On Sunday July 26th I led worship at Harlow Hill Chapel. We began worship as we sang ‘Father, I place into your hands’, before I led the opening prayers. I gave a short talk about a monk feeding those in need who came to the monastery. I broke some bread and Brian and I distributed it to members of the congregation as we reflected on working for peace, joy, sharing with others so each has enough, learning to be tolerant, kind and growing into a true community. We sang ‘In heavenly love abiding’ before we read psalm 145 responsively. A member of the chapel read 2 Kings 4v42-44 and I joined Brian and other members as we read the dramatised version of John 6v1-21. We sang ‘Just as I am, without one plea’ before I preached.
Jesus had recently left Jerusalem as he was heading for confrontation with the authorities and sailed to the other side of Lake Galilee with his disciples. Jesus needed time to rest and spend time with his disciples so he had travelled 4 miles across the Lake to where there was a plain of grass and went up the hill. In the meantime a crowd following Jesus on the shore has walked 9 miles round the top of the Lake and across the ford had arrived! There was probably a large crowd at it was near the Festival of Passover and they would be on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus saw how hungry and tired the crowd was and asked Philip, as he was local, where they could get enough food to feed the crowd. Philip said that it would be impossible to buy enough as it would take more than 6 months wages to feed such a crowd. However Andrew brought a boy with 5 Barley loaves and 2 small fish to Jesus, although he did not think it would be enough for such a large crowd. Jesus took the offering and told the disciples to make the people sit down. He took the boy’s small lunch of the cheapest loaves with 2 pickled fish similar to sardines and offered thanks to God and blessed the food. He then gave the bread to the disciples to distribute and then the fish. Everyone had enough to eat; in fact there were 12 baskets of leftovers. When Jesus blessed the food he was acting like the father of the household. Jesus took the small gift and having blessed it there was more than enough for everyone. Whatever we bring to Jesus however paltry it may seem He makes it into plenty.
Elisha had already experienced how God could make a small amount more than sufficient for the recipients; 20 loaves which God told him would be more than enough for 100 prophets. John described the miracles performed by Jesus as signs and this miracle of the feeding of the 5000 was a sign. That sign made them see Jesus as a prophet and they wanted to force Jesus to be their leader, but he slipped away because he was not the sort of Messiah they expected; He did not want to the king and conqueror to expel the Romans from Israel they expected. Jesus had had compassion on the crowd and met their need of food. The Psalmist also recognised the compassion and provision of God. To be true followers of Jesus we are called to be the arms and feet of Jesus to care and support those in need. Help us also to be good stewards of all you have given us so we can share what we have with a needy world.
We sang ‘For the healing of the nations’ before Brian led the prayers of intercessions. Worship concluded when we sang ‘The Church of Christ in every age.’