Sunday reflection July 25th

 

 

John 6:1-21

 

I grew up in a Baptist Church in Nottingham and my Grandmother led the Thursday Afternoon Fellowship which was a bit like the Guild. From being in a pram, to being a teenager I spent a lot of time around that group of, I guess, forty or so older women. They were experts at off the cuff prayers and church teas. These were big annual events that took a lot of planning. I have some of my Gran’s note books from that time, where she wrote down what she was going to say each Thursday. In the back of one is a list of what they needed to order to feed, quote “about 100 people (some left over)” for the Rally tea on June 7th 1990-

 

10 sliced white loaves, 7 large wholemeal loaves , 5 boxes of marg,1 pound of butter ,3 pounds of best ham, 2 pounds of lean roast pork ,1.5 pounds of tongue,1 pound of cheese (grated), 10 bottles of milk, cakes provided by ten ladies, and in capital letters, because it was so important - 10 large tins of pink salmon.

 

Also in the notebooks are my Grans reminders to herself to ask for volunteers before the rally, to thank people after the rally and to ask for gifts to cover the cost of providing the tea. And these were poor people. Most of them I remember, used to stockpile, particularly the salmon and dry ingredients for the cakes or put a bit of money aside for the tea throughout the year. Most of all, the notebooks are full of countdown reminders to the ladies to pray for the rally. “Five weeks to go, pray that it will be a day to remember!”

 

You can probably see where I am going with this! Those church teas of my childhood, the planning, the sacrifice, the production line of older ladies often in hats, making sandwiches all morning in the Primary Sunday School room, the massive metal teapots, all that tinned salmon, mixed with butter so it went further, always pop into my mind when I read these stories of Jesus feeding, not 100, but 5,000, in an instant, on a hillside. It’s not the comparison of the numbers that gets my attention. After all, it would still be a miracle to feed 100 people with five loaves and two fish. Rather, it’s the difference in preparedness in the people who were interested in Jesus. The annual church teas took the ladies of the church Thursday afternoon fellowship most of a year to prepare for, both practically and spiritually. The large crowd who followed Jesus up the mountain, didn’t prepare at all. It seems that only one of the 5,000 thought about what they were going to eat and took something with them.

 

One of the features of our lives at the moment is that we need to be more prepared than we have probably ever been. When you go out you have to remember your face mask and hand sanitiser. If there is the possibility you might want to eat in a cafe or restaurant or visit somewhere while you are out you have to pre-book. You have to think about whether you are going to a crowded space or be on a crowded bus and how many of you are going to meet up. And, of course, you also have to be prepared now for the consequences of going anywhere; of the possibility of being pinged and told to self-isolate because you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for covid. Think for a moment how lovely it would be to hear that someone famous had just arrived in town and to simply decide there and then to go and join the crowds to listen to what they had to say without having to give it any thought. We used to be able to do that.

 

The second story in our reading today also has people who were fascinated by Jesus doing something without being prepared. It gets to night-time and a group of Jesus’ disciples decide they want to be back on the other side of the lake. So they simply jump in a boat and head off. They are without their leader and they haven’t given much thought to the weather conditions but they go anyway. Reckless and stupid maybe, careless, unconcerned, a bit nonchalant definitely. Some of us find that sort of behaviour relatively easy. We are quite good at starting out at something not quite knowing where it’s going to end up. We quite like a bit of serendipity in life. We find people who want to write detailed strategic plans for the next 10 years a bit odd. We always have, and if the pandemic has taught us anything, we say, none of us has a clue what’s just round the corner and how flexible and open to change we will need to be.

 

And then there is Jesus, sitting waiting for the crowds to arrive or heading off to meet up with the disciples on the boat. Jesus who probably doesn’t have to feed the people who gather to hear him speak, but does. Jesus who probably doesn’t have to join his friends in the boat as they get to the next stage in the journey, but does. Jesus, who goes to extraordinary, miraculous lengths to provide people with the two of the basics of life; something to eat and a community of friends with a sense of purpose. Perhaps we traditionally focus too much on the how of Jesus’ actions - how did He feed 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes? How did He walk on water in a storm? Perhaps we don’t think enough about what He does.

 

There’s a lot that is still very different at the moment. There’s a lot that this pandemic has changed, possibly for ever. There’s a lot that we have all done that we never thought we would do, or perhaps even imagined we were capable of doing. And we’ve all had different reactions to that. What has bothered some of us, others have taken in their stride. Perhaps having to be more prepared, and plan daily life more than we have ever had to do, has changed you in your soul and spirit. Perhaps you have found it to be a way of living life that’s actually quite nice. Perhaps you find it constraining and live with a constant rumbling sense of impatience and irritation. Perhaps there are areas in your life where you are more unconcerned, more nonchalant than you have ever been. Whatever of those is true for you I want to encourage you to think more on what Jesus does when He meets two groups of people also struggling with all this stuff about planning, being prepared, albeit from the other extreme. Jesus sorts out the immediate practical physical need of food and He sorts out the immediate spiritual need of having a sense of purpose. That’s a real Saviour. Not a magician wowing people with miraculous feats. Someone who notices peoples basic, practical needs and does something about them and someone who notices peoples basic spiritual needs and does something about that. That’s the actions of a loving liberator. So I wonder what that sort of salvation, that action of Jesus would look like in your life at the moment, and what it would look like in the life of our community.

 

My grandmother’s notes to herself for the Thursday meeting after the Rally make a fabulous read The joy sort of jumps off the page. There is a great big list of thanks for, and I quote, “tables that looked beautiful with tempting displays of sandwiches and cakes, a tremendous afternoon which went to plan as we had prayed with beautiful singing and an excellent message”. In capital letters “thanks to everyone whatever you gave and did”. But most of all a thanks to God for God’s presence and blessing. Whatever your week holds, whether you feel prepared or not prepared, may you know the sheer joy of the presence of Jesus the saviour who loves each and everyone of us enough to care about even our basic needs for food and a sense of purpose. Amen.

 

Saving God, of the hillside and the lake,

of the crowds and the quiet moments,

Of the things we call miracles and the things we ignore because they are so normal,

We thank you.

 

We thank you for exciting things and memories of exciting occasions,

For events which have lifted our spirits and helped us to learn some more about you

For friends and teams of people to work with on a task

For the peace that comes when we know we have done a good job.

 

We thank you for the people we spend our time with,

For the people we turn to help us celebrate and to help us grieve

For this community in this church, in this place

For the people in the wider community of Corstorphine who are so eager to share their skills

To laugh with those who laugh and to weep with those who weep.

 

We thank you for the times when we have had more than we needed

And for the times when we have been in need for the basic things in life

And we have been helped.

 

Saving God we pray for ourselves and for others

For those of us who today will be hungry and not have a good meal

For those of us who today feel little sense of purpose

and long for someone or something to follow

For those of us in danger and distress of any kind.

Saving God before we assume a miracle will happen

may we be people who generously share

Our resources, our time, our wisdom and our motivation.

 

We pray for those of us who experience suffering because they have too much

Too much pain, too much anxiety, too much to do, or to much to bear

We particularly think this week of those around the world experiencing too much heat or rain.

 

And as we start out on a new week we pray for the grace

To be people who know when to plan and get ready

And when to set out not knowing what will happen

To be people confident in our own skills and goodness

And people confident in the skills and goodness of others.

 

God, give us grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

 

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

 

We ask all these things in the name of Christ our saviour saying together the prayer he taught us;

 

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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