Sunday 2nd August 2020

9th Sunday after Pentecost

 

Let us sit quietly for a moment or two before we begin worship,

And think about our journey here today,

And how we are feeling now.

Are we ready to give God our full attention

And worship him?

Then let us come to share in God’s love,

To lift our hearts in worship

And to seek God’s blessing with a new, and deeper experience,

Of his power and generosity.

 

Hymn

CH4 96

1. You are before me God, you are behind,

And over me you have spread out your hand;

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

Too high to grasp, too great to understand.

 

2. Then from your Spirit where, God, shall I go,

And from your presence where, God, shall I fly?

If I ascend to heaven you are there,

And still are with me, if in hell I lie.

 

3. If I should take my flight into the dawn,

If I should dwell on ocean’s farthest shore,

Your mighty hand will rest upon me still,

And your right hand will guard me evermore,

 

4. If I should say, ‘Let darkness cover me,

And I shall hide within the veil of night’,

Surely the darkness is not dark to you,

The night is as the day, the darkness light.

 

5. Search me O God, search me and know my heart,

Try me O God, my mind and spirit try;

Keep me from any path that gives you pain,

And lead me in the everlasting day.

 

Prayer

Loving Lord,

You look deep into our hearts,

You know not only our outer, but our inner needs.

Have compassion on us we pray,

And feed us from your holy word.

Sometimes, Lord, we don’t listen to your word,

We are easily distracted,

Or we listen, but we go our own way,

Putting ourselves first.

Forgive us Lord, so we can start anew.

Sometimes Lord, we find it difficult to trust you

To meet our needs,

To take care of us,

To feed us spiritually and physically.

Forgive us, Lord so we can start anew.

Sometimes, Lord,

we are unprepared for our journey with you.

Forgive us, Lord, so we can start anew.

Sometimes Lord,

We look for our own way out of a situation,

Instead of seeking and trusting you.

Forgive us, Lord, so we can start anew.

We continue our prayer by praying the words of the Lord’s Prayer…

Our Father, who 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.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil,

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,

For ever and ever,

Amen.

 

Readings

Isaiah 55: 1 – 5

Matthew 14: 13 – 21

 

Reflection

In both of our passages today speak of God’s people needing provision in the wilderness. In both there is a stirring of freedom, of the coming together of people for the journey on which God will take them. Both stories talk of God’s people being freely equipped to meet the needs around them.

 

Isaiah 55: 1 – 5

This passage is a jubilant opening to the middle section of the book of Isaiah: God’s people, who have been in exile are going home and they need supplies for the journey. God comes across a bot like a street vendor offering goods for sale. Unlike the empire that has kept the people poor, God offers them all that they need without any cost – they do not have to hand over money, and the writer contrasts what the empire offers with what God freely supplies (v2). By the middle of verse 3, it becomes clear that all this talk of bread and milk and wine is a metaphor of God’s faithfulness to his chosen servant, Israel. All this will lead, not simply to Israel’s freedom, but also through them to the freedom of countless others.

 

Matthew 14: 13 – 21

This well-known story of the feeding of the five thousand is one that is recorded by all four of the gospel writers. Matthew’s account begins as Jesus hears the news of the death of John the Baptist. Matthew tells us that he withdraws – is he seeking solace in the wilderness, taking stock pf his movement now that John is gone, or simply getting out of Herod’s way? Whatever the reason, the story has a profoundly political location, beginning with the empire acting against Jesus’ movement, and ending with the feeding of an army in the wilderness. In between we are treated to a story of compassion in action, and of the lavish grace of God who loves and provides for all.

The crowds followed Jesus, and his response was to meet their needs. The disciples – maybe keen to ensure that they could meet Jesus’ need – want to send the crowds away. But Jesus challenges them to meet the crowds need for food (v16). Rightly perhaps, the disciples object that they barely have enough food for their own needs (v17). So, Jesus feeds the crowds so that the disciples will learn what compassion looks like, just as much as because they all needed and evening meal.

Although the miracle is the doing of Jesus, the disciples are invited to play their part by making the seating arrangements, distributing the food, and clearing up afterwards. Amazingly five loaves and two fishes become a banquet for 5000 men and unnumbered women and children, with more left over for the disciples than they had started with.

Two strong connotations in this story should not be missed. The first is the reminder of how God provided manna in the wilderness. Matthew does not labour this, but the fact that he describes the place as a wilderness suggests that he has the wanderings of the people of Israel under Moses in mind. And the fact that the crowds are looking to Jesus for leadership perhaps suggests that they see him as a new Moses. The other is the strong echo of Eucharist or Communion - whichever word we  prefer to use – in the language of verse 19b – “He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” Of course, no one in the crowd at that time would have been aware of that, but we are – because we are reading this knowing that the Last Supper became the celebratory meal of our Christian tradition. There is also a strong echo of the messianic banquet of Isaiah 25: here God’s people feast in celebration of the coming of his kingdom and their place in it.

There is perhaps one other comparison that is worth noting. The story immediately before this one was set in a lavish banquet presided over by a self-centred empire building person – Herod – and here, in our story today, we have the opposite. We have another king generously providing for all those who look to him for guidance and leadership in a kingdom of grace and welcome for all.   

        

Prayer

We bring to God our prayers for the Church and for the World.

Lord, we pray for the world,

For your people, for the nations,

For those who are in positions of authority at this difficult time,

Seeking the welfare and safety of the many people

For whom they have responsibility.

We pray for the Church worldwide,

Our brothers and sisters of all denominations,

As we seek your way through these difficult times,

To further your mission and spread the good news of the gospel.

We remember our Muslim brothers and sisters

as they celebrate Ede,

and remember especially those who cannot celebrate

because of Covid 19 restrictions.

We pray for those who are hungry:

For parents who struggle to feed their children, and themselves.

We thank you for those who work to help,

For those who donate, for those who distribute,

And we pray that the resources may continue

To meet so many needs.

We pray for those who are sick,

Whether in body, mind, or spirit,

We give thanks for all who care for them,

Whether at home, in hospital, hospice or care home,

And ask that your strength and your peace will be with them.

We pray for those who mourn,

For those who are alone,

For those who are addicted or abused.

Lord, be with them in their difficult times,

And may we open our eyes to those around us

That we may show them your love.

We pray for those whom we love,

Those who are close to us,

That they may see, through us, your love in their lives.

Loving Lord, may we have the courage and the strength

To spread the good news of your love,

Even in these most difficult of times.

This we pray, in and through Jesus’ name,

Amen.

 

Hymn

1. Praise the Lord who breaks the darkness

With a liberating light.

Praise the one who frees the prisoners

Turning blindness into sight.

Praise the One who preached the gospel,

Curing every dread disease,

Calming storms, and feeding thousands

With the very bread of peace.

2. Praise the One who blessed the children

With a strong, yet gentle word.

Praise the One who drove out demons

With a piercing, two-edged sword.

Praise the One who brings cool water

To the desert’s burning sand;

From this well comes living water,

Quenching thirst in every land.

 

3. Praise the one true love incarnate,

Christ who suffered in our place,

Jesus died and rose for many

That we may know God by grace.

Let us sing for joy and gladness,

Seeing what our God has done.

Praise the one redeeming glory.

Praise the One who makes us one.

  

Blessing

Lord, as you fed the crowd,

So, you have fed us in this time today,

And we go out to live the lives you call us to.

May we be conscious of your timing, your love

And your presence in our lives,

As we reach to those around us