Call to worship (Psalm 17: 6-7)
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand
those who take refuge in you from their foes.
HYMN 122 Let all the world in every corner sing
to you alone belong glory, honour and praise.
We join with all of creation to lift high your name,
for you alone are worthy of such praise.,
You create the earth in your power;
you redeem all people in your mercy,
and renew us through your grace.
To you, loving God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be all glory, honour and praise
now and for ever.
we have sinned against you
in what we have thought, said and done.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
We are truly sorry
and turn away from what is wrong.
Forgive us for the sake of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
This is his gracious word:
‘Your sins are forgiven.’
Thanks be to God. Amen
The Lord’s Prayer
Isaiah 55: 1-5
‘Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendour.’
Matthew 14: 13-21
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.
HYMN 540 I heard the voice of Jesus say
Have you ever noticed that sometimes compassion and common sense are like strangers that pass in the night? We see it in the story that is told of a particular missionary to China. He had compassion for the crowd to whom he had been preaching for he could see clearly that they were hungry. As he had access to sufficient food supplies he started to give them all something to eat. However in the chaos around this a riot arose, and several of the crowd were killed. He had compassion, but little common sense.
Our Gospel story this week is one of the best known. Here Jesus, moved by compassion for the large crowd that had gathered before him all day, decided to feed them as they were hungry. Jesus exercised common sense, for he had them sit down in manageable groups. Note that the number mentioned, 5,000, counts only the men; there is no information given as to the number of women and children present other than to state that they were there. Unlike the action of the missionary there were no recorded riots, and no deaths. There is common sense applied here, yet we almost overlook it as we tend to focus on the compassion instead.
We notice the compassion of Jesus particularly because this episode interrupts his time of peace and solitude. His reaction to this breaking in to his time alone with God is not to become angry or frustrated; the response of Jesus is to first heal the sick, and then to feed the hungry. It is a response of grace as he appears to deem it unreasonable to send the folk to the nearby villages to purchase food.
This miracle is recorded in all four Gospels, and it is significant that it involves food. Many of the crowd would have been involved in subsistence living, with little to spare after meeting their own family’s needs. Food was also a theme that would resonate with the crowd for other reasons. Feeding the hungry masses was also regarded as a sign of a prophet at work. Their ancestors were not only fed by God in the wilderness during the Exodus; the prophets Elijah and Elisha were fed, and fed others, in desolate places. This feeding, though, is more than just a prophetic sign; it is a sign of a time to come. It looks forward to a time when the world has been redeemed, evil defeated, and the needs of humanity met. We see it in our reading from Isaiah:
“…. you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost
It’s known as the Messianic Age. In this miracle Jesus is not only laying plain his credentials as a prophet, but also pointing beyond this to something greater. As a sign it is something more dramatic than those of Elisha and Elijah.
It is often said that ‘words are not enough’. Here Jesus is backing up his ministry of preaching and teaching through prophetic action. Feeding the five thousand men is seen as affirmation of the preaching and teaching, as well as providing a tool by which to interpret the words that had been spoken. Likewise the words also explain the actions.
We often find it easier to do something compassionate than to talk about what motivates it. Yet in Jesus, our role model, we find that he does both. In Him we find word explaining action and action illustrating the word. We should be endeavouring to do likewise. When we act in mercy or grace we should be also seeking to find the words that speak of our motivation, the love of God for us all. Our words should explain our actions while our actions should back up our words. We may not be called by God to be prophets, but we are called to be compassionate. We are called that our words and actions may also be prophetic.
Blessèd are you, loving God,
to be praised and glorified for ever,
for you hear and answer prayer.
Hear us as we pray for your Church:
make us one in spirit, that the world may believe.
Grant that every member may humbly serve you,
that the life of Christ may be revealed in us.
Strengthen all who serve in Christ’s name,
giving them courage to proclaim your Gospel
in both word and deed.
Inspire and lead those who hold authority
in the nations of the world
guiding them in the ways of justice and peace.
Make us alive to the needs of our community,
helping us to share each other’s joys and tears.
Look with compassion on our homes and families:
that your love may grow in our hearts.
Inspire us to have compassion on those who suffer
in sickness, grief or trouble;
in your presence may they find strength and hope.
We remember those who have died –
into your mercy filled hands we commend them.
We praise you for all your saints
who have entered your eternal glory:
bring us at the last to share in your heavenly kingdom.
you have promised to hear
what we ask in Jesus’ name.
Accept and answer our prayers,
not as we deserve,
but as love us in Christ,
our Lord. Amen.
HYMN 543 Longing for light, we wait in darkness (Christ be our light)
As we move on from this time of worship,
may we journey in compassion and truth.
And as we go
may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
go with us
now and evermore. Amen.