This week we have a miraculous feeding (see, not just the five thousand and Jesus - there's the 2 Kings account and I'd have to say that manna in the desert was another miraculous feeding too, wouldn't you?). The account is rather good because we start off by realising that all too often we look with the eyes of man rather than of God and those who have faith in Him. How do each of us do with that I wonder?
And then, what else could we have but the feeding of the five thousand itself? A creation miracle that demonstrated to the people how Jesus was just a little more than a teacher. For me this is always an interesting passage because after Jesus has fed the folk he leaves them and they seek Him out and follow Him.
'Why are you following me? You do it because you got fed but I have more than that ...'
The accounts of the manna and of Elisha and the twenty loaves and the feeding of the five thousand all speak of people being fed: But there is more than that because were we to continue with the John passage (the 'bread discourse') we would realise that Jesus leads them to the 'true bread' - Himself!
The two readings from the lectionary ask the question, 'Who do you think Jesus is?' and then challenge us to be filled with His incorruptible presence; spiritually and physically in the Eucharist. So my prayer for us all today is that we might encounter, recognise and be filled with Jesus, the Christ, that living bread who is the bread of life.
Now where we are we are studying 1 Corinthians and so we'll visit that passage as see how Paul speaks of 'being all things to all people'. He makes himself acceptable to those around him so that he can communicate the Gospel BUT he, as I understand it, never compromises that Gospel nor condones or approves of that which cannot be condoned or approved.
This is an important lesson for us all because all too often we fail to engage with people around us because they (or we) are different or live by different rules or have different coloured skins and so on. Empathy and being 'safe' for those with whom we engage is important but we must never compromise ourselves or the message we bring and must never put aside who we are to appear like others either. No, what Paul does is come alongside people with understanding and the ability to speak their language - something that the Church needs to rediscover if it is to have any truly valid and vibrant ministry.
So who do you know who needs someone to come alongside (for coming alongsidedness: parakletos, is what the Holy Spirit does with us) and encourage, support and enable? have a think and pray about how you might be able to speak their language and maintain that difference which has been won for you by the cross of Christ.
The second part of the Corinthians passage is fitting for me because I'm struggling to get any faster with my running and I so dearly want to be able to cross the line within the time I have been allotted. Around me are people who are training hard and spinning time testing and training their bodies and yet when it comes to doing that for our spiritual body, we Christians are so often the epitome of the cartoon couch potato.
Those who run train to control their bodies so that they might win the prize. Those who run the course of the Christian life expect to win because of Grace rather than discipline and discipleship. What do you preach and how do you live?
So three gentle verses with a good connection regarding the bread of life and a challenge regarding witness and being fit to do it. How will you respond to them today and during the coming week?
Your Son left the riches of heaven and became poor for our sake:
When we prosper save us from pride,
When we are needy save us from despair,
That we may trust in you alone; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
2 Kings 4.42-44
“A man came from Baal Shalishah. He brought the man of God 20 loaves of barley bread. They had been baked from the first grain that had ripened. The man also brought some heads of new grain. “Give this food to the people to eat,” Elisha said.“How can I put this in front of 100 men?” his servant asked.But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. Do it because the Lord says, ‘They will eat and have some left over.’ ” Then the servant put the food in front of them. They ate it and had some left over. It happened just as the Lord had said it would.”
1 Corinthians 9:19 - 27
“I am free and don’t belong to anyone. But I have made myself a slave to everyone. I do it to win as many as I can to Christ. To the Jews I became like a Jew. That was to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one who was under the law. I did this even though I myself am not under the law. That was to win those under the law. To those who don’t have the law I became like one who doesn’t have the law. I did this even though I am not free from God’s law. I am under Christ’s law. Now I can win those who don’t have the law. To those who are weak I became weak. That was to win the weak. I have become all things to all people. I have done this so that in all possible ways I might save some. I do all this because of the good news. And I want to share in its blessings.
In a race all the runners run. But only one gets the prize. You know that, don’t you? So run in a way that will get you the prize. All who take part in the games train hard. They do it to get a crown that will not last. But we do it to get a crown that will last forever. So I do not run like someone who doesn’t run toward the finish line. I do not fight like a boxer who hits nothing but air. No, I train my body and bring it under control. Then after I have preached to others, I myself will not break the rules. If I did break them, I would fail to win the prize.”
John 6:1 - 21
“Some time after this, Jesus crossed over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. It is also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd of people followed him. They had seen the signs he had done by healing sick people. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside. There he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him. So he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test Philip. He already knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Suppose we were able to buy enough bread for each person to have just a bite. That would take more than half a year’s pay!” Another of his disciples spoke up. It was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He said, “Here is a boy with five small loaves of barley bread. He also has two small fish. But how far will that go in such a large crowd?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down. About 5,000 men were there. Then Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks. He handed out the bread to those who were seated. He gave them as much as they wanted. And he did the same with the fish. When all of them had enough to eat, Jesus spoke to his disciples. “Gather the leftover pieces,” he said. “Don’t waste anything.” So they gathered what was left over from the five barley loaves. They filled 12 baskets with the pieces left by those who had eaten. The people saw the sign that Jesus did. Then they began to say, “This must be the Prophet who is supposed to come into the world.” But Jesus knew that they planned to come and force him to be their king. So he went away again to a mountain by himself.
When evening came, Jesus’ disciples went down to the Sea of Galilee. There they got into a boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. By now it was dark. Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing, and the water became rough. They rowed about three or four miles. Then they saw Jesus coming toward the boat. He was walking on the water. They were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then they agreed to take him into the boat. Right away the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”
Post Communion Prayer
Strengthen for service, Lord,
the hands that have taken holy things;
may the ears which have heard your word be deaf to clamour and dispute;
may the tongues which have sung your praise be free from deceit;
may the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love shine with the light of hope;
and may the bodies which have been fed with your body
be refreshed with the fullness of your life;