A reflection for the 25th July 2021
Eighth Sunday after Trinity 2021
Offered for Sunday 25th July 2021
'Eighth Sunday after Trinity 2021'
Marley was dead:
to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk,
the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it:
and Scrooge's name was good upon
'Change, for anything he chose to put his hands to.
Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge,
what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have
been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece
of ironmongery in the trade.
But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile;
and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for.
You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was
as dead as a door-nail...
The mention of Marley's funeral brings me back to the point I started from.
There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood,
or nothing wonderful can come out of the story I am going to relate....
So starts one of my most favourite stories from the pen of Charles Dickens
'A Christmas Carol!' Taking a small liberty with these opening words,
The mention of Jesus' miracles brings me to make the point!
There is no doubt Jesus' miracles are as recorded in scripture.
This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can
come out of the pages of The New Testament.....
I make this point strongly and passionately
for example if you take 'The Feeding of the 5000' and reduce it, as suggested,
in a handbook for Methodist 'Local Preachers' as a 'Miracle of Sharing!'
Basically, the amassed crowds were so inspired by the words of Jesus and the
generosity of the small boys offering the crowd were moved to share with each other
all they had brought with them, begs the question;
"Where do you stop in denying the miracles' of Jesus?"
Do you reduce the healing of the blind man in John Chapter 9 to a miracle of hygiene
and offering a white stick or the 'Miracle of Woman with the Issue of Blood' in Luke
Chapter 8 as the beginning of the end of her menopause!
Acceptance of the narrative of what Christ did can be challenging and upset our
logical minds but I would argue the alternative to attempt to explain them away
leaves you with more issues and questions.
To understand my thoughts and reflections on the Miracles' of Jesus,
'This must be distinctly understood'
I believe the biblical narratives to be true and to quote loosely Billy Graham,
'What I can't understand by reason and logic I accept by faith'....
Let us Pray
Thank you, Lord,
for the pages of Scripture and the accuracy of the narrative
as you entered into our humanity through Jesus.
Thank you for scriptures ability
to give us each day new vision and new Power:
Thank you for scriptures capacity
to enter into our minds and spirits,
refreshing them and fashioning them anew:
Thank you for scriptures power
to bring faith to birth and to sustain it:
Thank you, Lord, for the Scriptures,
Through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
It was a good question; for the disciples then, and for us today.
Where are we to obtain bread? Living bread by which to live?
And what value do we put on it? The writer Victor Hugo tells the story of how,
just after the French Revolution, a French army corporal and an officer come across
a woman and two young children hiding in some bushes. They are obviously very
frightened and appear to be starving. The officer takes a loaf of bread from his
knapsack and gives it to the woman.
She immediately breaks it in two and gives half to each of the children,
but leaves none for herself. As the children tear ravenously at the bread
the corporal looks at his officer and says, "Is that because she's not hungry?"
"No," replies the officer, "it's because she is a mother."
Whether the bread was stale or not living mattered little to the woman.
What mattered to her was her children were being fed. For Jesus, up a mountain
in Galilee, something similar mattered, although on a different scale of human need.
Approaching him was a large crowd, not just attracted by the stories of his healing
powers, but a crowd motivated against their hated Roman masters.
A practical problem, though, was looming.
Sometime soon they would all need something to eat. Providentially, a little boy
was there with his packed lunch but everyone knew; five barley loaves and two
fish would not go very far among 5,000 plus people.
Everyone, that is, except Jesus.
What happened next is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and in many ways the most meaningful,
pointing both forward and back in time.
It points back to God's miraculous feeding of Israel in the desert,
the raining of manna from heaven as described in Exodus.
It points forward to what Jesus did with the five loaves and the two fish.
He gave thanks, and gave the food to the people.
Just as he did at the Last Supper with his disciples.
The Gospel narrative tells us everyone's hunger was satisfied. Not only that,
there was food left, more than they started with, and the 12 baskets
containing the leftovers were left by the departing and satisfied crowd.
The leftovers are also significant; they constitute the real message of the miracle.
Heavenly food is food that lasts; the food of eternal life. It has an inherent sufficiency;
always with something left over. If we have a need, God will provide.
And not only sufficiency, but heavenly food has synergy; the end product is greater
than the sum of the whole. The parts have an energy by which they replicate,
multiply themselves and overflow. This is how the multiplied loaves can all be
understood, not just the result of an act of compassion by Jesus to satisfy
the crowd's physical needs.
God's abundance is for all our needs, not just the needs of our stomachs.
We will never run out of the bread of heaven.
The future will take care of itself, will be alright for our children as long as we are not
greedy today. God doesn't approve of stockpiling for our own benefit to the detriment
of others' needs.
God dislikes any tendency to grasp and hoard, to own and not to share.
As we leave my dulcet tones to one side, the "real world" will call us!
We will have had our spiritual food and lots of earthly food awaits;
arguably too much of it for some.
But we can count on God's spiritual nourishment; the bread of heaven;
being available to us on a 24/7 basis, not just one day in seven.
God's will is the bread and the word be available to all;
to millions of people in infertile and impoverished places,
not just to those in green and pleasant lands.
Jesus' insistence that all the fragments should be picked up
from the ground, that nothing should be left behind, is symbolic of his
intention that no soul should be lost to the kingdom of heaven.
The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand points back to God's
miraculous provision of manna to the hungry Israelites in the desert.
Jesus' consecration of the bread point's forward to the Last Supper
and to the celebration of the Eucharist in churches today.
Everyone's hunger was satisfied and there was food left over,
more than was available at the beginning.
The end product of God's provision is greater than
the constituent parts.
God's abundant provision is for all our needs;
physical, mental and spiritual.
The nourishment of the bread of heaven
is available at all times and to all people.
Praise God because day by day
he gives us bread to nourish us.
Praise God because he can such small things
like five loaves to help others.
May we; as small as we are,
give ourselves to God to be used by him,
And the blessing.....