A welcome to Sarah Lloyd

Author: 
Fr Alec
Date: 
Sunday, July 5, 2015 - 6:00pm

But what are they among so many people?

 

There was a vogue some time ago for explaining the miracles of Jesus. By this I don’t mean drawing out the deeper meaning of Jesus’ miracles (because they all had a certain message to communicate), but explaining them away. There was a particular kind of scholar who liked the idea of demystifying religion by finding scientific or practical solutions to the works of Christ, and transforming them into teaching exercises, explanatory set-pieces through which Jesus would make a moral point.

 

When I was a boy, I remember my grandmother having read one such book, which dealt with the feeding of the five thousand, and asking me what I thought about it. The author suggested that, rather than showing Jesus’ ability to conjure up food from nowhere, instead, it was an object lesson in generosity. By sharing the five loaves and two fish, the disciples provoked an attitude of sharing amongst the crowd, so that those who had thought to bring a private picnic shared it out instead of keeping it to themselves. The real miracle, he suggested, was overcoming self-interest.

 

Now, even as a small boy, I could see what the author was getting at. It makes a good and edifying story, and no-one could argue with a lesson in selfless giving. But also, I felt, it took something away. By this rationale, Jesus could have been anyone with an eye for a story, a charismatic way with the crowds, and the willingness to capitalise on sharing someone else’s lunch. In some way I couldn’t describe, it mattered to me whether the bread was there already, or whether Jesus brought it into being.

Thirty years on, this matters just as much. It is in the nature of God, and God alone, to bring something out of nothing. In the beginning, God spoke his Word, and creation came into being, not from matter that was lying about the place, but from nothing. With five loaves and two fish, Jesus identifies himself with his heavenly Father.

 

This matters to St. John too. As he continues the chapter we have begun this evening, he tells how Jesus draws a parallel with the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness, who were fed with manna from heaven. God produces food for his children out of nothing.

 

And this is something each of us needs to know and hear. God gives us something we cannot get anywhere else. When we struggling, when we are at our lowest ebb, we have a God who doesn’t simply reveal our hidden reserves, who doesn’t tell us just to be stronger or to try harder. We have a God who sustains us. Who GIVES us strength that we didn’t have before. Who himself makes up the deficit between what we have and what we need.

 

And this is particularly important for anybody embarking on a new life of ministry in the service of Christ. Sarah, when the bishop addressed you at your ordination this morning, when he reminded you of the greatness of the trust in which we share, he went on to say:

 

‘You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God. Pray therefore that your heart may daily be enlarged and your understanding of the Scriptures enlightened.

Pray earnestly for the gift of the Holy Spirit.’

 

You come to us rich in gifts. Gifts of experience, gifts of character, gifts of learning. Gifts that are particular to you, and which we will be grateful to share. But however abundant your own supply of strength, and wisdom and compassion, there will inevitably come times in your career where they will fall short, and when God, in his infinite grace and compassion, will miraculously make up the difference.

 

For all of us following Jesus Christ are called to live in the space which lies between the best that we can do, and the perfect completeness of the Kingdom of God.

 

But this is not all. ‘I am the Bread of Life’ says Christ to those who questioned him about the loaves and fishes. ‘Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

 

Jesus not only hastens to meet our needs, he comes to us Himself. He feeds us with himself. He invites us to share in His life. He beckons us to gather around His altar and humbles us by his sacrificial, self-giving Love. As a deacon, Sarah has been called to minister at this mystery of the altar, and to go out into the world making manifest in your life and work the reality of the Kingdom revealed in the sacrament.nml’o

 

Sarah, we are delighted to welcome you here to St Mary’s, and we look forward to sharing the coming years with you, united as one family in Christ, and sharing together in the boundless abundance of God’s grace.