The lectionary has focused our attention on bread for a very long time. One might think that five barley loaves transformed into a feast plus baskets full of leftovers would be news enough, but Jesus goes on to talk about the bread for another 36 verses. He would be a dream interview for today's 24-hour news shows, with their incessant need for commentary on the latest attention-grabbing headline.
My nephew is a walking question mark. What’s for dinner? When will my daddy get a job? Will Grampa live to be 100? He does not know it, but his questions sound a lot like the ones that pop up in my news feed: How safe is our food supply? What will happen to the economy? Can Medicare cope with the rising number of baby boomers entering the system?
A few years ago I lost a friend to cancer, barely 12 months after the diagnosis. During her final months she wrapped up business at her job and then went about saying goodbye to those people closest to her. She planned "final" experiences with friends and family—including a magnificent, all-expenses paid vacation with a few closest friends— and prepared herself spiritually by seeking out the rites and rituals of the church that would prepare her to finish her earthly life: renewal of baptism, Holy Communion, anointing.
It is impossible not to think about life and death when there is a hospital bed in the living room. Perhaps this is one reason why hospice teams recommend that the patient’s bed be placed in a public area of the house—so that family and friends must accept the fact that their loved one is dying. It might not happen today or even tomorrow, but this life will end soon.
Not long ago the local newspaper carried a story about a young couple traveling to visit relatives in a neighboring state. Having parked along the side of the road so the woman could nurse their baby, the man stretched his legs and admired the view of the river and a nearby bridge. Within minutes a state patrol car stopped to check out the scene.
"I’m bigger than you are!” Here comes the playground taunt and its implied claim for absolute superiority. Never mind that several classmates are better at kickball or smarter in the classroom, or know how to care for younger siblings, or play the trumpet with exquisite skill. The ultimate measure has been applied and others are found wanting.
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