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Mashed Potatoes

Sermon from Sunday, 2nd October 2016 - Reverend Canon Fred Tomlinson

Faith is not the same as mashed potatoes!
Some of you will know that last weekend I was away leading the pre-ordination retreat for ordinands from Edinburgh and Aberdeen dioceses, including Oliver. I was greatly honoured to be asked to do this – the first St Peter’s rector since Fergus Harris to undertake this.

Over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday I offered a series of talks and services to encourage those about to be ordained as they took this momentous step after three years of training. In between times I met with them individually and listened to their hopes and their anxieties about what this new life would mean for them.
What I said over the entire three days could be summed up in these words…. Faith is not the same as mashed potatoes!
When the disciples ask Jesus today to “increase our faith”, they are treating it like mashed potatoes. “In order to follow you and minister like you, we need to have bigger portions please!”

When they say that we recognise that, somewhere deep inside, it’s probably true of us too, and also true of those waiting to be ordained last weekend. “Give us a bigger dollop of faith, and whatever is thrown at us, we’ll be fine!”

And Jesus says – it’s not about having more faith. You already have enough power to do all that God expects of you. Whether that be working in the field, taking care of the flock, serving at table – (three images we use to describe ministry) – whatever you are called to do, just get on and do it with the gift of God that is within you. My power is sufficient. It is all given. It is all there. You have faith enough to do anything I need you to do.
When we speak of faith, we’re talking about the deep, vibrant relationship with God which, if we allow it to happen, reaches down into the core of our very being. It is a relationship of generous love, complete trust centring on what God has done for us in the life, death and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. We say in our 1982 Liturgy that “There is no room for fear in love”, and so we approach God, yes always in need of his forgiveness, but sure of his acceptance and his longing that we should know him deeply and personally, even as he knows us.

A key element here is complete honesty with God.
Honesty of the kind that Habakkuk displays in our first lesson this morning. With complete forthrightness he accuses God of turning a deaf ear and a blind eye towards the violence and injustice which Habakkuk sees as endemic in the world around him. His lament is familiar to many today: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?” With hurts large and small the world suffers. In countries on all quadrants of the globe Oppressive regimes kill the people they are empowered to serve; in cities and towns across continents, people go hungry while their neighbours overindulge.

In the countryside crops wither from drought or they choke in the mud from flooding rivers; in mansions and in mud huts, families struggle to hold themselves together in the face of illness, addiction, domestic violence or drug abuse. Habakkuk’s cry is our cry, “How long, O Lord, shall we cry for help?”

We’re not surprised to hear that this little passage was one to which many turned in the wake of the 9/11 atrocity in the US fifteen years ago.

So we ask what answer gives to Habakkuk and to us in response to this complaint; honesty has a central place in the life of faith, but is faith is to be more than just a cry of despair in the dark, what are we given?

Our answer lies in our Psalm this morning – Psalm 37.

The Psalms always offer us a rich treasury of encouragement and inspiration, but the Psalms we’ve enjoyed over these past few Sundays have been exceptionally good.

Today we are urged to “wait patiently for God and do not fret over those who carry out evil devices”. The waiting encouraged by the Psalm is not a passive activity however, as it includes a number of commands: trust, take delight in the Lord, commit your way to the Lord. Be still. Wait patiently. Refrain from anger. This is active waiting, the kind that engages in relationship with God.

The promise we are given is that God will indeed act to vindicate the faithful and to bring about justice against the wicked, providing security and hope for the people who now live in distress.

This is the picture of faith – a quiet but sure confidence – that God gives us. It is not doled out like mashed potatoes in portions small or large, but is enough to set us out on the road each day.

A last image – each day I see students set out from halls, heading towards the main campus or Kings Buildings, rucksack on their back with all they need for their studies that day.

Picture then your rucksack at the start of this new academic year, with all yopu need for Christian living. What’s in it?
• The faith of those who have gone before you or who walk with you, perhaps family, perhaps friends at church, Godparents, soul friends, an inspiring mentor, an inspirational speaker or writer
• The prayers of friends and congregation members.
• The gift of God that came from your Baptism and other public commitments of faith or re-affirmations made over the years
• The spirit of self-discipline; that obedient listening that has got you to this point; the giving up of other ways forward and the deliberate choosing of this difficult pathway with all the balancing and compromises and travelling that needs to be done to make it work.
• The gift of courage.
• The sound teaching that you have received along the way from sermons and conferences, Bible Studies and home groups, missions and Christian festivals
• Above all, the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus; the gift of salvation; the grace of God.

In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer Amen.


Martha and Mary

Sermon from Sunday, 17th July 2016 - Reverend Canon Fred Tomlinson

That we are living in a time of great uncertainty and anxiety in our nation, our continent and our world I don’t think anyone can doubt.

Friday night’s military coup in Turkey, Thursday’s terrible atrocity and loss of life (including children and babies) in the lone wolf terrorist attack in Nice, the killing of the civilians and the five police officers in Dallas and the terrorist bombs in major cities in Asia all serve to remind us of how vulnerable and precious is human life and how easily it is taken away.

We on these shores are not immune to the uncertainty, the concern and the anxiety they bring. These are simply added to our own more low level but not inconsiderable concern for the economic, political and constitutional life of our nation as the implications of our vote to leave the European Union are worked out and implemented. The leadership struggles in our two main political parties in the midst of this just add to the sense of uncertainty.

In the midst of all this, small gestures seem important. The crowd at Friday night’s football match between Airdieonians and Partick Thistle was bid to get to its collective feet at 7.25pm just before kick-off and stood reverently with heads bowed while the French national anthem was played through the ground’s PA system.

A small gesture? Perhaps, but also a moving one and a heartfelt one. The French people may never have heard of Airdrie or Partick Thistle but that didn’t seem to matter. A statement of concern and solidarity had been made. It’s a reminder to us and to those who have the important and difficult task of overseeing our removal from the European Union that this connection, this understanding that these are our people too, is not lost or broken in the process but that we remain as close as we possibly can.

We who are Christians have, in the midst of all this uncertainty and anxiety, the rock of our faith to hold onto. Not a rock to hide behind and so escape the pain of what surrounds us, but a faith that puts our trust firmly in God and in his Son Jesus Christ, in whose Cross and Resurrection all evil, all pain and all loss are conquered, so that we can go out into even the darkest of circumstances with a word of hope on our lips and practical acts of love and caring in our hands.

My suspicion though, at least partly based on my own experience, is that even as Christians who have so great a sense of reassurance to rest upon, none of us is immune to the world’s deep angst and uncertainty in the face of the troubles of the world. Deep inside, we understand why Jesus’ most used words to his followers were “Do not be afraid”, “Do not be anxious”.

Rather, we find ourselves rather like the woman Martha in the Gospel reading I’ve just read to you this morning in her deep anxiety.

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to die a prophet’s death there. En route, he has decided to stop and visit Martha and Mary. Mary takes a seat at Jesus’ feet and listens to his teaching, but Martha sets about busily preparing the food and the comforts of their home for their visitor.

After a while her frustration and her anxiety gets the better of her and, hot and bothered, she asks Jesus to tell her sister Mary to get up and help her with the tasks.
As we look at Martha this morning in this simple, homely scene, we hear her anxiety as it speaks to our own.

Firstly, he Greek verb which is used to describe Martha tells us that she is “pulled and dragged away”. We don’t know, she may want to sit like Mary and focus on Jesus and his words of life, but instead her focus is dissipated by the many tasks still to be done. I know that for myself too, there are moments when I can stop and focus on Christ and his loving purposes for myself, the church and the world, but I too know like Martha what it is to be pulled and dragged away.

Secondly, in what is, as I say, a very homely scene in a family house, Martha speaks words this morning which take us straight to the waterfront at Nice and the streets of Dallas and Ankara.
Martha turns to Jesus and says, “Lord, do you not care……?”

Anne recently managed to get for me some commentaries and studies on the Book of Psalms, sometimes called the prayer book of the Jewish people, and I’ve enjoyed myself, slowly working my way through the Psalms one by one.

In particular, I love the wonderful honesty of the Psalms. There the Jewish people praise and worship, but also at times berate God for his seeming lack of activity. “Where are you God?” “Are you asleep?” “Have you gone away for a while?” “Don’t you care?”

It’s a question which Jews and Christians alike need to ask, for only in the asking can we receive the assurance that nothing in heaven or on earth can separate us from the love of God, and that Jesus is with us always, to the end of the world.

So, to conclude, can I say that this passage today urges us in the midst of the world’s uncertainty and anxiety to do what Mary does and what, deep inside, Martha longs to do also……………

We are, like Mary, to focus on Jesus; to sit with him every day; to sit so close, as the Rabbi’s used to say, that the dust from your teacher’s robes falls on you. Make listening a key part of your faith – give time to it with open heart and open Bible every day. As Jesus is offered hospitality in a simple home today, let him find hospitality in your home and in your heart also.

Seek to live with justice and compassion, and let these bring to fruit in you loving action. But do not act simply from a general sense of wanting to do good – anyone can do that.

Instead, let your loving actions find their roots in Jesus. If you can do this, then you can let your faith define who you are. Then you can live in radical obedience to the one who offers life in the midst of the world’s pain and tragedy.


Vocations Sunday 2016

Sermon from Sunday, 17th April 2016 - Reverend Canon Anne Tomlinson

Vocations Sunday 2016:                                                     Acts 9, 36-43; John 10, 22-30

It’s not often I remember things said at a theological conference some twenty years ago, but this has stuck with me. At the start of the conference the three eminent speakers were asked to introduce themselves:

‘I’m the Very Revd so and so’ said the first, ‘Dean of such and such a Cathedral and I’ve been ordained fifteen years’. ‘I’m Prebendary so and so’ said the next ‘and I’ve been ordained some thirty years’. Finally it came to the last speaker, the Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. ‘I’m Tom Ray’, he said, ‘and I’ve been baptised 62 years’.

I was thinking of that statement just last Saturday when reading the interview between Justin Welby and the reporter who discovered the secrets of his paternity. ‘It doesn’t really change anything’, said the Archbishop. ‘My identity is in Christ’.

My identity is in Christ. On this Vocations Sunday, as we think about God’s call and Christ as the shepherd of the sheep, that’s what we need to focus upon; our calling, our identity, as baptised disciples of Christ in whom we live and breathe and have our being…

..because ‘vocation’ is a word that has been grabbed and misappropriated by people like me who work in theological colleges and courses. It’s my job to train men and women who are offering themselves for a lifetime of service in Christ’s Church: to shape their characters, train their minds and prepare them spiritually for the way ahead. It’s a good time to be in this line of work; next September’s intake is looking as if it will comprise 17 new candidates, the highest number for over a decade. 5 of these are below 35 years in age; several wish to combine their formation with full-time studies at New College .

There is a sense of excitement around in the field of theological education, shared, I may say, by colleagues in the Church of Scotland who are similarly seeing an increase in vocations to the ordained life.

On this Vocations Sunday then, it is good and proper that we rejoice in those statistics and thank the Lord of the harvest for sending out workers into the fields in this way – but ‘vocation’ is not a word which simply applies to the few but to us all. All are called and called by baptism, to live out our Christian identity in the way that is suggested by the particular gifts God has given us; to follow our own inner sense of calling. We are all disciples of Christ and need to live that calling, that vocation, actively; not set apart but right in the middle of daily living with all its muddle and mess. As Dorcas the seamstress did and Simon the tanner.

Last week at Emilia’s baptism we acknowledged our own continuing vocations even as we prayed for the start of hers. ‘This is our task’ we said together, ‘to live and work for the Kingdom of God’.

And the liturgy spelled out how we ought to do that in those three magnificent promises:

As a disciple of Christ, will you continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers? In other words, will you pay attention to the need to resource yourself daily and weekly with the word of God – through prayer and Bible Study and joining with others to worship God – and with the bread of God? Discipleship has been called ‘a long obedience in the same direction’; in other words, it’s a marathon rather than a sprint, and therefore like all good marathon runners we need to train our bodies for that long haul by consuming the right foods. By eating the word and the bread of God which shape us for His work and his service, day in, day out, and by gathering with other athletes for mutual support and encouragement on the way.

And then the second promise: Will you proclaim the good news by word and deed, serving Christ in all people? Each of us proclaims Christ in different ways, not all of us by words; many of us by deeds. By acts of caring and going the extra mile, by the way we spend our money or the people we look out for. This week several of you helped to sort through Mae’s belongings, tenderly packing her clothes up and taking them to an Oxfam shop; others raised money for the Faith in Older People organisation at yesterday’s COG coffee morning; others still helped at the Food Bank or Fresh Start, or volunteered in various ways in the local community. All of us are called to live lives of integrity, lives consistent with the ethic of the Kingdom, lives which, yes, ‘proclaim the good news’ of Christ’s caring and Christ’s compassion in the very way they are lived.

And thirdly we are asked: ‘Will you work for justice and peace, honouring God in all Creation?’ Never has our planet needed people to heed that promise more urgently; to touch the earth lightly with their carbon and other footprints, and to live more simply that others may simply live. To care about recycling and shun greed and wastefulness; to  get engaged with movements to embed justice and fairness in the political systems of our country and our global economy. To care for the refugee and the immigrant and to share resources more equitably.

In the midst of daily life we are called to live and work for the Kingdom of God, to follow our God-given vocation spelled out by the promises made at baptism and reaffirmed in Confirmation; in the midst of daily life we are called to follow our God-given vocation just as whole-heartedly as my two dozen ordinands. To do it as diligently as Dorcas the seamstress and Simon the tanner; to do it as Fiona the nurse and Roddy the teacher, Anna the doctor and Hope the lawyer, Gloria the architect and Paul the musician. To do it as grandparents and good neighbours, home makers or office workers.

Let me close with a passage from a book by Melvyn Matthews which spells out better than I ever could what vocation is all about;

In my last parish it was my privilege to minister to a retired master printer. He had been brought up in the printing trade long before the advent of computers  and photocopiers and had the old printer’s eye for the beauty of a typeface and the setting of a page of print. He also made models – beautiful model boats and engines of infinite complexity. And he confessed to me that this was his way to God. His wife used to complain, jokingly, that he spent far too long in his workshop – but I knew (and I think she did) that he was there suspended between heaven and earth. When he died I ministered to him and he complained to me that people wanted to make him read religious books in preparation for heaven. I sensed that he had, in the stillness of his workshop, been there already, and said that he shouldn’t be tempted to read religious books but should go to heaven as a printer and at that he wept copiously for a long time. To my mind he was the inclusive mystic … who lives in the finite but every instant makes the movements of infinity.

May we too follow our vocation in daily life in this week to come, making the movements of infinity. And may we do so knowing that we are loved, guided and protected by Christ the Good Shepherd who gives us eternal life and will never let us perish.

In His name we pray,

Amen


WYNYOTADSMII

Sermon from Sunday, 5th August 2012 - The Rt. Rev Bob Haliday

In the Pewspaper, at the item The Sermon, you will find the title of this sermon…. lt stands for “Why not burn your Old Testament and do something more interesting instead?” Our Scottish Episcopal Church practically carried that out in the course of recovering the Eucharist as the main Sunday service: we deprived our people not only of the Canticles but of the Psalter, reduced their intake of Scripture at worship to yon miserable snippets of Prayer Book Epistles and Gospels, and virtually excised the Old Testament from our diet of Scripture. However deeply you are addicted to the 1929 Prayer Book, you have to admit that the Three-year Lectionary has effectively remedied that situation! And I shall now step briskly out of that ring!

Just as Judaism has a pecking order within Holy Scripture – the Law, the Prophets, the Writings – so Christians in the Eucharist sit during the readings from the OT and Epistle, but stand for the reading of the Gospel. And if we take into account the distribution of texts taken for sermons, we find the Old Testament is still tail-end Charlie. I have to admit that that is clearly true of my own preaching.

Why shouldn’t we just go along with this? Why burden those who preach with the interpretation of the Old Testament? Why subject congregations to excursions into pre- Christian history? Haven’t we quite enough to cope with in the New Testament? l’m going to suggest five reasons for taking the OT seriously as Holy Scripture.

(1) When I was a student recently become a member of the Christian Church, I decided to make a start in reading the Bible. I was advised to begin with Mark’s Gospel and St Paul’s letter to the Philippians – still sound advice to the beginner; if you start at Genesis 1 v.1 you will give up somewhere in Leviticus in a recipe for cooking lamb! So I sat down in my bedroom to read the Gospel of Mark in the KJV and I remember, at the end of the first chapter, hurling the book at the wall in frustration. lf you look at it at home, you’ll see that St Mark’s first chapter begins with a quotation from lsaiah, and goes on to mention repentance, the Coming One, the Holy Spirit, a voice from heaven, Jesus being tempted by Satan and waited on by angels, a decisive time, the Kingdom of God, a synagogue, and the Law of Moses: ten terms imported from the Old testament, without which they cannot be understood. Similarly in the first chapter of Philippians St Paul uses nine OT terms without explanation, able to assume that these Greek-speaking Gentiles in Macedonia knew the OT well enough to understand what he was saying. The OT was the Bible of the early Church. When a NT writer says, “as it is written,’ he is citing the OT. And no Ecumenical Council since then has left the OT out of the Canon of Scripture.

(2) The late Lord Beaverbrook once wrote a book about Jesus, entitled The Divine Propagandist, subtitled “A worldly man’s acrount for worldly men.” lt was reviewed in the Scoffish Journal of Theology by Sir Tom Taylor, Principal of the University of Aberdeen and a keen elder of the Church of Scotland. The conclusion he drew from his examination was that this book is not a fresh approach to the evidence about Jesus. Rather, it is Hinduism rendered into Englishl Beaverlcrook showed what can be done to the NT if you ignore its roots in the OT As George Ernest Wright has put it, the OT is the Church’s barrier against the paganising of the Gospel.1 Righteous- ness, holiness, glory the Reign of God, sacrifice, atonement, judgement, redemption, salvation – all these vital NT terms derive their meaning from their use in the OT, and are perverted if instead they are given meanings which they have in some other culture, eastern or western, ancient or modern.

(3) You often hear it said that Pentecost was the birthday of the Church, and most of us find that a helpful way of looking at things. But the story of the people of God, chosen to be instrumental to God’s purpose, began, not with Jesus, but with Abraham, and the teaching of Jesus takes that for granted. The history of lsrael is an account of God’s continuing self-revelation to his People, a historical experience Jesus fully endorsed, while he re-interpreted it and brought it to its climax in his own crucifixion, resurrection, and yet-to-be Appearing in glory. To abandon the OT would be to ignore the continuity of God’s saving activity from the time of Abraham to the present day.

(4) The OT was the Bible, not only of the early Church, but of Jesus. His interpretations of the sacred text were highly original, and often flew in the face of Judaism’s official understanding of these passages. He insisted that healing, far from infringing the ban on working on the Sabbath, was particularly appropriate on the Sabbath, that weekly celebration of Creation. He told that cured leper to go and find a priest to certify the cure in accordance with the Law. His controversy with the Pharisees over their custom of washing hands before eating, and with the Sadducees over the resurrection of the dead; his understanding that his own Messianic role combined the Biblical figures of lsaiah’s Sufiering Servant of the Lord and Daniel’s Son of Man; his appeal, when asked about divorce, from the concession wrung from Moses to the loving intention of God in designing marriage; his telling the rich young ruler that keeping God’s commandments was the way to eternal life; his deliberate acting out, at his Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem, of Zechariah 9 v.9 – all these, found in Mark’s Gospel, demonstrate Jesus’ intense study of the OT, his veneration for it as conveying the revelation of God and his will, and his expectation that his followers will share that outlook.

(5) When we talk of the Word of God coming to people through their study of the Bible, in Church, in groups, or on their own, or of people changing their intended course of action in the light of what has come zipping across the lectern, there is really no ground for ruling out the OT. Second lsaiah has furnished the church with its vocabulary of the Christian hope of the full coming of the Reign of God, and you can see people being lit up by the readings from that book in Advent. Ezekiel’s dazzling vision of the glory of God leaving the ruined Temple in Jerusalem and moving to Babylon to be among God’s People in exile – some scholars are embarrassed by what they call their ‘bizarre imagery” (do they realise that one day they’re going to meet the writer?). When these passages are read in Church, you can hear a pin drop. Shared devotion to the living God unites the Christians of the 21st century with this prophet who lived nearly seven hundred years before the Common Era. In the late Professor J.K.S. Reid’s fine phrase, “The study of the record of revelation in the past becomes the occasion of revelation in the present.”

Why not burn your Old Testament and do something more interesting instead? We are surely right to recoil from OT views which attribute to God attitudes that are bloodthirsty, racist, nationalistic or sexist. I am very far from advocating an uncritical acceptance of all that’s in the OT. What l’m pleading for, for the five reasons I’ve given, is that in Church and in Bible study we accord to the OT the same kind of critical-but-expectant attitude with which we listen to or read the New Testament.

NOTES

1 G. Ernest Wright, God Who Acts (SCM Press, 1952), p.19
2 J.KS. Reid, The Authority of Scripture


The Feeding of the 5000

Sermon from Sunday, 29th July 2012 - Janet McKinnell

The Olympic Games. Whether you think it’s all a great waste of money or something very important and valuable, I think you’d probably agree with me that the logistics involved in the planning and running of the Games are absolutely mind boggling. Take, for example, the catering operation for the athletes and the officials. Leaving aside all the various dietary requirements of various groups, the sheer quantity of food needed for many thousands of people for 17 days is quite beyond my imagination. Making sure the right quantities of the right foods are delivered to the right places at the right times… it makes me tired just thinking about it! Failure, as they say, isn’t an option: the people must be fed.

Jesus didn’t have the Olympic caterers at his disposal – not that he needed them – when he unexpectedly found himself with 5,000 people to feed. He asked local man Philip, “Where can I buy bread for all these people?” Philip didn’t even stop to think… “Six months’ wages wouldn’t buy enough for each person to have even a little”. Clearly the glass half empty type. Perhaps he might have realised that when Jesus asks a question, there’s a good reason for it.

Meanwhile Andrew’s discovered a young boy with five barley loaves and two small fish and brought him to Jesus. Did Andrew actually see possibilities or was he simply a glass half full kind of person? Not sure. The barley loaves the boy had were a poor people’s bread, a basic everyday staple. Nothing special. And the fish were probably a kind of sardine…again readily available and nothing out of the ordinary.

And so the multitude was fed… and there was much more food left over than had been there before the meal. Jesus insisted that all the fragments were gathered up… nothing should be lost or allowed to go to waste. Even leftover fragments are important. Avoiding waste would have been natural for Jews. Only Gentiles would let dogs eat food from the table.

I came across these few lines this week:

“It is part of the miracle:
how Jesus, with such intention,
cares for the fragments following the feast.
He sees the abundance that persists,
the feast that remains within the fragments.”

The feeding of the 5,000 is the only pre-Resurrection story to be found in all four Gospels. Each of the Gospel writers was writing with his own purposes in mind, so this story must have been important to them all. I think it’s worth thinking a little more about what John might have been trying to do in his telling of these events.

John’s gospel is about revelation, abut revealing who Jesus is, so that people might believe in him. The miracles are called ‘signs’… each pointing in some way to a deeper understanding abut Jesus and who he was and what he was doing. Pointing to God. John also records Jesus’ “I” statements: “I am the Way, I am the Gate, the Good Shepard, the Bread of Life etc.” Pointing to the nature of Jesus and ultimately to the nature of God.

Let’s go back to the meal on the hillside. Whether you believe this was a miracle, just as described, or became a shared meal, with others suddenly shamed into sharing what they had brought, but had kept hidden… however you yourself interpret the feeding of the 5,000… think John’s asking us to look beyond the miracle, to look at what was happening, at what John wants us to understand or discover about Jesus. For him there’s a significance beyond the miracle itself.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we’re told that Jesus takes the loaves and fish and blesses, brakes and gives them to his disciples to distribute. In John’s Gospel it’s Jesus himself who distributes the food… and the people ate as much as they wanted. Jesus gave the people the food himself. There’s something Eucharistic about this. Jesus himself feeding the people… as he feeds us, week by week, in our close, intimate encounter with him in bread and wine. We receive not only physical food, but food for our spirits also.

It’s not so much about the quantity of the bread that is given, but about the blessing we receive through bread and wine. Jesus feeding us himself, with himself: to sustain us… and lead us to eternal life. The bread of the earth can’t keep us alive for ever. What an amazing meal… with holy mystery well beyond our understanding. All this is more than simply ritual.  The feeding we receive equips us, week by week, to go out of this place and be God’s people in the world. We can, and we should, feed others because we ourselves have been fed… “We love because he loved us first”, declare the words of our liturgy.

This looking at what John’s gospel is telling us leads us all to a place of deep challenge: just what can busy, stressed people actually do in a time of recession and uncertainty? Acting like Philip and giving up – that isn’t Jesus’ way. Deciding that we haven’t “got enough of what’s needed” to do something worthwhile isn’t good enough either. And sometimes we do have what is needed; we just keep it safely hidden so nobody knows.

The young boy gave what he had – less than the fragments collected at the end of the meal. We too can offer what we can. That might not seem like much: fragments of what we would like to… or think we should offer. But there’s a feast in the fragments. We can’t all offer lots of time or money… but should perhaps re-examine such things more regularly. And we don’t need the Olympic caterers to feed others, to love others. There are simpler ways.

Just think what might happen if each of us focussed on the way we greet each other and behave to each other… and to visitors… all through the morning. A smile and exchange of a few words can mean so much more than we think: to someone who is new to St Peter’s, who is shy, who is lonely, not feeling well or who is simply having a bad day. When was the last time you began a proper conversation at coffee time with someone you don’t know? And maybe even spoke to them again the next week?