Welcome to our online worship offering for this week. The readings, reflection and prayers are the same as the ones being used in church today plus some choral contributions which we can’t use in church. It takes about half an hour to go through this worship offering. We hope you enjoy it.
The Prayer for Today: the Collect
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. Amen.
Hymn: Praise my soul, the King of Heaven
First Reading: Romans 9: 1-5. God’s Election of Israel
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 forever. Amen.
Hymn: I heard the voice of Jesus say
Gospel Reading: Matthew 14:13-21 Feeding the Five Thousand
Jesus withdrew 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.”
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.
Today’s Reflection: from Rev Suzanne Johnson, our Curate.
Over the past few weeks we’ve listened to Jesus describe the Kingdom of God. We’ve heard the parable of the sower, the parable of the wheat and darnel, the treasure in the field, the mustard seed and the mustard tree, and the pearl of great price. Each of these stories teaches us something important about the Kingdom, and about the challenges we face when challenged by God.
In today’s gospel, however, we have a change of emphasis. Jesus is no longer telling stories about the Kingdom but is enacting the Kingdom in a real-life situation. The feeding of the Five Thousand. A story so familiar that for many of us its message gets lost in the comfort of repeated tellings.
But what if Jesus came to us today, in the age of coronavirus – would the miracle still work? There would be so many practical restrictions that I wonder! For instance, five thousand men each standing two metres from each other would occupy 62,840 square metres (that is roughly the size of 9 football pitches), and this doesn’t include (as Matthew says) any of those bothersome women and children. And what about wheat and gluten intolerance, or those allergic to fish! Jesus would have to fill in one of the church’s risk assessments and ask the PCC’s permission first!
More seriously – this well-known parable tells us much about the Kingdom, and person of Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, at the beginning of chapter 14, Jesus receives devastating news – his cousin, John the Baptist, has been beheaded! I’m sure many of us can relate even a little to how Jesus was feeling. Jesus needed time to think, pray, and grieve. So, He withdrew to a lonely place to be by himself. But, as usual, he was followed by crowds of people who needed His love and compassion. Stepping ashore, lost in grief, he was surrounded by crowds of people. Putting aside His own needs Jesus heals their sick and spends quality time with them.
Day draws to an end, and the disciples – I always feel sorry for the disciples, whatever they do they seem to get it wrong – the disciples ask Jesus to send the crowd away. Five thousand people need to eat – and not a McDonalds in sight. Jesus turns to them and says: “feed them yourselves”. Astounded they say “we have nothing, but five loaves and two fish”. Jesus asks for them, blesses them, and then to the amazement of everyone, feeds every single person there. It’s the most amazing picnic in history!
The five loaves and two fish are supplied by a small boy, an important part of the story, only mentioned in John’s gospel. If you remember our reading last week Jesus spoke about a mustard seed, the smallest seed of all, becoming an enormous tree. The gift, from this small boy – probably his family’s dinner, and maybe all they had – was a small seed, especially considering the number of people to be fed.
But Jesus took this gift and transformed it into food for five thousand people! A small gift from an unknown youngster (you can almost hear the disciples’ mockery) became the start of one of the most momentous moments in the gospels.
So what can we, here in Taplow, learn from this over familiar story?
Reflecting on the miracle, and reading the first part of chapter 14, I was struck by Jesus’ capacity to act with compassion and care despite His need for solitude, space; and time to grieve. How many of us can honestly say that we put our own cares and needs second to those of others? Of course, it is important to mourn, to have time to heal, to be on our own, and to look after ourselves. But we cannot do this at the expense of others – we cannot just step over our brothers and sisters because we are in distress. It is often in times of great trouble, doubt, and despair, that we most need to reach out and help people – sometimes this is the route back to life, even if that is difficult and challenging in itself. Jesus felt all these things when He heard about John’s death, but he managed to overcome his grief and bring relief and healing to those five thousand people. Perhaps He too received comfort and reassurance from His Father by continuing to bring the Kingdom into being, despite his own loss and desolation.
I am often brought up short by the amazing people I meet, people who, despite their difficulties, manage to change the world – sometimes in small ways, perhaps visiting a next door neighbour, sometimes in major ways, such as Bishop Alan Wilson, who works so hard for equality and justice in the church. In my darkest days, for instance when my husband has to be hospitalised, I read the story of the feeding of the five thousand – gird my loins and try to emulate Jesus.
I believe that the world needs Kingdom thinking, and even more Kingdom action. Here in Britain we need to bring economic and political justice to life. We need to destroy the hatred of institutional and individual discrimination; be that racist, sexist, gender related, class, or any other mindless gathering of “type” rather than people. And we need to do this not just in word and law, but in heart and mind. Across the world we need to ensure that everyone is treated equally, all lives are respected, all people are able to live in peace and security, disease free, and with equal access to life’s necessities.
Fine words, but how do we start? Well, for me, we start with what we have: let us take our loaves and fishes and dare to give them to Christ. Let us work with Him to change the world through His church. People seem ready to give money to building projects such as the restoration of Notre Dame in Paris
, but can we give and/or raise money to support those in need here in Slough, in Britain, and across the world – especially when we don’t feel connected to them. Are we able to inspire people to give as readily to, perhaps refuges in Bangladesh, as to heating our beautiful church building? Do we support our fellow churches through parish share? What have we done, and what will we do, with our loaves and fishes?
Jesus, who loves us, will take all that we give and use it to bring the Kingdom to life – both here, in Taplow, and everywhere; but we have to give it to Him first.
It is my prayer for each one of us that we will take a little time to think about the feeding of the five thousand, and what it really means in our lives today?
Anthem: Panis Angelicus Cesar Franck
Our Prayers for Today
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy, Creator of our beautiful world, you are our hope and our salvation at this time. We pray most earnestly for your people and your Church throughout the world during these unusual times. We pray you will help us, guide us today and always.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer
O Lord, we pray for our families, friends and neighbours and those central to our lives. Give courage and strength to all whose enjoyment of life has been taken away, those who fear an unknown future, failure or poverty. We know our prayers are not always answered as we would wish, but you do answer them as you think best for us.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray that for young people, the words ‘hope’ and ‘fulfilment’ will still be central to them. Watch over them, guide them and give them encouragement. We pray for our elderly whose way of life has changed dramatically. Dear Lord, give us faith and hope knowing your love is always there.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for those in our congregation who are unable to attend our services, may they know we keep them in our hearts.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Watch over those who are ill, in hospital and those whose lives are drawing to a close. We name in our hearts anyone known to us. Give courage to those who mourn and may light perpetual shine on those who have died in recent days.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
The prayer of Stephen Grellet 1773 1855 I expect to pass through this world but once, and any good thing, therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature let me do it now – let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.
Heavenly Father, graciously receive these our prayers, whether spoken with our lips or echoed in our hearts and answer them as may be best for us. AMEN.
Hear My Prayer: Purcell
Notices for this Week
Holiday Opportunities for children and young people: The enormously popular and much loved Burnham Lighthouse project cannot take place this year but this coming week, there is a ‘Virtual Holiday Club’ Monday 3rd to Friday 7th August 9.00am & 5.00pm. Details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMT2XubuOx
Cream Tea at St Anne’s – St Anne’s are offering a take away cream tea featuring Sue Blore’s amazing scones on Sunday 9th August between 3pm and 5pm. The scones, jam and cream will be served in take away containers outside St Anne’s church building so you can enjoy them at home. If you know you want a cream tea, please let Sue or Jane know so we can ensure it is ready for you on the day! You may also turn up on the day but when the scones are gone, they are gone! Price £5 per person. Please queue to collect safely if several people arrive at the same time.
Open Wednesday: We are delighted to announce that the midweek Eucharist will start again on Wednesday 12th August at 12.30. The church will still be open from 12 until 2pm for those who wish to slip in for private prayer.
PCC – The PCC will meet for the first time since January on Sunday 23rd August at 12 noon after morning worship.
Final Hymn: I, the Lord of Sea and Sky.
A Traditional Gaelic Blessing
Peace of the running waves to you, Deep peace of the flowing air to you, Deep peace of the quiet earth to you, Deep peace of the shining stars to you, Deep peace of the shades of night to you, Moon and stars always giving light to you, Deep peace of Christ, the Son of Peace, to you. Amen
A Voluntary by William Byrd played by Glen Gould