Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Feeding of the five thousand - signs

Feeding of the five thousand (2)

The next day, only the next day, just an evening has passed and the crowd who were so amply fed with five loaves and two fish are up and about wondering where the disciples and more especially Jesus had got to. As we heard last week the disciples left in the only boat to re-cross the sea while Jesus went up the mountain on their side of the lake to pray. So where was he?

Taking advantage of some passing traffic they hitched a lift to the other side of lake Galilee and found Jesus there. It was a good idea, Jesus had fed them supper and now it was breakfast time ; follow this man and all will be well. The story is well told, like my grandchild who comes into the kitchen mid morning to ask “nanny, have you been out today?” who really means “have you been to the sweet shop? “ they approach their question stealthily. “Ah, Jesus when did you come here?”

But Jesus discerns all “You are not here because of the nature of the miracle of my arrival, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Stop working so hard for earthly things, focus on the food that endures, the food I will give you.”

And then comes the staggering question” What sign are you going to gIve us so that we may see it and believe you?  Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, what Jesus are you going to do to show us?”

And suddenly  we are right bang up to date for this question in various forms is asked of us today all the time. “I think there may be a God or something, but how can you be so sure?” or “How can you believe in a God who lets people die in fires in Greece, in California, in floods in Laos? “ “Look at the world around you, if there were a God would it be like this?” “Why doesn’t your God do something about it all?”

We are like the crowd, we do not see the signs already given, we are thirsty for more, fresh not yet seen.

In Spring, for several years we had goose eggs in the garden, white and hard, perhaps slightly dirty, warmed by the mother bird and then at a certain unforeseen time, a crack would appear and from this tough inanimate object would emerge a small soft, fluffy  yellow gosling. Just one sign of creation, just one tiniest crumb of all that we have been given. We could fill our days with examples of the miracles of creation, with the things that we know, with the things that others know and surely the innumerable things that no-one yet knows. We could feed five thousand and have twelve overflowing baskets of wonders and yet we ask

“Give us a sign”

Let us believe in him who has been sent.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Feeding of the five thousand - gathering in

Feeding of the five thousand - gathering in

On the way into church each person takes a small piece of Lego

In the room which because of its history we call the studio, and which others more accurately consider a shed there was a great deal of Lego - four childrens’ worth and some extra from grandchildren and others. Now long since indistinguishable as star wars spaceships or pirates of the Caribbean or airplanes or helicopters but there in a profusion of multicoloured fragments a little scattered, helter skelter; once they nourished the minds of young people but now with the boys filled and satisfied with jobs and degrees there are these crumbs remaining. We have come at last to empty the room for a remodelling and I gathered the little pieces carefully, not wishing to miss a brick or wheel or little arm or hand.

How often have we listened to the story of the boy with the five barley loaves and the two fish and marvelled at the seated five thousand being fed as much as they wanted, so much that they were all satisfied and then there being twelve baskets left over? A miracle of God’s grace, generosity and abundance, a power far beyond our fathoming. Yes indeed but there is another image too - he told his disciples:

“Gather up the fragments left over so that nothing may be lost.”

Jesus knew that the bread was a gift from God the Father so it is precious and for this reason he asks his disciples to gather it in. Imagine for a moment then that you are on that lake shore, a witness to the miracle, how carefully would you collect the crumbs? (As we shall hear next week, the crowd barely understood but the disciples must have done for to find twelve baskets of leftovers must surely take care and diligence. “Why bother?” we might ask, we could have left the crumbs for the sparrows, was it to emphasise the scale of the miracle? It has always seemed that way, but looking more closely Iprefer to think now that this is a figure, an image a teaching in its own right.

This sixth chapter of John’s Gospel contains an often quoted passage: “Jesus said to them I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” supported by the preceding image of the feeding of the five thousand and he goes on to say:

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me.”

Supported by this image of gathering in. Jesus will lose nothing of all Gos has given him but will raise it up on the last day.

So, if you are wondering, if you are feeling inadequate, or broken, unsure or conflicted remember the fragments of bread : Each one of us is a gift from heaven, each one of us may be gathered in wherever we are through the grace, love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

As we spend a moment thinking about how precious we must be to God,, please put your fragment of Lego into the baskets that are being passed round - add your piece to the corruscating, vibrancy and colourful whole.