Sermon 26th July 2015

Trinity 8 2015 Pr 12  2 Sam 11:1-11 Eph 3:14-end  John 6:1-21

St. John paints us a picture of a large picnic, but one with no food – quite a problem with no Macdonald's  or Kentucky Fried Rat to hand.  They seem to have been a foolish bunch of people, setting off for a day out to see this itinerant preacher without a packed lunch.  But, nonetheless, Jesus can put it to good use.

This incident is recorded by all four gospels, not that that gives it any particular emphasis or historical value.  Matthew and Luke draw heavily on Mark as a source for their writing and this is part of that.  It bears the marks of the writer wanting to say that something important is going on here.  In the Old Testament  God appears, not very often, on a mountain.  So, when word got around that something was happening on the mountain people would be interested.  A mountainside of a hill or good slope was a good place to be too if you wanted to talk to a lot of people and be sure they could hear. Twenty centuries later there would be satellite equipment, cherry pickers with cameras and all the popular press. 

St. John makes good use of it in his scheme of things, making it one of the 'signs' which point the reader from the beginning of his gospel to the cross.  Jesus is afraid of being made King by force he is so popular, an inverted reference to his being mocked as a king and lifted up on the cross.

But what of these loaves and fishes? There is a very simple moral.  Jesus takes these meagre supplies and thanks God for them and distributes them, and there is more than enough. The needs of the world are not too great for our resources if God in Christ Jesus directs the use of those resources.  On a small and local level, we have enough resources to fund our bit of the mission of God if we let God direct our wills.

Jesus looks round and says, "What have you got?"  Not much they grumble.  When they really look hard and do not overlook the gift of the child, the insignificant one, there is more than they know what to do with.

One of the things we find when we look into our travelling basket as a church is music. Perhaps as little hums we hum as we do something boring, or remember a good time, sometimes pulled out of our repertoire as part of celebration. Now and again it is to direct mood in remembrance or thanksgiving.  We all have some of it even if it seems very little.  Everyone can sing. You only can’t when you think you can’t.

Music is a complicated matter which always sounds so simple, especially a good hummable tune. Making music with other people brings out the best and makes much of small resources.  Some years ago I remember hearing Andre Previn who was then conductor of a large national and internationally performing choir, I can't remember which, comment that all the members have to do is sing in tune, it doesn't matter about the quality of their voice. Put all together the voices are as of angels.

We have good stewards of our music resource and it reaches the parts other things do not reach.  Come too close, enjoy the music too much, offer your loaves and fishes and you are hooked!  "If music be the food of love, play on." wrote the Bard.(Twelfth Night, Act 1, Sc1, line 1) The love of God has to be loved, people do not know they are loved unless they are, and if they do not know they are loved their life and behaviour will be out of control and there is more than we know what to do with.
By the by, we have reached another sharp corner in our music as a church.  Questions to ask and encouragements to be made, another new understanding of music as ministry to be built.  Early in September everyone will be asked their views on how we move forward with our music and carry forward our tradition of it before we look to recruit another Director of Music.

If we look for a five course banquet we are likely to be unlucky. We will find much more when we look at the small parcels tucked away in pockets and bags. St. John’s ‘signs’, his treatment of the miracles pick us up and carry us to the cross, the place of giving and forgiving.  It is a rich but impoverished place to be challenging us in our striving for the best. The best is there but we don’t always recognise it or even bring it out until encouraged by the most unusual person.

A final lesson in the tail. Ask and he will come.  No water or sea, real or imaginary will stop him.  As soon as they took him into the boat they reached where they were going. As soon as we accept on board the Lord Jesus we are at the destination.  All that is left is the travelling to it! Already we have stepped into eternity beyond the ravages of time.

© Frank Wright 2015

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