Sermons from St Faith's

Food for Thought
Fr Neil Kelley, August 3rd, 2008

On Friday afternoon, we ended the Holiday Club service by singing the song “Our God is a great big God”. Knowing the delicate sensibilities of the good people at S. Faith’s I am not going to teach you the words and actions to the song! But what an important message for children, as well as adults, to carry with them.

Our God is a great big God. Or, to use a more poetically acceptable language here at S. Faith’s. God is a generous God. Our God is a generous, overwhelmingly lavish God!

I can’t help but feeling that those who threaten to split from the church because they disapprove of gay bishops, or women bishops, or gay women lesbian bishops, have a very small view of God, or a limited understanding of God’s capacity to cope with difference and variety. Their God is a very small God!

The generosity of God is best expressed for the Christian community when we break bread together in obedience to the Lord’s command. Jesus didn’t tell us to have a service of prayer book matins, or great pyrotechnical all singing, all dancing, new fangled all age or even new age worship, fun though it might be – he told us to obey a command. To take bread, bless it, break it and share it.

In some miraculous way, just as with the feeding of the five thousand in today’s Gospel, something holy happens. In the forms of bread and wine, consecrated by the priest, we receive the very life-force of Jesus Christ Himself. How? You tell me!

 At the heart of our liturgy we proclaim a “mystery of faith” – Christ has died, Christ is Risen, and Christ will come again. It doesn’t matter that we understand every single detail – where would be the need for faith then? - but it does matter that we are open to receive the gifts of God and willing to share them.

Both PCCs will be debating in the autumn the practice of admitting children to Holy Communion at a younger age and before Confirmation. There will be those who will say – they are too young? Do they understand? I think it will be interesting to see how the PCC votes as a vote will, I believe, give us a true indicator of whether we believe children are truly full members of the Body of Christ, or whether we wouldn’t honestly prefer them to be seen, heard a little, yet kept away from something “grown up”. Do they understand what goes on? Do you understand the mystery of the eucharist?

We celebrate the eucharist in a particular way on a Sunday, with ritual and ceremonial, with music and formality. But those who attend weekday masses (sadly very few) might experience the eucharist celebrated in a more simple way gathering around the altar of the chapel of the cross. Not the same formality but the same things happening.

But in each and every Eucharist the actions are the same: 1. the Priest Takes Bread; 2. the priest Blesses bread; the priest Breaks the bread; the People Share the Consecrated Bread.

In today’s Gospel reading food was taken to a gathering. A gathering of hungry souls. Our Lord raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. Then the loaves were broken. 5,000 souls were fed, importantly, men, women and children too!

The Lord is overwhelming in his generosity towards us. He lavishly gives us the food of life, the Eucharist, which we celebrate together today. He gives it even when we are not worthy (which we never are!). So as we thank him for the gift of the Eucharist, and indeed the many ways we are fed, what do we need to take on board?

God gives himself freely to us in word and sacrament. We are encouraged to imitate this same generosity. Great charitable movements come from people feeling free to give out of their little.

We are challenged to give freely in all aspects of our lives. At the end of the day, the manner of the Eucharistic celebration is nowhere near as important as the act itself, nor as important as the need all of us have to be nourished by the Lord.

Some of my friends are getting fed up of my obsession with reading the labels on packaging telling you how many calories something contains, or how much sugar or fat. For someone trying to be careful about food after nearly 40 years of not being, such information is helpful though very often depressing! But we all know what happens when we eat what is good for us and when we eat what isn’t good for us.

People say very often, you are what you eat!! We can interpret that in many ways. St. Augustine said: “Become what you eat; receive what you are”. How is the balance of your spiritual diet?

Are you getting enough nourishment from the Word of God? That is to say, are you reading your Bible regularly? How often are we fed? Is our feeding on Christ haphazard? Does the bread of life nourish and feed us regularly or are we not bothered if we miss mass on a Sunday or two? We shouldn’t skip meals – even spiritual ones!

The phrase “to keep body and soul together” is a silly one – our souls of course are bound up with our bodies, at least while we are alive.

But just think how you and I might be – just think how the world might be – if we took the same trouble with our spiritual health and diet as we do – often to the point of obsession – with our physical health and well-being. A ‘companion’ is literally one with whom we share bread. As we eat the Bread of Heaven, as we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, are we prepared to become like him? Are we prepared to be broken so that His life can be given to the world through us?

God is a generous God and the call to share at his table is a call to all the baptized, young and old, rich and poor, gay and straight, famous and infamous, black and white. At God’s celebration there are potentially as many places at the table as there are people he has created.

In the eucharist, Christ provides the food needed for the journey and if we place ourselves in His hands we can truly become what we receive.

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