St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1788

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca


The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

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Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

Sermon

August 2nd Pentecost 9, 2020                      John Marsh


Geneis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7, 15; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21


They were similar yet different…


Each had a heart and soul which responded to calls of god as well as to the needs of their people…


Both were driven by the dynamism of a prophetic spirit - one was driven by righteous indignation, the other by the compassionate call of the commonwealth of god; one by Jeremiah’s spirit, the other by Micah’s call…


As the story goes, they were kinsfolk…


The one followed the other for a time until they each had to heed their own unique callings…


While ultimately walking different paths, they were forever connected in a familial way and by a shared communal faith…


The life of one affected the other and so it goes without saying that the death of one would also affect the other…


As the story is told by Matthew, before the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus, the prophet John was executed – he was beheaded at the capricious whim of Herod…


And I have a hunch – yes, I get that hunches say more about us but still, I have a hunch that this execution would have affected Jesus, both his state of mind and the vibrancy of his faithful imagination…


He would have struggled…


As the text says, when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself.” (Matthew 14:13)


I have a hunch that he needed solitude to process what had happened and, perhaps, to pray…


John in his collision with imperial power had lost his head; Jesus, with recent events in his hometown (see Matthew 13: 54-58) was confronted with the experience that his townsfolk thought he was ‘soft in the head’ (see Matthew 13:53-58) …


As the story is told by Matthew, I have a hunch that Jesus needed to confront, to contend with what this meant for his mission and his understanding of the holy


I have a hunch (yes, I am aware that this is a purely imaginative exercise but imagination lies at the heart of faith and communal praxis) that Jesus may have remembered the story of his forebear Jacob, his wrestling with god; he may have been inspired, despite traumatic events, to hold on, to refuse to let go until he was blessed. ¹


And blessing may have taken several forms…


Blessing may have been the ongoing formation of his soul - finding the insights of new awareness, of seeing god in a new way…


Blessing may have been the ongoing process of his transformation - finding new depths of the soul…


Blessing may have been his renewed maturation - finding the courage to move on…


Blessing may have been the cessation of that which was no longer necessary, no longer alive or of that which had become an obstacle to his life – finding the strength and grace to ‘let go’, to release, relax one’s grip…


In any event, as the story is told by Matthew, we are not told of Jesus’ experience of solitude, only of his response afterward…

14

When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. (see Matthew 14:14)


I have a hunch that he engaged them as he had engaged god, calls stirring within the name of god – I have hunch that he was able to be a blessing to people because he was able to contend (wrestle?) with god until he was blessed…


Imaginatively understood, Yeshua was enabled to recover the prophetic vision of Isaiah and Ezekiel who saw abundant food as a sign of god’s reign; he was inspired by the miracles of Elijah and Elisha who multiplied lamp oil and food…


The feeding follows the solitude; it follows contending with the death of a teacher and the rejection by townsfolk; and again, if I may use faithful imagination, the feeding follows encounters astir within the name of god…


While John lost his head during Herod’s birthday celebration – a celebration of power, wealth, alliances and status, Jesus responds to community rejection, John’s death, and the pressing need of people by enacting, responding to spirit stirrings that people be fed…


The feeding – a feast of sorts – is an unexpected (miraculous?) occurrence in a time of food scarcity for masses of people


Yeshua reclaims head, heart, and soul with the embodiment of the blessing of god’s reign – All ate and were filled” (Matthew 14:20a) …


We are told little of ‘how’ “all ate and were filled” – all we have is the story…


But maybe there are clues in the narrative description…


The story relates no sudden appearance of food as with manna in the desert (see Exodus 16) …


The disciples, asking Jesus to send people away to get food, are told, “You give them something to eat” to which they say, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” (see Matthew 14:16b-17)


And [Jesus] 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. (See Matthew 14:16b-20)


Within the story as we have received it, it is clear that there is no need to send people away to be fed; rather bring what you have, pray over and bless what you have (open to spirit stirrings) and then share and it will be enough for the moment (remember the prayer for daily bread) - in fact it is more than enough (oh boy, leftovers!) …


Yeshua lures his followers to open to impossible possibilities in their midst; Yeshua responds by luring his followers into faithful embodiments, an enacting of the reign of god…


People do not need to be sent away to find food for body and soul – it’s in their midst…


So, gather, pray, bless and share – it’s enough, it’s actually more than enough


Hold on; hang on until we are blessed…


And remember that blessing may take several forms…


Blessing may be the ongoing formation of our soul - finding the insights of new awareness, of seeing god in a new way…


Blessing may be the ongoing process of our transformation - finding new depths of the soul…


Blessing may be our renewed maturation - finding the courage to move on…


Blessing may be the cessation of that which is no longer necessary, no longer alive or of that which had become an obstacle to our life – finding the strength and grace to ‘let go’…


Blessing may be found in transitions – opening to new possibilities, impossible though it may seem…


Letting go to become the people of god, to become a people with food for body and soul…


So, gather, pray, bless and share – it’s enough, it’s actually more than enough because of the holy we pray is in our midst…




¹  So, let’s remember the Genesis story; after wrestling through the night with god, despite dislocating his hip, Jacob refused to let go until he was blessed. To those who understand ‘holding on until you are blessed’ as the counsel to ‘just sit back and it will get better’ have either never wrestled or never been involved with traumatic events. There is nothing passive about either, so ‘holding on until we are blessed’ can never be reduced to such a moralism. There is too much of a struggle going on.