As is often the case, I looked at this Sunday's lectionary reading and after wondering what new there was to say I was touched by a fresh, individualised understanding. (That means it 'spoke' to me.) The story is Jesus' feeding of the 5000 in Matthew's gospel.
Sometimes I have rough days. My response tends to be to withdraw from the place of hurt until I can cope better. So often we are told that withdrawal is an inappropriate response. But in this story we see Jesus choosing to withdraw - he had just heard that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been killed and he decided to go by boat to a quiet place.
Often what brings me out of withdrawal is a sense of being missed. However inadequate I might feel, however at odds with the world, however much I might feel a failure I find that there are people waiting for me - often at church on a Sunday morning - who want to hear the news that God is good and that he cares for them. And I have to drag my last resources to a place of prayer and get a grip on myself. And so it was for Jesus. Having travelled for some period alone with friends on the boat he pulled into land and there were people waiting for him. We could be cynical and say they just wanted their sickness healed - but that is not so, otherwise they would have left as soon as they were 'done'. Rather, they chose to be in his company. And Jesus had compassion on them.
My third thought on this passage is about baskets and is just a bit off the wall. Something has always niggled at me about the end of the story, and I think now I've got it. How did they come to have twelve empty baskets to collect the scraps? I'm sure I can think of a few good reasons and it seems totally inconsequential, but it just struck me as an oddity!