This sermon was given by Rev Debby Plummer on Sunday 5 August 2018.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
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.
It is sometimes difficult to see a bible story which is so familiar and which we probably knew as children – to see this as adults with fresh eyes. Last Sunday we heard John’s version of the Feeding of the 5000. There was the beautiful touch that it was a boy’s packed lunch which Jesus multiplied into a huge and simple feast of bread and fish for at least 5000 people. So that detail expanded into “anyone’s offering however small can become a huge offering when God / Jesus receives it”.
You could apply that to any offering you make to God for his use. Think widow’s mite …. but also your talents and gifts – given by God and with your graft added to them . God invisibly adds huge value to your offerings here at St Margaret’s / St George’s.
But the story of Feeding 5000 is much richer and complex and today’s continuation of last week’s story proves that there is so much more to say …..
One thing is that Jesus is truly God. Each of the great signs in John’s Gospel is accompanied by Jesus saying who he is. IAM – Jahweh – the name of God. After this great miracle, sign, Jesus says I AM the bread of life. You remember God sending MANNA from heaven – daily, twice on Friday so no need to gather on Saturday – food for the wilderness straight from heaven. Well, I AM the bread from heaven from now on. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever, will have eternal life, and the bread I will give is my flesh. Jesus is our food. He fuels us, he nourishes us, he energises us. We need never hunger or thirst for God again.
And profoundly true – he does this through this beautiful service of Holy Communion (being built into a community of grace by the Holy God ). And there are plenty of clues that St John wants us to think of communion when we remember the story of feeding the 5000.
First of all, the Passover is near – the holy meal of redemption for the Jews, and the foundation for the Last Supper.
And there are the great actions which we hear mentioned in the great thanksgiving prayer of consecration – the eucharistic prayer – every time we come to communion. Andrew brought the boy, the boy offered the bread – Jesus gave thanks ….. he broke the bread ….. the bread was shared ….. the leftovers were gathered up and treated with reverence and respect …..
Later in John’s Gospel, we will find there is no account of the Last Supper, just that Jesus shares Passover. It is as though this great sign of feeding the 5000 is given us so we understand what the bread of communion is for – it is God sending us bread from heaven, to energise, to nourish and to fuel us. It is Jesus who offers himself as a sacrifice
However John does give us another wonderful I AM at the Last Supper – Jesus says I AM the true vine, and talks about how if we abide in him he abides in us – and abide means live. The wine of Communion makes it possible for us to live in Jesus and for Jesus to live in us. We become inseparable. And because we are all united with Jesus, we become inseparable from one another too.
We know that Jesus said “Do this to remember me”. Together with his other commandments, love one another, love God and neighbour as you love yourself, love your enemies – this is massively important to us as Christians. All Christians must keep Jesus’ new commandments.
For many Xns, the way they live out “Do this to remember me” is for every service to be a communion, probably called Mass or the Liturgy. Mass both means a feast – like the officers’ MESS – and also that we are sent out from it to be X’s body in the world, transforming the world for God. And the Liturgy means the people’s work.
Other Xns interpret Jesus’ commandment to say that all meals are sacred and times to remember Jesus’ saving death. The Salvation Army would be an example.
Some Xns have very few Communions but expect the whole church family to turn up when it is communion, because it is such a solemn and momentous occasion. The Presbyterians have been like this.
For us Anglicans and for our Methodist friends, we have both Communion services and services of the word. Both are good worship. We can be fed by Jesus in prayer as well as in eucharist / holy communion. But there is a deep potency in communion.
Francis McNutt …. story about the healing of a child placed under the table during mass in a remote area of Mexico …..
Jeremy and I ….. end of a music and worship conference at Lee Abbey – 2 women’s testimonies to spontaneous healing during the final service . Important that in neither case did anyone ask God verbally for healing. It was grace gift of God. At that time heaven and earth were one – the line from Jesus’ prayer “on earth as it is in heaven” was a reality.
Dom Gregory Dix – famous passage ….. copies left for people to read.
I think this is why eating with Jesus happens so prominently in the Resurrection stories – right across the gospels.
Here in John’s Gospel – breakfast on the beach Jesus meets the 7 disciples/apostles in the context of work – Peter recognises Jesus and dresses to plunge in the water and wade to land. Jesus is their host as they share fish and bread. Hospitality, grace, reconciliation and commissioning of Peter…. In Gospel of Luke – Emmaus story. Expectancy rises as Cleopas and his friend share the long walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus with a stranger and the stranger is revealed as Jesus and recognised in the breaking of bread.
Does it matter whether we recognise Jesus or not? On one level, no! Matthew 25 (sheep and goats parable) “When did we see you and feed or help or visit you, Lord?” “Whenever you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me”. Mother Teresa in Calcutta recognised Jesus in the homeless street people,
Story told by Sister Sue CSF re breakfast …. it still nourishes us even if we don’t think about eating it.
But it seems to me that God is calling us to spot where he is active, where Jesus is acting in our lives and the lives of others, to recognise him in action.
Christian mindfulness – being watchful and alert – look out for God. Our WCCM Meditation group – use the mantra “maranatha”. Watch out for God. Come Lord . In the Huddersfield group 2 Thursdays ago, the quality of shared silence and watchfulness seemed very deep. The experience is not all about me / us. It is all about the Lord Jesus Christ and as John the Baptist said “he must increase and I must decrease”.
What do we do with the moments of recognition? Talk about them – they are our testimony ….. we share to grow in confidence and we share to grow one another’s faith. What are the contexts where this can happen? Writing for the Church magazine, in prayer and study groups, in private conversations with friends or family ….
Recognising Jesus – sovereignly and in each other – is about how we view one another. If he lives in us and we in him – if he abides in us and we abide in him – whether we know it or not – then each one of us is of infinite value. Profoundly lovable and profoundly loved. Amen.