A congregation gathers on a Sunday morning. There has been a lot of preparation. The altar has been set, bulletins have been printed, the heat turned up. The choir has practiced. Worship begins with The Word: Scripture and sermon, hymns and prayers have challenged and inspired. At God's Table, all come to to be reconciled to God and one another through Christ's body and blood. Renewed and strengthened we are Sent to live into our calling as apostles in the world. But first... the fellowship of coffee hour awaits. The Church, St. Paul said, is the body of Christ and each a member. It's true! Never perfect, filled with all sorts and characters and yet, a beautiful living organism of God's grace.
Let Them Eat2 Kings 4:42-44; John 6:1-21
Abundance flows from the hand of God into the hands of those that serve God by serving others. Rather than going with the Track 1 reading in the lectionary which is the story of David sending Uriah to the frontlines of war so he can snag Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:1-15); I chose Track 2 from 2nd Kings (4:42-44). A mere three verses, this “Miraculous Feeding of the Prophetic Guild” (HarperCollins Study Bible notes, p. 525) closely parallels the gospel story, the miraculous "Feeding of the Five Thousand." Just so you know, Track 1 provides semi-continuous narratives from the Hebrew Scriptures and Track 2 offers ‘complementary’ readings that relate to the Gospel.
In this Old Testament reading, there is a famine in the land of Gilgal where Elisha has returned. A little background on the prophet Elisha is that he is heir to Elijah and in fact has asked and received from Elijah ‘a double portion of Elijah’s Spirit’ as Elijah ascends into heaven (2 Kng. 9-15). Immediately afterwards, Elisha performs a succession of miracles. The miraculous feeding is “last in the series of four miracle stories that witness to Elisha’s wonder-working deeds.” (FotW, Yr B, Vol. 3, p. 267)
An offering of twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain are brought to the prophet. Elisha tells the servant, "Give it to the people and let them eat." The servant is skeptical. How can that amount feed a hundred people? But the prophet knows that with God's help, all things are possible. And so Elisha firmly reiterates, "Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, 'They shall eat and have some left.'" And so it was.
This is just one example of God's abundance in a chapter that is a montage of Elisha's extraordinary deeds: of overflowing oil for a widow who is about to lose her children to creditors, of a child born to a childless woman whose husband is old thus she is likely to lose her sole means of support. Later that same child dies and is resurrected! Lastly before the miraculous feeding - amidst famine, a poisonous pot of stew is detoxified. In each case, Elisha got personally involved in people's lives in a "ministry of life." A ministry of life, of sharing God's abundance with all who are hungry is how Jesus walked and asks us to do likewise.
Read more: This Week's Sermon
The Bread of Life
In case we weren’t sure, the lectionary is definitively clear: Jesus is the bread of life. And we will encounter this message through the gospel for nearly the entire month of August. Having just tasted God’s abundance through the miraculous “Feeding of the Five Thousand”, the gospeler John will now provide the forum for Jesus to explain in detail what it means to be fed by the hand of God. It takes four Sundays to accomplish this task! No wonder, the care and feeding of God’s creation is a tall order. People are hungry! Not only for food to fill the belly but humanity is spiritually starving. Too many people work too many hours for too little pay leaving scant energy for other endeavors. Where is the time available to work for anything but the “food that perishes”? (Jn 6:27) The New Zealand Night Prayer service puts it this way, “It is but lost labour that we hasten to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety. For those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.” (Ps. 127:2)
Read more: Rector's Message
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Transcripts of earlier sermons