Fed In Love

Fed In Love

Luke 9:11-17

That’s the task that is at your feet. You, the disciples of Jesus Christ, are called to go out into the world nourished by the body and Blood of Jesus Christ that you may bring others to his glorious name in his love.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

Please sit.

Now the last time I preached on this particular miracle here we were reading about the feeding of the 5000 in John’s Gospel. And in John’s gospel and the way the lectionary has it, it’s quite different because in John’s Gospel there are two apparent miracles. First of all, Jesus walks on water. And secondly, Jesus feeds the 5000 and John presents it very much through the lens of those two miracles.

But I’m sure you will all remember that I told you there are three miracles in that particular reading, not two. And the first miracle, and it’s in this reading as well, is what?

And the crowd gathered to see him.

Ah, I see light pouring in your eyes as you remember all the way back to my preaching on this. There is always before Jesus miracles another miracle that occurs. And it is that there were crowds of people who were coming to see Jesus. And so we don’t, when we think about the miracles in Jesus life, simply have to read about them in scripture and believe them simply because we’ve read them.

We can believe them because people were there at the time gathering to see Jesus, to hear what he had to say, to see the miracles that he was giving us as a sign of who he was, to be healed.

And that is exactly how the gospel starts in Luke today, Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God and he cured those who were in need of healing.

That is where we as a Christian community must start everything. Jesus made the crowds welcome. We must make people welcome in this place. There must be no barrier to anybody walking through that door. And when anybody walks through that door, what do we do? We talk to them about the kingdom of God and then we cure those who are in need of healing.

Now the church likes to have mission plans and mission action plans. And those of you who are on the PCC will know that we must have a vision and a mission and a tagline and we must fill in all of the correct boxes. And every time the Archdeacon puts something like that on my desk, I want to reply with this verse because this is our mission action plan.

We welcome anybody who walks through that door, we talk to them about the kingdom of heaven and then we cure them of any need. And that’s the joyful thing about St. Anselm’s because that’s exactly what we do.

There are two main ways that we do that at present. First of all, the most obvious that fits with this gospel is the food bank. Anybody who comes through those doors and asks for help receives it. We don’t work with the more mainstream food banks, you may say, because they have requirements about who can and who cannot receive from our bounty, from our help. So anybody who comes through that door is welcomed and is cured and we talk to them about the kingdom of heaven. They are fed, nourished through the generosity of this congregation and of the congregation of St. Edmund up the road and of everybody who collects food. They are nourished in body through the love that we share through one another that Jesus Christ gives us. This is a practical outpouring of Christ’s love and it is a joyous thing and it is why I will not allow anybody to say that you cannot have.

But I can understand why people want to say no, we’re not going to help this person and we’re not going to help this person. The disciples do it right here in the gospel. They say send the people away and they can go to the villages and farms roundabout to find lodgings and food for we are in a lonely place here.

Importantly, when people say we shouldn’t help that person it’s not because they’re necessarily being unkind or ungenerous or unchristian. They’re trying to think of that person’s needs and help and they’re saying listen, it’s probably more useful… These people are getting hungry, they’ve been here all day, let them go and get some food Jesus.

It’s coming from a good place.

And it’s the same with food banks and it’s the same with church.

We often think, oh well it would be better for somebody if they went and did this because that would solve a more complex issue. Or it would be better if when they approached the altar to receive Jesus Christ they followed these rules. We do it from a good place. We put those barriers in place as the disciples do, as a good thing. We think we are doing the right thing.

And how does Jesus respond to the disciples? Well I hope that I respond in the same way. Jesus says no, don’t send them away. They are here, feed them. And the disciples obediently do just that. So Jesus gives specific instructions. You must feed the people, separate them into groups of 50 and bring the food. And miraculously here is the miracle, there is enough for everybody to eat and more left over. There is more because Jesus’ love, Jesus’ generosity, Jesus’ miracles are more than we can be.

When Jesus turned the water into wine, he didn’t turn a little bit of it, he turned a lot of it into wine.

When Jesus fed the 5000 he didn’t just produce just enough to feed everybody but there was food left over. The disciples responded to Jesus call to feed the people. That obedience. They went out and did it. They stepped out in that faith and enough food was provided. The same thing happened here when we left the big food bank and we were worried about getting enough food. Would we have enough to feed people, but we have always had enough food to feed people.

I have been here on a Tuesday night looking at the food ready for a Wednesday morning and thinking, oh my gosh, we don’t have enough. And then I get a phone call from Father Peter, or I get a phone call from somebody in West Drayton, or somebody will knock my door and say, I have food for you. When you follow Jesus Christ, that obedience to follow Him in that overflowing, that huge generosity, when you step out in that faith, God will provide for you, and He will provide for you in abundance. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected, they filled twelve baskets.

The other place of that overarching generosity occurs is at the altar. The other place where we are fed is in Communion in the most precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because in the moment that we receive his body in the wafer, when we receive his blood in the wine, we are nourished – spiritually nourished. And it is in that nourishment that we receive the strength that we nee to step out in faith.

When we think the impossible lies before us, when we think that we can’t feed the 50, when we are nourished by Christ’s body and blood, we receive the strength to step out in that faith. That is why Mass is so important. That is why, as much as we practically can, we have Mass every day so that we can be sent out in that strength. But we must apply the same thinking that we apply to our food bank, to our Mass.

Everybody who comes through that door is welcome in this church. They shall hear about the kingdom of heaven. We shall cure them of their ills, and they shall receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. They shall know Him. They shall know Him powerfully and shall be sent out filled with the Holy Spirit that they may pour into the world that overflowing that abundant generosity of love that he gives us.

So yes, we can think about this gospel in the straight terms of feeding people, of curing people, of helping people when they come through these doors. But also we can think about it in being fed ourselves at the altar and going out into the world and feeding 5000 people with the love of Jesus Christ.

That’s the task that is at your feet. You, the disciples of Jesus Christ, are called to go out into the world nourished by the body and Blood of Jesus Christ that you may bring others to his glorious name in his love.

But it’s okay. You don’t have to do 5000 people every week. You can separate them into groups of 50, 50 a week is just fine.

Have a think about that this week. Have a think of the 50 people that you might interact with who through the outpouring of love in church this Sunday you are able to share that love with – filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, fed by Jesus’ body and prayed for by each and every one of your neighbours in this place.