The Eighth Sunday after Trinity  2 August 2020

Collect

Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern
both our hearts and bodies
in the ways of your laws
and the works of your commandments;
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,
we may be preserved in body and soul;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Amen

Gospel Reading - Matthew 14:13-21 

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Sermon Revd Dr Lorna Allies

Matthew 14:14-21   Feeding the 5000.

The story of the five loaves and fish is a stupendous miracle. All four Gospel writers considered this a significant miracle. 

Many commentators and even theologians have tried to diminish this miracle but to do that is to diminish Christ himself.  Hearing and reading the story I am inevitably taken back to when I was seven.  I was attending Sunday School in a rather ancient tin hut.  On this day we had a visitor, a vicar from another church.   He talked about this story and told us that it wasn’t a miracle at all because everyone had brought their own sandwiches with them.  There was no miracle he said just the wisdom of Jesus who knew that once someone shared they would all share.  I knew he wasn’t telling me the truth.

There were 5000 men that day together with women and children; their families.  We are talking about upwards of 10,000 individuals.  They were not there for a picnic.  They hadn’t carefully wrapped up their lunch in clingfilm before they left. Maybe a few, a very few, had brought some provision but that is not what those people were doing there. 

C. S. Lewis , in his Miracles book ,points out that God is constantly multiplying fish and  grain as part of his creation -  every year, every season.  Our world is a constant miracle of growth and, if we were able to leave it alone, of great abundance.  Jesus blessed the meagre food they had and time was shifted a little and grain and fish were multiplied and multiplied until all were fed.  An amazing miracle.

Let’s go there on that day:

Jesus had earlier withdrawn in a boat to a deserted place by himself.  He had heard that his cousin John, John the Baptist, had been killed by Herod Antipas.  John’s own disciples had come to Jesus to tell him.  They had recently collected their leader’s body and the sadness of burying just the headless body of someone you loved and followed can hardly be imagined.  It will have been a real blow to Jesus and a terrible sadness – he had needed to be alone for a while.  He had taken a boat across to the North Eastern shore.

Whilst he was away on his own, the crowd had followed; walking around the shore of the Sea of Galilee to find Jesus.  They had walked a long way. The crowds were mostly poor people.  They were living in a land occupied by a ferocious and cruel power, the Roman Empire.  Many will have been fearful and afraid. Many were sick and being helped by supporters. Many will have been followers of John and were dealing with their grief.

Then Jesus comes ashore and, whilst himself stricken with grief, his response to the people is one of compassion and he joins them and heals those who are sick. There are so many there that you can imagine Jesus, with the disciples, walking quietly between them, speaking to small groups.  Everyone getting a chance to catch a glimpse of him, get near to him.  And that day, that evening what those crowds find when they finally get to see Jesus is compassion, hope, welcome and hospitality.

When it is nearly evening the disciples become concerned for Jesus. They suggest the people are hungry and that he sends them away to get food.   But Jesus says, ‘you feed them’ and their response is five loaves and two fish  - a small thing – but Jesus will make it enough to feed all the thousands of people there.   Jesus does not expect those people to help themselves – he expects his disciples to help them.   They do distribute the food and there is enough, enough and more than enough to feed everyone.  It is a true miracle. 

Thinking back to my seven year old self, I realise that all my life the world has almost ceased to believe in miracles.  Somehow they seem almost forgotten as if miracles were something that only happened in the distant past.

But today, we are like those thousands of people who were with Jesus. Our world has abruptly changed and we are dislocated and uncertain of our future; living a kind of half life, neither locked down nor free.  Many are sick and just as on that evening on the shore of Galilee, we are hungry.  There are over 690 million people today who are badly undernourished and in food poverty; because of conflicts, climate change, economic slowdown and the pandemic.  There are many who, also poor, are hungry because they are having to buy cheap and unwholesome junk food which only renders them more hungry and very unhealthy.  We live in an unbalanced, hungry world.

More than ever we need a miracle.  We need to believe that miracles can happen.  Let us pray:

Lord, you say the word, bless the food and feed 5000 with five loaves and two fish.  We are like those people stranded and hungry on the beach in the evening and we ask for a miracle.  Let this time end, let justice prevail and your abundant generosity and compassion be shared with all the world.  Help us, your disciples, to play our part.  Amen.

 

Intercessions, written by Linda Pountain

Let us pray to God, our creator and sustainer, trusting in his love and abundant goodness, bringing to him the needs of the church and of the world.

Loving God, you cared deeply for the needs of the hungry, feeding the crowd of 5000 with five loaves and two fish.   We pray for all who hunger and thirst today: for people of East Africa whose crops are being destroyed by locusts and for people living in refugee camps and those in the war torn countries of the Yemen, Syria and South Sudan, now also facing the deadly threat of Covid-19 with fragile medical resources available to them.   We ask you to bless the work of Christian Aid and the other aid agencies bringing relief to the suffering.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Loving God, we thank you for the food and water that we take for granted and for all who work to produce and supply it.   We pray for those in our country who struggle to feed their families, those who have lost their jobs, are on low incomes and are dependent on food banks.   Bless all working to meet their needs and fill us all with compassion and a willingness to share what we have with those in need.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Loving God, bless the church throughout the world as it takes careful steps to follow health guidelines and to gather again for worship and to celebrate the meal which strengthens and renews us.    We ask your blessing on Archbishop Justin, on Bishop Graham and the leaders of our sister churches and on our ministry team at St Peter’s.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Loving God, we pray for all school children in these weeks before they return to school.   After the difficult period of home schooling and separation from their friends, may they enjoy some fun and relaxation.   Bless their teachers, that they too may enjoy rest and renewal.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Loving God, you show compassion to all who suffer.   We hold before you all in any sort of need, trouble, sorrow or sickness: for those who are bereaved and those who hunger for friendship or meaning in their lives.   From our own community we pray for Pam, Simon, Janet, Angela, Martin and Val.

May they know your love and healing presence.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Loving God, grant refreshment, light and peace to those who now rest in your love.   We pray for all who have died recently and on the anniversary of their deaths we remember with love Isabel Self, Winifred Mitchell, Freda Bulldeath and Maurice Benison

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Merciful Father,

accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.    Amen