Sunday 1st August 2021


Welcome, we pray together…

Thank you, Lord, that all together we form your Christ Church family. Some of us are now worshipping in our church building, some of us are worshipping at home, but wherever and whenever, we are together part of your church family, held in the embrace of your love. Thank you for the knowledge and reassurance of that. Thank you, Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Invitation to worship (free paraphrase, Psalm 121)

I lift my eyes up to the mountains, but they don’t help.

No, my help comes from the Lord the Maker of the mountains and of heaven and earth.

He watches over me day and night. Wherever I go he watches over me, now and always.

Reading John 6:1-13

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing those who were ill. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’

Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 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.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Reflection – There are plenty of theories around about what actually happened at the miraculous feeding of the Five Thousand, but that is not what concerns us this morning. What is the message in it for us now?

In Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples, seeing the vast crowd, say to Jesus, ‘This is a remote place, and it is already getting late. Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’

‘Send them away…’ How often we are tempted to say, or just think, that when we are confronted with a seemingly insuperable human problem ‘Send them , or it, away.’ It may be rough sleepers in our cities, asylum seekers in small boats in the English Channel, or perhaps just a group of difficult people who get in the way. Or even climate change.  ‘Send them away!’ ‘Send it away!. It is so natural a reaction. But Jesus did not then let the disciples off the hook. He says ‘You give them something to eat.’ He does not let us off the hook either. ‘You do something about it. If there is a problem, you have a responsibility.’ It may be your small actions to mitigate climate change, like walking to the shop rather than driving. It may be giving a donation to a Christian agency like Christian Aid.

But then Andrew turns up, with the boy with ‘five small barley loaves and two small fish. But how far will they go among so many?’ And all credit to Andrew. He does not fob the boy off with, ‘Thank you, it’s very kind of you, but could you come up with a realistic offer, please?’ Here is another message for us: listen to the children. Take them seriously. How many churches, how many individuals, myself included, need to hear that message. I say no more…

And so to the end of the story. Jesus takes the loaves and the fish, blesses them, and they are distributed. And all are fed. A miracle. And there is no indication that most of those there thought it was. It just happened. Only looking back did people realise it was.

And so to the final message for us… Most us think we don’t have much to offer: some money, a bit of our  time, organisational skills, a particular gift or expertise, friendship to someone with few friends. So many possibilities. But place them in the Lord’s hands, and they, together with all the many, many gifts placed in the Lord’s hands worldwide, he will exercise on them his miraculous multiplicative power – not on a hillside in Galilee but in the very different world of today.

Remember the boy in John’s Gospel. He put what he could in Jesus’ hands.  And that made the difference. So little what we can offer. So much when placed in Jesus’ hands. Amen.

Our hymn this time is ‘The Church of Christ, in every age’ StF 415

The Church of Christ in every age

Beset by change but Spirit led,

Must claim and test its heritage

And keep on rising from the dead.

Across the world, across the street,

The victims of injustice cry

For shelter and for bread to eat,

And never live until they die.

Then let the servant Church arise,

A caring Church that longs to be

A partner in Christ’s sacrifice,

And clothed in Christ’s humanity.

For he alone, whose blood was shed,

Can cure the fever in our blood,

And teach us how to share our bread

And feed the starving multitude.

We have no mission but to serve

In full obedience to our Lord:

To care for all, without reserve,

And to spread his liberating Word.

Our prayers of intercession

Thank you, Lord, for the progress made on the restoration of the exterior of our church building. We thank you for the skill and craftsmanship of stonemasons and all engaged in the work. Keep them safe, we pray.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember, Lord, our minister and elders as they plan and implement all the arrangements for reopening the whole building. We thank you for the thought and care that has brought us this far. Continue to give them imagination and guidance, we pray.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

As we look out on the world, Lord, we remember those affected by floods, on the continent of Europe, now disappeared from the headlines, and China, and India. We pray for those affected by and fighting the wildfires in the United States. Guide church and community leaders in those places, we pray, and give strength to people as they rebuild their lives.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We think, Lord of the Olympic Games. We pray for their success and for the safety of all competitors, organisers and spectators. May the result be greater international cooperation and understanding between all nations.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

We think of our church community and those we know personally – the bereaved, those ill, those waiting for medical diagnosis or treatment, those facing a problem distinctive to them. Give strength, too, to all those who are offering support. We remember them all before you in the silence…  …Enfold them in your love.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, we know you hear our prayers and will answer them according to your perfect will, Amen ,

A blessing

Now to the one who can keep you from falling,

and bring you to the presence of his glory,

be all adoration and praise from us, and the whole Church

now and to all eternity. Amen.                                                                               Revd Tony Coates

About the Author