In my circle of influence, which is quite small, I hear comments that indicate an internal questioning. We all know that major change is upon us. Yet, we wonder where the change is leading? I happen to think millions of people are floundering for direction right now. I think Jesus’ vision for where the human spirit must *go, and how the human spirit must *grow, was made known during his earthly ministry.
Jesus called fishermen as his first disciples – telling them he would change their profession from fishers of fish, to fishers of people. He demonstrated a bread-passing method during the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000 people. He also made known the fact that the kingdom of heaven was like a net. As I look at the big picture of Jesus’ life, I see a strong connection between the call to become fishers of people, the miracle feedings of thousands, and the imagery of a kingdom like a net.
During the two feedings, Jesus methodically taught his disciples to 1) recognize hunger; 2) group people into small networks; 3) distribute bread; and 4) send them on their way. The future of this methodology was wholly dependent on human willingness to “go and do likewise.” This is where the human spirit failed humanity many, many centuries ago. We weren’t ready to embrace Jesus’ Way. People believed in the hierarchical approach to building kingdoms that looked nothing like nets.
I see no attempt on Jesus’ part to classify the hungry people, qualify their worthiness, judge their level of need, or bind them to any conditions of belief. I only see recognition, grouping, distribution, and sending. I also hear Jesus saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” The problem with *church is that the gathering, grouping, and distribution of bread took on notions of classification, qualification, judgment, and binding to conditions of belief. Therefore, the sending of people mirrored the same notions, which created a perpetual cycle of dysfunction that looked nothing like Jesus vision for humanity.
Christianity, as it has been practiced since the time of the early fathers, failed to understand the first step in Jesus’ method – a true recognition of hunger. Because people’s hunger went unrecognized, Christianity has left people starving, both literally and figuratively. Yet, the *church system demanded dependence to the cycle of dysfunction.
As lovers of Jesus’ gospel of peace, we must move into the future with an “eyes-wide-open” recognition of the hunger Jesus perceived during the miracle feedings. What was the true nature of the hunger?
Jesus understood what neither Church or State was willing to see. Jesus understood their need for personal empowerment. They wanted some sense of control over their own destiny under the brutal weight of the empire. Systems of domination were in control and the people hungered for “Their Way Out.” Jesus basically showed them how to take care of themselves, and their neighbors, without relying on the Roman Empire or the Temple System for social and economic justice.
Right before their eyes, Jesus taught his disciples how to make nets of people, pass bread, and send them on their way. 1) recognize hunger; 2) group people into nets; 3) teach bread passing; 4) send. He created a live demonstration to reveal how social justice, equity, and fair living could be accomplished – all without classification, qualification, judgment, or conditions of belief. He taught people how to circumvent the Empire and the Temple system – not undermining either, just circumventing both!
The same circumvention must occur today.
As Christianity conflates its identity with the Empire, neither Church or State empowers people to make small, geographic nets, break bread, and distribute it among themselves. Both Church and State are guilty of starving the general population, while creating systems of dependence and dysfunction. Almost no one recognizes the true nature of people’s hunger, or Jesus’ Way out of starvation and into personal and collective social and economic justice. To be cynical, we could say no one wants to recognize the true nature of people’s hunger or Jesus’ Way out because it would require us to change our ways.