Sharing Our Faith Together

Morning Worship for Sunday 2 August 2020

by Andy Cokayne 2 August 2020

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Our first hymn is ‘These are the days of Elijah’

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Our second hymn is ‘Break thou the bread of life’

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One of the passages of scripture set for today is : Matthew 14:13-21 - Jesus feeds the five thousand

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed those who were ill.

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered. ‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. And he told the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Message: Are We paying Attention?

I won’t bore you with the details of how and why, but about 2 weeks ago three friends and I were looking on the internet at some of the paintings amongst the Methodist Modern Art Collection, one was of an interpretation of the feeding of the 5,000, by Eularia Clarke, and I include below.

It is a modern interpretation of the event as recorded in Matthew’s gospel. We may want to debate whether the fish and chips are appropriate, rather than the fish and loaves, or it may look to you more like a church picnic than a biblical miracle, but let’s not get hung up on these matters, but rather consider that when looking at the people, it may well reflect how Jesus was received. Every time Jesus spoke to the crowds, and as He does to us, the decision on whether they, or we, listen to Him or ignore Him, is up to them and us.

The crowds had been drawn to Jesus from the surrounding towns, after John the Baptist had been beheaded. Jesus, on hearing this, had wanted time alone to quietly contemplate this event, and no doubt spend time with His Father, so we read that ‘he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.’ John had been his cousin, no doubt they had grown up together. He had been baptised by John in Matthew 3 v 16, before going into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Then in Matthew 11 we read of John sending his disciples to Jesus to ask of Him “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus then sets out what he was doing, and tells them to report this to John in prison. So understandably as their lives had been so intertwined, he wanted a time of quiet. Yet when the crowds chased after Him, rather than turn them away, we read ‘he had compassion on them and healed their sick.’ v14. Then after a while, realising they had been with him all day, and without food, and that they were in the middle of nowhere, Jesus performed this miracle with only a few loaves and some fish.

They had all experienced God’s overwhelming generosity, ‘they all ate and were satisfied’ we read in verse 20, ‘and the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of broken pieces that were left over.’ v21. As a consequence you would have thought that they would have given Jesus their utmost attention. But the odds are they were no different to you and me.

They had all experienced the same compassion of Jesus as He healed their sick. They had all eaten the same food and were satisfied. They had all witnessed the twelve disciples collecting the leftovers and filling the twelve baskets to the top. Yet did they all receive Jesus’ words, healings, and miracles in the same way? Did they all take into their hearts and minds what Jesus was trying to get across to them. It is clear from the parable of the sower and the explanation that Jesus had given only a few days earlier, in Matthew 13 v 1-23, that He knew not all would receive his words into good soil. When we look at the attention, or lack of it, to Jesus in the painting, perhaps the artist is trying to capture that.

Where do we think we are in the painting?

Are we that taken up with the mechanics of getting things done, getting the kettle boiled, ensuring that all have had enough to eat, that we have forgotten why we are there, and have forgotten to listen to Jesus? Or perhaps we have paid attention to Jesus in the past, listened to his words, but got stuck on relaxing and resting in Jesus, like the lady asleep, and forgotten to balance that with the knowledge that our God is a God of action? Or perhaps, like the two ladies still leisurely eating their fill, we are comfortable in our faith, we are still happy to listen, but have got set in a nice relaxed frame of mind, and do not want to be disturbed from our repose? Or perhaps, like the lady trying to get the baby to sleep, have listened to Jesus, but then got distracted by matters of the world and lost our way? Or perhaps we have travelled miles, like those with the bicycles, gone out of our way to follow Jesus and no matter what, are determined to pay attention to His words?

Wherever we are in the painting, let us not forget that we too have experienced God’s overwhelming generosity, not least in terms of His forgiveness through Jesus. We too can experience the same compassion of Jesus as He touches us at our point of need. Let us then give Him our utmost attention so that we do not miss a word of what He is longing to say to us.

Our final hymn is ‘Guide me, Oh Thou great Jehovah,’

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We are united with churches throughout the country as we share together in the ‘The UK Blessing’.

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