This week’s gospel reading (Matt 14:13-21) is another well-known story. And it is one of those stories where you need to read around it – to the story before of Herod’s meal where Jesus’ teacher, John, is beheaded. Jesus is trying to grieve. Instead he finds a crowd also filled with grief and anger, looking for hope. And here we so often miss the contrast offered between a birthday party full of depravity and all-consuming self-centeredness and greed, symbolic of all that is wrong with Herod, Rome and the Temple leadership; and Jesus meeting the poor and discarded masses with generosity and compassion. In this act we are reminded of the biblical tradition that God is faithful and the hungry are fed. And in contrast to the abuse of power encountered in the Herod’s birthday bash, we are offered a reminder of the gracious abundance of God’s power. Despite the impossibility of the story, all these people were fed. Were fed until they no longer wanted, until they were no longer hungry. God’s power is bringing in a new age where all have enough to eat.
This year is an election year. I wonder how this story with its image of compassion, provision, generosity, and God’s justice and care for all, will influence how we vote. What kind of society do we look for? How does this story affect our hopes for Tauranga Moana and for Aotearoa-New Zealand? Which people, which party offers us the best hope of taking a step or two towards it?