Readings And Sermons or Talks

The Collect for today, the Ninth Sunday After Trinity

Gracious Father, revive your Church in our day, and make her holy, strong and faithful, for your glory’s sake in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Psalm 78:23-29

Yet he commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven. Mortals ate of the bread of angels; he sent them food in abundance. He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind; he rained flesh upon them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; he let them fall within their camp, all around their dwellings. And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and shall be forever. Amen

Ephesians 4:1-16

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,

“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
    he gave gifts to his people.”

 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

John 6:24-35

So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Today's sermon is brough to you by Pam.

Readings:

Ps. 78:23-29 It is about God’s provision in the wilderness. What God did for the People of Israel firstly in the wilderness and then perhaps when they went into exile.

Eph. 4:1-16 In Ephesians 4:1 Paul implores his hearers to realize what has been given to them and to be in practice what they are in Christ. So he turns the focus of his letter from what God does for us to what we are to do in response. HOW YOU BELIEVE MUST EFFECT HOW YOU LIVE.

John 6:24-35 This chapter 6 is one that starts off fairly easy to understand but becomes increasingly mystical and difficult to understand. One writer says the chapter parallels the story of the Passover and the Exodus of Israel from Egypt in several important ways.

Passover and Exodus

Jesus

God’s signs against Pharoah.

One of Jesus’ signs, feeding the 5,000 and walking on the rough seas.

Eating of unleavened bread –hasty leaving.

Jesus fed those who were unprepared

Moses led the people of Israel across Red Sea as though on dry land.

Disciples alone on the sea and Jesus walks across the sea as though on dry land.

God fed the people with Manna and miraculous springs of water.

Jesus declares himself to be the true food and drink, come down from heaven

These parallels show that Christ our God is the fulfilment of the Old Covenant, and that the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood, which free mankind from the slavery of sin, fulfil the sacrifice of the Passover lambs which brought the people out of slavery into the promised land.

In John’s passage, Jesus is trying to show the people who had followed him that they were following him for the wrong reasons. They all knew the stories of the Exodus, and how a miraculous spring came from the rock and gave them water in the desert and how manna and birds fed them in the wilderness, but they didn’t seem to remember the source of these things when times got tough or they were tested. They followed the old ways whilst Moses was up in the mountain preparing the ’10 commandments’, or when they were told to collect enough food for one day, except in preparation for the Sabbath. So they got sick and had to be healed, or the food turned bad. They forgot who provided for them in the wilderness. It was God. Here Jesus is saying ‘there is food for you that is better than the bread you work to provide for your families. This food is better than that which you see everywhere around you. They forgot their covenant with God, where God would provide for them if they worshipped and served Him alone. The people in these stories worshipped the bread, but not the provider.

As most of you know, my husband Graham is an Orthodox Christian, so I often have access to orthodox teaching texts. I was reading one which discussed ‘The Church’ in relation to Ephesians. In it, it said

‘One of the tragic aberrations of so-called modern religion is “Churchless Christianity”. The assertion is that it is Christ who saves us, not the Church, so “all you need is Jesus.” Few who claim to be Christians would argue against the statement that it is Christ who saves. There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5). But because this Mediator established the Church which is His body, we who are joined to Him are joined to His Church as well. To say we love Christ, who is the Head of the Church, and at the same time reject His body is to deny the New Testament teaching.’

Many of us have problems with what we consider the church to be, forgetting that it is us, the people, followers and worshippers of God, recognising our dependence on Christ for His New Covenant, who make up Christ’s Church, not necessarily the humans who try to organise us into acceptable bodies for whatever reason. The Church is the people, not the buildings. Thus we share with our brothers and sisters in different denominations the same promises and responsibilities from and towards God. So, just because one group sit in silence until the Lord leads when they are worshipping God, or have happy clappy services, or drink from individual glasses when they share Holy Communion or from one, or even from a spoon with both bread and wine mixed, doesn’t make them any more or less part of the body of Christ. So we, God’s people, should be endeavouring to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephes. 4:3). We, the Church, are people, energised by the Holy Spirit. ‘For to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift’(Eph.4:7). We are not all given the same gifts, but together we are equipped to do God’s will. The Head of the Church is Christ, ‘from whom the whole body is joined and knit together’ (Eph 4:16). The Church is ‘the new man’ or woman or person, the new creation made to be righteous and holy. We are no longer alienated from God (Eph 4:18); we are being renewed together (Eph 4:230, ‘members of one another’(Eph 4:25).

The Church, then is that place, not a building or organisation, established by Christ where we each may become what we are created to be, maturing and being perfected, while the Church receives what it needs from each of us, so that it too is being perfected. The Church, as the body of Christ, carries us beyond our petty and worldly personal concerns, stretching our vision to the eternal and the heavenly as we ascend together to worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

So when we meet with Christians with different understandings of ‘The Church’ and how things should be done, please don’t reject them, respect them and try to learn from them, in order that you too may grow. When we meet with people who are differently gifted by the Holy Spirit, don’t reject them or consider them lowlier or higher than you. Respect what God is doing in them but also respect what God and the Holy Spirit is doing in you and praise and thank Him for how both of you are contributing to His Holy work in this world. Remember Jesus said ‘many who are first will be last, and the last will be first’ (Mt 19:30).

In human terms we tend to revere the teachers, apostles, prophets and the like, but Jesus valued the children and the widow who gave her last mite. The Church is incomplete without each of us. We exist through God’s grace and faithfulness, through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In humility, don’t be deceived by the schemers, the tricksters ‘but speaking the truth in love, ... grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the whole body’s growth in building itself up in love’ (Eph. 4:15-16). In humility, be like Jesus, the sacrificial Passover lamb, and who said

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12).