Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Bits and Pieces

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. – Matthew 14:19-20

The saying, which has been credited to General Creighton Abrams, goes thus:  When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.  I was always notorious for bolting my food.  It’s probably one of the reasons that I always had a tendency to overeat.  I was done before any signal to stop reached my brain.  My view is that it is like filling up your gas tank.  I don’t drive so I can go to the gas station.  But even in my case, there are very few things I eat whole.  Most things have to be made bite size in order to be consumed. 

Origen points out that this is true of the Bible.  He started by talking about the idea that truth is one.  We might come back to this sometime, but it reminded me of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) where all of humanity had one language or “one word”.  The Bible, despite its multiplicity of authors and eras, presents the truth, and it is one.  Jesus said to the religious leaders that the very scriptures they searched testified of Him, the Logos, the one Truth. 

However, the Bible cannot be consumed as a whole any more than the five loaves that were given to Jesus could be eaten without being broken.  In a way, the breaking of the bread is like the scattering of seed.  Each piece of bread is part of the whole, and each piece can be further divided into more pieces so that, like seed, the bread is multiplied. 

In our normal daily existence, bread cannot be divided infinitely and still retain its size, and certainly it cannot grow and multiple.  Yet, if I am not forgetting something, this is the one specific miracle that Jesus did which is recorded all four gospels.  Each of the Evangelists saw it as deeply significant and even central to the life and revelation of Christ. 

In Origen’s view, each piece of Scripture contains the whole truth – like a fractal.  Jesus is the Bread of Life, and He inhabits fully each fragment of His broken body which we take in communion -- so, too, with the Scripture, which we must take in small pieces in order to be nourished by it.  I cannot begin to do justice to the poetry of this. 

Think, though, of the broken bread going out to the five thousand.  As they shared it, the bread filled and fully satisfied everyone who ate.  As we take our verses and our passages and discuss them with one another, we are filled with and nourished by Christ who indwells these fragments of the One Truth.  And, going back to the similarity to seed, our meditation upon and communion in the Word multiplies the truth so that more and more can be fed and filled.

Perhaps the baskets of fragments that were taken up represent both our respect and reverence for the truth – let none of it fall to the ground or be wasted, as well as the idea that we have an abundance of truth that we may sow by sharing with others. 

We don’t cast our pearls before swine neither do we leave the children’s bread on the ground to be consumed by dogs.  It strikes me as I write that that Jesus was giving us a broader lesson than I have grasped before in His encounter with the Syrophoenician woman:

Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.  And he said to her, Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.  But she answered him, Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.  And he said to her, For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.  (Mark 7:26-29)

Even when the world is not willing or able to accept the truth of Christ, they can be blessed by it.  When the children have eaten all they want, there will still be a lot of good for those outside the Body of Christ.


John Lien said...

Hmmm... Interesting thoughts. I'll have to digest them.

Something popped into my mind while reading this. Break up a magnet and you get many smaller, whole magnets. Each one with two poles.

Just thinkin' (and dropping my "g"s all folksy-like).

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Aye, never waste the truth. Just as we wouldn't try to use light that is contained, or blocked.
Truth multiplies and there is always more than enough, thus there is no reason to attempt to keep it to ourself.

Truth, like light, like love is meant to share.

Great post, Dwaine. :)

mushroom said...

Thanks, Ben.

The magnet thing reminds me. There's a Charles Williams novel, I think it's Many Dimensions that involves the discovery of an amulet-like artifact -- maybe Solomon's Seal. It has an image of the Tetragammaton, and it, too, can be divided without loss indefinitely. I may have to read that one again.