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Sunday August 2nd 2020 – Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Opening prayer:
Praise our God, all you his servants:
those who fear him, both small and great.

Almighty God,
your Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence.
Give us new hearts and constant wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Psalm: 145:8-9,15-end
  8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
  9 The Lord is good to all,
    and his compassion is over all that he has made.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
    satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
    and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfils the desire of all who fear him;
    he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
    and all flesh will bless his holy name for ever and ever.

Old Testament: Isaiah 55:1-5
Thus says the Lord:
Ho, 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.
Why 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.
Incline 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.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
   a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, 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.

Epistle: Romans 9:1-5
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. 

The Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21
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. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When 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.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then 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. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

I can be very easily distracted, quite often by an email, or a chance conversation, and I break off what I am doing, and head off in a different direction – sometimes to the frustration of Simon, who can be caught off guard by my sudden change of plan.
The gospel reading is one I am sure we all know very well. It was the opening verse though that caught my attention this time I read it this time was  “Now when Jesus heard this he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself” – so what had he heard? Looking back to the preceding verses, we read the story of Herod’s step daughter who asked for the head of John the Baptist on a plate.  I can understand Jesus wanting to take some time out when he heard about his cousin’s fate. Possibly Jesus was also thinking about what lay ahead for him. Reading the verses after the feeding the 5000, we are told that he got in a boat, told his disciples to dismiss the crowds, and he went up the mountain by himself to pray, in the meantime, he had been distracted by the crowds.
I can feel a tension here, Christ wants to get away, to unpack what he has heard about John, but his attempt to get away is temporarily thwarted, yet distracted by the crowd, he feels and sees their pain, and he responds.
I wonder what it was like to have been there, part of the crowd, one of the 5000. What were they expecting, what were they looking for? A crowd of 5000 – and that was just the men, besides women and children. What distracted them from what they were doing in their towns to follow Jesus as he headed off into the desert. It sounds from the reading as if, for some if not all of them, it was a spontaneous decision, because they did not think to take a picnic, perhaps they were not expecting to travel very far, or to be out for very long. But there was something about this teacher, healer, curer of souls, that kept them there, and before long it was getting late, and they had nothing to eat, although with many of the miracle stories, it does not help to dwell too much on some of the detail. As Jeffrey John says “The purpose of the miracle stories is to strengthen and illuminate Faith, the relationship between Christ and the hearer”.
I think the answer to what was happening in the desert, is in our Old Testament reading from Isaiah, don’t get distracted by the things that money can buy, but listen –  feed your mind and soul. I think that is what was happening in the desert – all ate, fed by the words, the actions, the example of Jesus. All ate, and were filled.
As I find myself distracted by farm tractors going up and down Hartley Bottom Road, by the blackberries and damsons ripe for picking in the hedgerows, the apple tree bowing under the weight of the fruit, I am in awe of the wonders of nature all around us. Wonderful distractions, that show us the majesty of our creator God. Let us see it, enjoy it, appreciate it, protect it, and  rejoice and be glad in it.
                                                                                                         From Susan Heads (LLM)

Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern both our hearts and bodies
in the ways of your laws and the works of your commandments;
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,
we may be preserved in body and soul;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Great God of creative abundance. We come before you this morning as a people in need of your generous blessing, and so we offer ourselves to you, with open hands and receptive hearts.

May our eyes be opened to the gentle gifts of grace that you have placed in our midst, and may we come to value the abundance of your hidden yet dawning kingdom, as it is made real in our midst.

And so we offer ourselves to your service: Take the gifts of our lives, and bless them, that we might become a blessing to others. Whether we bring wealth or weakness, power or poverty, health or helplessness; we place our lives into your hands, and we ask for your blessing.

And so, mindful of the needs of others, we pray for those who live in need, poverty, uncertainty, and fear; aware that you call us to play our own part in the coming of your kingdom of peace and justice.

We pray for all those who are hungry today, and especially for those who have this week used a food bank for the first time in order to feed themselves or their families.

We pray for those who have the power to make changes at a national level, for policy-makers, politicians, and business and industry leaders. We ask for, and commit ourselves to, your transformative vision of a just and equal society, where none go hungry and all are fed.

And so, finally, we pray for ourselves. May we learn to share both the hidden and visible blessings of our lives, offering ourselves and all that we are and have, to the service of your in-breaking kingdom of equality and justice.

In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord

Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.

God of power,
may the boldness of your Spirit transform us,
may the gentleness of your Spirit lead us,
may the gifts of your Spirit equip us to serve and
worship you
now and always.

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