Sunday Worship Service for 25th July 2021
A prayer of adoration
we worship you because we can.
You take our inadequacies, our limitations,
and pour out your blessings upon us.
We stand in awe of you,
sensing your presence among us.
Overwhelmed by your kindness,
we fall at your feet.
A prayer of thanksgiving
Thank you, Lord, that you go ahead of us into our communities;
you are there pouring out your generosity and your hospitality
in our neighbourhood.
Thank you that as you are transforming our homes, our streets,
our schools, our places of work, you are transforming us so we
can play our part.
Thank you that we can come together as one,
sharing all that you have given us.
Thank you, Lord.
Read John 6.1-21
Sermon by Rev Peter Lyth
One of the traditions of church life is the “Jacob’s Join” or “Faith lunch”. In each case, rather than the church catering for the attenders, each person brings a contribution. Sometimes the contributions are co-ordinated (one person is told to bring cakes, another sausage rolls) but in the “faith lunch” in its purest form, no-one knows who is contributing what, but instead they have faith that the meal will have plenty of variety and not be just 10,000 sausage rolls. Quite often. There’s loads left over – so much in fact that there seems to be more than was brought in the first place – a phenomenon that is even more the case in our reading from John’s Gospel.
The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is the only one that occurs in all four of the Gospels. It takes place, here on a mountain and is a result of large crowds following Jesus, as he heals the sick as well as teaching. In the other three gospels, the feeding of the 5,000 is a response of compassion, as indeed is Jesus stopping to teach them. Mark phrases it, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. Here though it is much more of a teaching opportunity. It is a way of reinforcing the message of the power of Jesus, and not misinterpreting it.
In fact, things start out with Jesus questioning Philip, “Where are we to find the bread to feed these people?” It is clear that Philip has no idea – hardly surprising and retorts that even 6 month’s wages would not be enough. Andrew joins in the discussion by telling him of the boy who has five loaves and two fishes “but what use is that amongst so many people?” he asks. However Jesus blesses the loaves and fishes and the people are fed. Even today there are a number of lessons that we can take away from this incident.
The first is simply this – that we cannot underestimate the power of Jesus. Neither Philip nor Andrew understood this – they both were unable to visualise a situation where the people could be fed. Scholars have come up with a number of different theories as to how it happened, but the fact remains – the 5,000 were fed. In fact it was more than that because Matthew tells us that there were 5,000 men besides women and children. The message is, “Do not underestimate what Jesus can do with what we have”. That is quite important. Both Philip and Andrew offer what would seem to be a realistic assessment of the situation. It tells us that often we make cautious estimations of what is possible – without taking into account the most important factor of all which is the power of Jesus. That redefines what is possible. There is also something else that is shown here. We offer what we have in order for Jesus to take it and do something remarkable. The boy offered what he had – five loaves and two fishes and Jesus took them and made it possible to feed all those people. What can we offer to Jesus? Our time and talents maybe? Or other resources perhaps? If we offer them, Jesus can take them and do something miraculous. If we don’t then the opportunity does not arise. It might have seemed naïve for the child to offer his small lunch in the face of so much need, but it was that which seemed inadequate that Jesus took and made abundant. Sometimes we feel that what we have to offer is totally inadequate – this tells us otherwise. If we offer all that we have, it is enough.
In the Roman Empire, there was a system of keeping the general population content and compliant. It could be boiled down to “Bread and Circuses”. If you kept the populace happy with food and entertainment, then they would be broadly content. But was this what Jesus all about? This brings us on to the the second thing which is the response of the crowds. It is a cautionary tale in a sense. The people took the attitude of, “what can we get out of the miracle worker? A perpetual free lunch?” They wanted to crown him king simply because of what he could provide for them. It turns on its head the idea of grace and instead turns Jesus into a sort of Amazon to provide what we want, when we want. This has been the source of heresies over the years and begs the question, are we there to glorify God, or is our chef end to be glorified by God? It is this latter that cause Jesus to retreat from the crowds.
My sister-in-law is one of the most hospitable people you will ever meet. When we visit her, the table groans with all sorts of goodies which take into account the preferences of all who are her guests. It is a mental picture that is brought up whenever I think of the generosity of the feeding of the 5.000. It is not just that the people are fed – that in itself is a miracle but how they are fed. We are told that, when the left overs were collected there was enough to fill twelve baskets. God does not just give us enough, but more than enough. It brings to mind the line from Psalm 23, “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows”. God provides grace in great abundance.
Sometimes, the task that we feel called to do seems more than we are able. But Jesus can take what we have and make it much more, but we have to be prepared to offer what we have in order for it to be transformed by Jesus. We do have to remember though that the purpose in all that we do, and indeed what Jesus does is to glorify God. But what we have is the Grace of God – in such generosity that it is more than we can ever need and offered freely.
Prayers of intercession
We pray for the homeless,
that they will have opportunities to find a place to stay,
and to get back their sense of self-worth…
We pray for the unemployed,
that they will have opportunities to gain necessary skills,
and not feel that society doesn’t care…
We pray for anyone in our congregation
going through hard times;
help us to help them, and to show them your love…
We pray for anyone who is sick or suffering,
anyone feeling withered
or drained of the life blood they need…
We pray for children/people
coming into membership of our church family,
that they may quickly feel welcomed
and feel a sense of belonging…
We pray for anyone who does not know your love,
that you will bring them into contact with a branch of your tree.
Lord, we pray that they might be rooted and established in love.
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