On Sunday August 10th our deacon David Hunt led worship at Wesley Chapel. We began worship as we sang the first 2 verses of ‘Longing for light we wait in darkness’ before he reminded us that we face darkness today. On Monday we would be remembering the dark days of the First World War; apparently his great uncle Albert Kirks died 2 weeks before the end of the war and 2 medals were sent home to his family. David described a picture of a new art creation in the North East at Seaham about 9-10 feet in height depicting a soldier sitting down at the end of the war at one minute past 11. David showed us a candle with the insignia of the cross of nails. When Coventry Cathedral was bombed in World War 2 a cross was made up of nails as a symbol of peace across the world. We light a candle for world peace. We are still working for peace in this world. The Pastel Candle is lit to symbolise the light of Christ which can never be extinguished. We pray using the international prayer for peace and the Lord’s Prayer. We hear the readings from Isaiah 55v1-5 and Psalm 145v8-9,14-21 before singing the second half of the hymn, ‘Longing for light we wait in darkness.’ We hear the reading from Matthew 14v13-21 set just after Jesus has heard about the beheading of his cousin John and he leaves for a time of quiet to grieve. We sang ‘Break thou the bread of life O Lord to me,’ before the sermon.
The feeding of the 5000 is a very familiar story to us but do others know it? People today may never have heard the stories; they may not realise that the story of Noah is from the Bible. Our country is very different now. Many children used to go to Sunday school in the past now very few have any connection with the church. We think we know at the feeding of the 5000 but we need to look at it with fresh eyes. This story was recorded in all 4 gospels and is significant as we all basically need food. 5000 men, women and children all had sufficient food and there were 12 baskets of leftovers collected. How did this happen? What can we learn from what happened? What had happened before this story?
Jesus had just learnt about the death of John and was coming to terms with it. David asked us when was the last time we had felt really sad, perhaps the loss of a loved one or something we have failed to achieve. Many seek times of quiet to be by themselves. Jesus had wanted to take time out, as he was confused, afraid and grieving, and saw it as a warning of what lay ahead for him. He needed time to reflect and pray so he and his disciples got into a boat and sailed to the other side of the lake. However that was not to be, as crowds had followed him round the lake and greeted him when they came ashore. His feelings of grief and pain were transformed into compassion when he saw the need of the people and he met those needs with works of power and healing.
As it gets later the disciples realised that the crowd of people had not prepared themselves for a day out and had no food. The reaction of the disciples was predictable and understandable when they suggested that they should tell them to go and buy food from nearby villages. The disciples did not think they should involve themselves in supplying the need of the crowd, as they saw it as beyond their means to do. It was terrible but someone else needed to do something. Jesus recognised their needs but took on the concerns of the disciples and turned them upside down. He asked the disciples what they were going to do about it. He is challenging us; if we really care, what are we going to do about it? Is our response that we have no time or energy or it is someone else’s responsibility? We are not confident that we can do anything, but are we not part of the solution? Once Jesus took control there was no going back; Jesus transformed the little the disciples had into something new. The disciples could not see a solution and thought it was beyond their control. Jesus had compassion giving the crowd spiritual food before meeting their physical needs. Jesus’ response was generously providing more than they needed; compassion cannot be rationed. We are called to have generous compassion in giving money and providing buildings so the work of God’s kingdom can take place. How easy is it for us to show that compassion?
The commemorations of World War 1 symbolised in the poppy field moves all with the grisly reality of war; the war that was meant to end all wars. It was a hundred years ago so what could we do about it? A hundred years on war continues in Gaza, Iraq, the Ukraine, Syria, Libia and the African states. We can become overwhelmed by the atrocities committed in conflicts. We too can feel helpless as the disciples did. Watching the news is too painful and yet others are not affected as it all seems too far away, so it is better to ignore what is happening; it is too complicated. However we are bound up with the deaths of individuals and must not ignore these events but have compassion. Studdert Kennedy compared the suffering in the trenches with the suffering of Christ. What is our response to conflicts? We can find quiet places to pray. When we care we pray; when we pray we learn to care more and more about what the world looks like to God. When we come to worship we learn more about God’s view of the world. We encounter God in worship and prayer, but we need to start with prayer. We may feel overwhelmed but as we respond in prayer we grow closer to God, so that all we say and do speaks of God.
David then led the intercessions. The feeding of the 5000 teaches us that what we can offer can be transformed in so many ways.