The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Catherine Wilson
Sunday - 25 July 2021
Gathering into the presence of God.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!—Psalm 95:6
Good morning, friends in Crail and St Ayle,
As I start to write this Reflection, I am experiencing two emotions, one is a feeling that I am privileged to have been asked to contribute, and the other, a feeling of apprehension or doubt: what have I to offer?
On checking the lectionary readings for this Sunday, I decided to choose the reading from St John’s Gospel, the ‘well kent’ story of the feeding of the five thousand. This story of a miracle performed by Jesus, is told in all four gospels. I have chosen it because when one starts to reflect on a well-known reading, one usually starts to develop new insights.
Listening for the Word of God – St John’s Gospel 6: 1-13
1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
In reading a detective story, you quickly learn that what may look like an irrelevant little detail may actually be a clue to discovering who the murderer really is. John’s writing is full of detail but nothing is included without a reason. There are so many lines that one might follow up that it could become quite bewildering. However, here the details do not lead us up blind alleys, they all point to the big central issues where the deepest meaning can be found. The story of the feeding of the five thousand is the starting point for a long discussion of “the bread of heaven”. The story captures our imagination as we can identify with some of the characters – Philip and Andrew and the un-named boy. Philip and Andrew are given speaking parts. They can be seen as different characters with different roles – and with Thomas, they occur in the same way in Chapter 12. They appear to be the disciples who are most in touch with those following Jesus, followers with whom they established friendly relationships. Philip did not know what to do, and nor did Andrew, except that he brought the boy with the bread and fish to Jesus’ attention.
We all find ourselves in difficult situations at times, but we don’t always think to bring these to the attention of Jesus. While we can never be sure what he will do, we can be sure that he will do something, something that we had not thought of, something new and creative.
When everyone in the crowd was fed, they marvelled at what Jesus had done, recognising him as a prophet, a worker of miracles. As recorded in the rest of Chapter 6, Jesus attempts to move his followers to a deeper and truer understanding. So we pray that what develops in John’s account will have that effect on us as well.
Heavenly Father and God of creative abundance, we come before you now as people in need of your blessing. May we offer ourselves to you with open hands and receptive hearts. Take away from us any sense of self-reliance and help us to recognise that our health, or any wealth or power that we might have, are but fleeting experiences. May we come to appreciate where true value lies both within ourselves and in the lives of others. May our eyes be opened to your gracious gifts of grace.
Mindful of the needs of others, we pray for those who live in need, poverty, uncertainty and fear. Make us more fully aware that you call us to play our part in the coming of your kingdom of peace and justice.
We pray for all those who are hungry today. Forgive us when we treat your generosity as our right. Forgive us when we have kept what we have for ourselves rather than sharing it. Forgive us when we have failed to be concerned about the waste that our society produces. We pray for those who have the power to make changes, that they may come to recognise the need for your transformative vision of a just and equal society where none go hungry, and all are fed.
And we pray for ourselves. May we learn to share both the hidden and visible blessings you bestow on our lives, on our lives, offering ourselves and all that we are and have, in whatever ways we can, to the service of your kingdom.
In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
Go now, to be nourished in the love of God;
to be generous in the way of Christ Jesus
and to be filled and fuelled by the living Spirit.
And may the blessing of all three,
be with you and those you love today and always. Amen