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26th July 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Sermon for Sunday 26th July 2015 - Proper 12 - Trinty 8
2 Kings 4. 42 - end
John 6.1-21

Are you paying attention you at the back there?!

I ask, not because I think anyone is being particularly inattentive this morning, but because today's Gospel is a story that occurs in every Gospel - Matthew, Mark, Luke And John (the one we have today) and for something to happen in every single Gospel it must have been really important to the formation of the early church. So the feeding of the 5000 was a miracle that we are safe to assume EVERYONE had heard before long.

It isn't difficult to understand why... here is a story that can be used to demonstrate the importance of the Eucharist, the celebratory meal at the heart of Christian worship. As Jesus takes and blesses and breaks the loaves and the fishes and then shares them with the people, so the first disciples and all who have followed since have used these four actions - taking, blessing, breaking and sharing, to remind us of the saving action of God. Taking his beloved son; blessing him at the moment of his birth, his baptism, his transfiguration and his resurrection; breaking him as he dies on the cross; sharing his teaching and his very self through the medium of bread and wine.

This is an action too that links Jesus back to Moses, feeding the people as they journeyed through the desert on their long journey to the promised land. Linking him too to Elisha as we heard in our first reading this morning. Links with at least two great formational prophets for the Jewish people and reminding us too that God always over-provides. God is abundant in what he gives us to feed on. He provides not merely enough, but enough to satisfy our needs and then to leave more left-overs!

... Maybe suggesting that we should in our turn go and share some of this abundance with even more people?

God's love for us is never 'just enough' it is profligate, it overflows, it is embarrassing in its provision - it is meant to teach us what it really means to be generous with our resources...

So no wonder it was a message so important that all four Evangelists decided to include it in their collected stories of Jesus' life and ministry. (And just to put some context on this, remember that the story of Jesus' birth - the Nativity - only features in two of the four gospel accounts and then there are significant differences between them!)

But that is not the end of the story this morning.... as significant as it is.

John goes on to tell us what happened next. How the people responded to this wonderful demonstration of God's overabundance and generosity. Sadly it was not a reaction to wonder and praise God, but instead they decided that it was Jesus himself they wanted both to celebrate and to control. They wanted to make him their king - thinking that if he could feed an ad hoc crowd at a moment's notice, then he would be the one to feed a nation that was desperate for leadership in the face of foreign occupation.

And so Jesus runs away - he evades capture; he is not going to be made to operate according to popular demand. He wants to demonstrate a quite different way of being a king.

And if the disciples had only had eyes to see him in his true power and wit enough to appreciate his power being demonstrated over the winds and the waves, they would have understood that Jesus was working to a different model, following a different drumbeat. Here was true power - divine power. Not just earthly power to feed a few people at a picnic, but a glimpse of the awe-ful, creative power of God himself - mastering wind and waves; bringing order to chaos.

But no, they cannot grasp the real significance of the teacher they have among them. Their only response is fear of the supernatural. Fear of the actual power of God....

Well perhaps that is understandable. I doubt that any of us, if exposed to the real, awesome power and glory of the divine would behave any better!

How often do we too think we can tame God - make him in our image, to do our bidding? Be the sort of God - of king - that we want him to be?

Jesus is, indeed, the one who brings the power and presence of God. The creation obeys him through whom it was made - unlike us!

But learning to respond appropriately to our creator is a lifetime's work. To be 'rooted and grounded' in the love of Christ is to come back to the source of our life. And as we learn - slowly - to breathe the air of the Holy Spirit, filling our lungs with it, so we learn what the wind and waves knew instinctively: that we are made to respond to God and that - if we only look around us, we will see the evidence of God, the power of God at work, in all that he has made and remade; in all he has done and is doing.

Part of us is terrified of that power - just as the disciples were. If that creative power, the power of God's abundant and unimaginable love, is unleashed on the world, and even more frighteningly, is at work in us - then we are adrift beyond our limits. If we have to see the world with that amazingly generous love, then we, and the world, will be forever changed. It is not ours to control, but we could - perhaps - co-operate?