Loaves, Fishes, and Lectio Divina

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalm 69:1-23(24-30)31-38 (Morning)
Psalm 73 (Evening)
Ezra 7:27-28, 8:21-36
Revelation 15:1-8
Matthew 14:13-21

Loaves, Fishes, and Lectio Divina

In today’s Gospel lesson we hear again one of the most familiar miracle stories in all the Bible. Even for folks who know little about the Good Book, the phrase “Loaves and Fishes” often conjures up a powerful story.

When I encounter the miracle stories I sometimes try to imagine myself in the narrative: Would I help distribute the loaves and fishes, and if so what would that feel like? If my family and I were desperately hungry and found ourselves on the receiving end of these miraculous gifts how would we respond? But sometimes my questions are drowned out by another one: “Yes, but is the story true?” Meaning, “is it factual?”

This question arises, uninvited, for Christians and others who live in the modern era. What we understand about science and the historical cross fertilization of religions makes it nearly impossible for us to read the Bible with the “natural literalism” of our forebears. But at some level we understand that not all truth is factual, and that truth comes to us through relationships as well as intellectual propositions.

The late Marcus Borg (a former McMichael speaker) proposed that we think of the Scripture as being like a sacrament, which he defined as “a vehicle by which God becomes present, a means through which the Spirit is experienced.” At St. Paul’s, when we are admonished to “hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people,” we are being invited to experience the biblical texts sacramentally.

My fifteen-year participation in the Episcopal Church has helped me understand the entire Christian experience, not just baptism and the Eucharist, as sacramental. Music, preaching and teaching, spiritual practices, service, the Bible itself, are not the object of our worship but point us to the One who is. I have been particularly drawn to the spiritual practice known as Lectio Divina
literally “holy reading,” but better understood as “holy listening.”

A quick introduction to Lectio Divina is available on the back of our Sunday service bulletin, and fuller descriptions are available online and in print. I’ll just say this one thing about Lectio: When we practice it, we are not required to buy into an intellectual proposition about truth but are welcomed into a relationship with the Holy Spirit and invited to find ourselves in stories like our Gospel reading for today.

Written by Bob McMath

Bob enjoys singing in the choir, serving as lector and Eucharistic minister, and washing dishes at Community Meals.

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