Sunday 2nd August 2020
Good morning and welcome to worship here at MPN.
Whenever and wherever you join us from today we are glad to have you with us.
Remembering when we could gather as a congregation,
we worship now in our own homes.
Remembering how Jesus drew the crowds,
we worship knowing he draws us still in solidarity.
Remembering how Christ fed the hungry,
we worship now for food for the soul, each solitary one of us a part
of that glorious noisy throng.
Reading Matthew 14:13-21
When I was a young person I would spend most Sunday’s at my grandparents. My gran had a trueburn for cooking, a stove that was coal fired. It was the heating system for the kitchen, grans mean of cooking and baking. She could turn simple things into a five-star meal and we often joked she could feed the five thousand as it didn’t matter how many came they would all be welcomed and fed to their fill.
Today in our reading we pick up on Jesus travels. He has just had news that his cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded. So Jesus retreated to a quiet place. Like most of us if we had heard that news, Jesus wanted a place to think and get away from the world. To take stock of life and get away from the everyday things.
But Jesus ministry was attracting attention. The crowds were beginning to hear of his healings and his teaching. Folks were curious and they needed to see for themselves this man that others were talking about. His fame was growing and the crowds began to follow him everywhere.
So no rest for Jesus, as he got out of the boat at his secluded place, the crowds were already there. They had followed on foot from the town. But he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Jesus who had just heard the news of the death of John, who wanted peace and quiet still had time for the people who wanted to be with him. It became late at night and they were in a really remote place, no shops, nowhere to sleep and the disciples were getting anxious. What would happen to the crowd. They say to Jesus:
“This is a remote place, and it’s already late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus knows all about hospitality and he can’t send his guests away, no matter how many of them there are. So he says to the disciples
“You give them something to eat.”
The disciples don’t quite get that they are with Jesus, they have been with him night and day. Witnessed all he has done in their midst but still they look to what they don’t have and don’t lift their eyes to see the bigger picture.
They say to Jesus we only have five loaves and 2 fish.
Jesus blessed them and they all ate and an extra 12 baskets were collected after all had eaten their fill. 5,000 men were counted and with them were women and children.
What a vision of hospitality and multiplication, of taking the little you have and allowing God to use it.
For the last few weeks we have heard about parables, stories to make us think and Jesus using the ordinary things of the day to tell of his new way of kingdom living.
Today we have an enacted parable. Jesus healed the sick, he told the disciples how to walk with people and not to send them away but get alongside them and provide them with hospitality and give them something to eat. The Scottish Presbyterian grannies learned from Jesus, there was always a warm welcome and all would leave full and blessed when they came to visit. That was what Jesus was trying to teach the disciples of his time and our time. A welcome and hospitality go a long way to build relationships and to help build the kingdom.
For Jesus it was about partnership with the disciples, he wasn’t going to do everything for them, he knew the time would come and they would be the hope on earth to spread the gospel and build the kingdom.
So he asks them to go and find the food and he will help them to make sure there is enough. For with Jesus there will always be enough, he has an abundant generosity and those who follow and listen will accept his gifts and be generous with all that they have received.
In our reading today we see this abundance, this sharing and blessing. Jesus taking bread and blessing it and sharing with those who were around them. He invites the crowd to share in his abundant grace. That grace that today we receive. Extend the table and never send folks away.
I don’t know about you but through this lockdown time when we’ve not been meeting in person, I have missed the sacrament of communion. This reading today an early enactment of what was to come at the last supper. Some of my most meaningful communions have been outside. As part of the parish grouping C6 we would meet at Stair Church out in the peace and quiet, removed from all busyness and have a service of communion. In the open air celebrating and remembering Jesus abundant grace which is freely given to us.
We are asked to share in that grace and not to keep it to ourselves. That is what building the kingdom here on earth is all about. That the sharing and the multiplying through the years has built up the kingdom.
As we go forward and out of this time, when we can meet again and are free to meet as many people as before, it will be easy to go back to our old ways. Or even easier to just stay in our self-isolation bubble and be happy not to see too many people. But we’re asked to meet and share and be hospitable and welcoming and to be a blessing to those we encounter.
This time has made us appreciate the things we were blessed with, and it’s the simple things that make up life. The meeting of families, friends, being free to go where we want to and even the basics of food and shelter and being able to share in life with each other.
What do we learn from this very familiar story?
We learn it has a point. We learn it’s a metaphor for the kingdom of heaven. We learn that Jesus is teaching us that if we’re going to be part of the kingdom, then we need to learn how to set the table for others. Its not just about us, all of this food and hospitality. It’s about God, and God’s love for all people, everywhere, regardless of who they are, or where they come from, or what their diseases or stigmas are.
Jesus reminds us that this kingdom of God changes things. That it makes things right, that it puts things as they should be. That it demands faith, selflessness, sharing, care, concern, empathy, compassion, love, mission, and action. That it means living differently, thinking faithfully, acting consciously, demonstrating love.
The question we have to ask ourselves today is – Are we like the disciples who said “send them away” or are we like Jesus who said, “Have them find a seat at the table.”
Because only one answer reflects the kingdom of God. The other reflects the old order of things, the way everyone else does it, the “let’s look out for ourselves” approach.
The downside is that the crowd is a lot of trouble. Some of them are grumpy from hunger. Some are picky eaters. Some want their share and more. Others forget to be grateful, and still others complain about the length of time it takes to be served.
But they’re all invited to the table, all 5,000 of them, along with the missus and the kids. “Come on over and join us for dinner.” That’s the kingdom way. But is it ours?
Lord, you are there for us.
When life leaves us parched or hungry, anxious or weary,
direct us to you—
the source of Holy food.
Reveal yourself as the giver of all that we need.
Physical need is met in what you make ready for us, and intend to make available for all. Spiritual need is met in the giving of yourself for us, and for all people. With the knowledge of such love and generosity, let us go into the world restored and renewed.
As we go into another week with God we go with
The Blessing of God Almighty
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be with you and remain with you and all those you love
Now and always