Weekly Devotional Material – 2 August 2020

Call to Worship and Short Invocation

Jesus says, and we hear some these words at communion: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’

Lord Jesus, I come to you now, seeking your rest and sabbath renewal.

Amen

Gathering Prayer

Lord God, I come to you in praise and worship, having seen, during lock-down, even more of your glory in creation, the goodness at the heart of humanity, and having understood more of my own need of you.

As I bow my head help me to learn even more about you, to be in awe of your wisdom and love for me.

Being lost in you may I find you as Creator, Jesus as my Saviour, and the Holy Spirit as my strength.

Yet even as I pray, I’m aware that the meaning of these words fails to sink into my heart. Take away my fear and reluctance, take my old heart of stone, forgive me, I pray, remake and renew me with a heart of thankfulness and love.

Even as, through Jesus’ name, I know your healing in my life.

Thanks be to you, Almighty God.

Amen

Gospel Reading: Matt 14: 13 – 21:

Let’s listen to Matthew as Jesus expresses his interest in the people:

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ 16Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ 17They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ 18And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. [NRSV translation]

This week I want us to also hear Isaiah, one of the major Hebrew Prophets:-

Is 55 1Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
4See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.
5See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
[NRSV translation]

Reflection

Isaiah makes God sound like a typical street vendor offering end-of-day-leftovers at a knockdown price. But, big BUT, this is truly priceless. You cannot buy what God offers! It is entirely free! only if you open your heart.

Jesus illustrated the idea for the people of his time when he arranged and fed that massive crowd.(It might have been as large as 10,000 people because we only read an account of the adult males present) Today we trend towards only looking at Jesus and ignoring his context, history and learning. All that back history comes from Isaiah. Jesus is outraged by the poverty and lack he sees, on so many levels, amongst his own people – not that he didn’t come from a poor background, despite his father’s trade as village carpenter.

Lest we miss it let’s look at the context of the story. John the Baptist has just been killed. Jesus withdraws to the wilderness. He is seen as a ‘solitary’ - as was John coming out of the desert - and pitched against the might of Rome. Yet the story ends with Jesus feeding what amounts to an army. It is an illustration of the bounty and generosity of God feeding so many from so little. Yet also, and perhaps more importantly these days, of God’s love and power overcoming those who think it is they who rule the world. It speaks too, of the trust the people placed in Jesus for their welfare towards the end of day.

This is something worth shouting about – especially when it’s free! It’s a reminder of communion, that we have not shared face-to-face for months, but upon which we still depend. (Many of us will have shared it through an online service via the internet) It is perfectly valid in these times to take time and space to remember what you can of the communion service and to break bread and eat it, to drink wine and give thanks. (This is the space to do exactly that NOW) The benefits will not humanly keep you alive yet will surely spiritually feed you eternally. Like those who followed Jesus, it liberates us for the journey God calls us to follow.

Prayers of the People

Lord God, I come to you failing to realize just how little some people have, even in this country as children starve through the school holiday period, and how much a very small minority have accumulated. So, I pray for those who feel trapped in poverty, suffering a lack of housing, or food, or utilities, or are having to make choices about eating or keeping warm, paying bills or rent.

I pray for those across the world suffering from any illness, especially those still in the grip of C-19, and remembering those countries where healthcare in minimal and lacking in expertise, drugs, staff or facilities.

I hold up to you those I know who are awaiting test results, or treatment appointments, those who suffer quietly at home, feeling shut in, excluded and unloved.

I give thanks for food-banks and those who volunteer to make up parcels or deliver them, and give thanks for those who donate from their scarce resources and for supermarkets realising the benefits they can bestow by donating not ditching unsold food.

I give thanks for all in the catering industry that they can stay safe, that I can enjoy food prepared for or by me, or can get out to enjoy sharing food with others.

Lastly I pray for myself, my own needs and all that I must do in the coming days that it will all be for your glory.

Through Jesus and in his name I pray.

Amen

Blessing

Now as I finish and bless your name

bless me, Lord God, in your name,

in Jesus’ name,

and through the Holy Spirit.

Amen and Amen