Sunday, July 30, 2017

Matthew 14.13-21: Boy with a Bento Box?

The story can be called to mind in two words: loaves and fishes. We can fill in the blanks from there: a boy with a lunch, lots of people, disciples, baskets of leftovers. It's a familiar story found in several versions in scripture. It's Matthew's version that we get in the lectionary reading for Proper 13(18)A/Pentecost 9A (Matthew 14:13-21).

The elements of the meal are present in Dutch artist Johnny Beerens' mural in Breskens. Five loaves and two fish, all neatly arranged in a silo-sized bento box. Probably the boy in the story did not bring his lunch in this fashion, but the orderly arrangement has been placed with great care and effect into the architectural elements of the building. The subject matter does, of course, call to mind the gospel story of loaves and fishes. But the setting of the work takes the subject farther.
Johnny Beerens. Loaves and Fishes mural. Breskens, Netherlands.
The port city of Breskens is in the southwest corner of the Netherlands. Situated on the coast, the town hosts an annual Fishery Festival. The mural is located on a grain silo in the port, which ties the location to bread. The combination of fish and bread recognizes the gifts of the earth - both from the land and the sea - and their location on a silo and port recognizes that harvesting and distributing those gifts require human work.

The location of the mural calls to mind more than the miracle of the gospel parable. The images and the work of the port as a hub of distribution remind us of our call to feed hungry people (" give them something to eat"). That call is not bound by the past or by geography and is not a one-time event. The mural can be an incentive to remember and do better.

You give them something to eat, Jesus said. All we need is...a bento box.

An essay on the reading from Hebrew scripture (Jacob wrestling) is found here.

See what a pelican has to do with this week's lectionary readings. Click on the Art&Faith Matters Facebook link below.

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