds heard this… Matthew 14:13
What was the “this” which both the crowds and Jesus had heard? It was the news that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, had been beheaded, murdered. John’s head has been offered on a platter at Herod’s birthday party. They had heard about the death of one they loved.
Having heard this news Jesus withdrew from where he was alone by boat to a deserted place. Having heard this news the crowd went by foot to follow Jesus. In Jesus’ own grief he comes out from the boat onto the shore and cures the sick. The Greek word used here for Jesus’ response to the crowds is the word “thereapeuo” from which we get our word therapy. Curing, healing, listening, loving them —Jesus was present with them in their deep sorrow. All day long there was curing and crowds, deep feelings, and gut level connections. It is a deserted place- that is the place for grief and sorrow- a lonely place- a separate place- a far off place.
Yet, in this deserted place they are together. That is enough. Actually it is more than enough- this deserted place is now a place for curing as well as connecting. And now it will be a place for a miracle. In the reading we will hear the headcount for this time - five thousand men plus women and children. This is a BIG post funeral gathering or wake. This desert, this deserted place, has now has become
an event and It’s getting late.
The day has been long. Everyone is getting hungry and it’s late. The disciples have brought with them enough food for 12 disciples and their beloved Jesus; two fish and five loaves. The disciples urge Jesus to send the crowds away back to town to go and buy their own food. Jesus will have none of that. He instructs his disciples to feed the crowds in the desert from what they already have and it will be enough- actually more than enough.
Jesus took what they had- the five loaves and the two fish. Jesus told the crowd to have a seat on the grass. With a look up to the heavens, a blessing and the breaking of the bread- Jesus gives what he has blessed to his disciples and they give it to the crowds. It was more than enough.
Some have wondered if those who were there gathered that evening (the crowd) followed Jesus’ lead and shared from what they may have brought along for themselves. We don’t know all the details or the logistics. What we do know; that day they were together with Jesus. We do know, Jesus blessed what they had and told his disciples to share it. We do know, it was more than enough. This is the only miracle that is told of in all four gospel. There are nuances to how each writer shares the story and in every one of them there is more than enough.
Over the many years of doing funerals, memorials, celebrations of life,I have seen how the gathering together to hear God’s word, to remember, to pray, to eat, to sing, to listen is the beginning of the healing that takes place when we are connected to Jesus and one another. And how important it is to gather for a meal. Being together is enough and actually more than enough.
There is a song that has gone through my mind this week as I prepared for the funeral. We sang a version of it each month at Rejoicing Spirits worship "Roll over the ocean, Roll over the sea" . Each verse builds upon the next until it comes that is all of it together that builds community.
It’s Christ that builds community.
May you experience and help create the love that builds community. It takes all of us and when we share what we have received there is more than enough.