Sunday July 29 2018
2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145; Ephesians 3:14-21; St John 6:1-21
Rev Dr John McCulloch
Minister of St Andrews Jerusalem & Tiberias
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable to you o Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Broken Bread for the World
In our gospel reading from John 6, we read ‘a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased’.
It is interesting that Jesus did not have to try and convince people to follow him, they just saw who he was and what he did, and they flocked to him. Wherever he went, he brought healing. He embodied compassion and care for all; for Jew & Gentile, rich and poor, old and young.
And we, his followers, are called to do the same. Our lives, when lived by the grace of God, are to bring God’s healing touch to our broken world.
The healing that Jesus brought was not only the curing of physical ailments, although this was a crucial part of his ministry; and although we do not understand why healing seems to come to some but not to others, we must always be open for God to manifest himself in this way.
The healing Christ imparted was more than a mere physical healing; it was the healing of the whole of the person.
We too live in a world that is deeply diseased and in need of healing.
In need of healing from the hatred and greed that so often lead to war.
In need of healing from globalized structural economic injustice.
We need to be healed from our insatiable need to consume, that is inflicting ecological devastation on our fragile planet.
Healed from the conflicts between race and religions.
Healed from our competitiveness and striving with each other.
Notice how Jesus after he has healed those who were diseased, he goes up a mountain, to be in close communion with God. It is there where he is strengthened in his inner core. Our epistle reading from Ephesians 3:14 reminds us of how we are strengthened when we spend time in prayer with God: ‘For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his inner Spirit in the inner man […]’ and from verse 19: ‘that you may be filled with the fullness of God’.
Do you long to be filled with the fullness of God?
Do you long for this church, this city this land to be filled with the fullness of God?
For when we are filled with the fullness of God, our lives begin to radiate that self-same love and compassion that Christ showed to all he came into contact with.
When we are strengthened in the very core of our being by spending time in prayer and communion with the God of peace, justice and love; then our lives begin to channel that self-same love, hope and grace.
When this happens, the Kingdom of God is established here on earth, a kingdom that challenges the cruel kingdoms of this world; a kingdom that brings wholeness and healing to all who have been crushed and cast aside.
Jesus goes from healing the multitudes, to the mountain side, and then he is moved by compassion because the crowds were hungry. Before we reflect on the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes I want to draw your attention to verse 4 of John 6, for it is key. It reads: ‘now the Passover, the feast of the Jews was at hand’.
This is of real significance, for the Passover feast commemorates the liberation of the Jews from 400 years of slavery in Egypt; the story of how the Jewish people were lead out of capitivity, and how they made unleavened bread to take with them on their journey, as they did not have time to wait for it to rise.
Jesus, the new Passover lamb, leads us out of slavery and bondage to all that drags us down, and becomes the bread of life for us. The bread of life, who gives nourishment and hope to all who open their hearts to him.
It is as the bread is broken, that the multitudes are fed. And just like he broke bread on that mountainside, his broken body continues to feed our fractured world, offering hope, healing, restoration and love.
Our OT reading foreshadows this great chapter of John 6 does it not? In 2 Kings chapter 4 we are presented with a world where there is death, famine and a lack of hope. A man comes with some bread and the prophet Elisha asks him to share it amongst the hundred men that were gathered there. When the servant says to Elisha that there is not enough bread to go round Elisha responds: ‘Give the loaves to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord “They shall eat and have some left”. So he set it before them. And they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord’.
God’s command to Elisha and the man was to feed those around them, even though they thought they did not have the resources to do so.
The command to us today is to do the same…
Earlier in the week I was reading Rabbi Jonathan Sacks book To Heal a Fractured World. In it he draws a sharp contrast between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. He writes:
There are two seas in Israel: the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. The latter (the sea of Galilee) is full of life: fish, birds, vegetation. The former (the Dead Sea), as its name suggests, contains no life at all. Yet they are both fed by the same river, the Jordan. The difference is that the Sea of Galilee receives water at one end and gives out water at the other. The Dead Sea receives but does not give. The Jordan ends there. To receive without reciprocating is a kind of death. To live is to give.
The young boy who gave his lunch of loaves and fishes knew this. Our saviour, who not only gave the multitudes broken bread but became himself broken bread for the world, embodied this.
True joy comes when we are a community that is giving out to others.
May we go from this place, embodying the compassion and healing love of our Saviour Jesus Christ, for Christ has no body here on earth, but yours.
May it be in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.