(Modified 2021-08-08: Added audio recording of this sermon)
St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, Regina.
Tenth Sunday after Trinity – August 8, 2021
Rev. Nathaniel Athian Deng Mayen
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
What comes to your mind when you read this promise from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? I immediately think of the Holy Communion, where we break the bread and share the cup of wine in accordance with the Lord’s institution until He comes again to establish the kingdom prepared for us from eternity through the plan of our loving and merciful God to sustain us in Christ.
(Modified 2021-08-01: Added audio recording of this sermon.)
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand is the context for today’s Gospel lesson from John chapter 6. For our Gospel writer John, that context also included the experience he and the other disciples had later that same night, when Jesus walked to them in their boat across the waters of the Sea of Galilee. If last Sunday had not also been the Feast of St. James, we would have heard about the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and the miracle of walking on water last week. This year we are moving through the Gospel of Mark, but actually, the creators of the lectionary we follow have moved us over into the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel for the month of August. John chapter six covers the same two miracles as Mark’s Gospel, but it also includes this teaching of Jesus on the bread of life, which isn’t in Mark’s Gospel. For the month of August, we will be moving through John chapter six, before we go back to Mark in September.
The people had followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee because they had heard him teach about God in remarkable ways, and they had seen him perform amazing miracles of healing and raising people from the dead. When he managed to feed a crowd of thousands by multiplying five barley loaves and two small fish, they were ready to crown him king, whether he wanted them to or not. Jesus retreated from them further into the wilderness to be alone, and his disciples left for the other side of the sea in a boat. In the dark, the people didn’t see Jesus walk across the water to join the disciples. The next morning, they wake up, and he’s gone, but they aren’t ready to lose sight of a man who can provide food in a wasteland. They set off across the sea after him. “Rabbi, when did you get here?” This scene always reminds me of the Pixar movie The Incredibles, when Mr. Incredible comes home after a long day, and gets mad and picks up his car to throw it but then he notices their little neighbor boy on his tricycle, and they’re supposed to be hiding and not using their powers, so he doesn’t say anything, but sets the car back down and tries to pretend nothing happened. And then another day he comes home again, just the same way, and sees the neighbor boy sitting at the end of his driveway staring, so he asks, “What are you waiting for?” and the kid says “I don’t know, something amazing I guess.” The crowds that follow Jesus in the Gospels are like that little boy. “What are you waiting for?” “I don’t know, something amazing I guess.”
And while it’s always a good thing to follow Jesus, your motivation in doing so matters. Following Jesus because you want to see “something amazing I guess,” or because he can fill your belly, is not good enough. Jesus calls the crowd out on this. “You are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” Miraculous signs, which Jesus has been doing all along, are deeds that are full of significance, revealing Jesus’ identity and God’s saving activity in his ministry. The people had seen the miracle, but it did not focus their attention on Jesus. Rather, they saw him as a means to the filling of their stomachs. But Jesus did not come to fill stomachs with food, but to fill lives with the very presence of God.
This crowd is focusing on the physical realm. In John’s Gospel the physical and the spiritual are interconnected, for the physical is spirit-bearing: the Word became flesh. Jesus faults the crowd, then, not for their interest in their physical bodies, but for not perceiving spiritual through and in the physical. Too often we fail to have eyes to see and ears to hear where God is present in our lives, through either the sacraments or the events of everyday life. (Whiteacre, 152). “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
The people ask Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Translated, I think that means, we want you to stick around and keep giving us miracle bread. What’s the trade-off? What do we need to do to appease God, to make that happen? They are thinking in terms of manna in the wilderness, which is an obvious connection for them to make, really. They grew up on the story of the Exodus, and how their forefathers were sustained with miraculous food in the desert for forty years. “What do we need to do to make that happen?”
But Jesus isn’t interested in “works.” “The work of God is only this: believe in the one he has sent.” When your focus is on the needs of your body, you think in economic terms. I need food. How do I get that? I work. I want miracle food. How do I get that? What works do you need me to do in exchange? But Jesus is trying to get them to realize that the miracle bread isn’t the point. It’s a sign. It points to something else; to a deeper need they have, and an eternal, not a temporal concern. Our physical lives of flesh and blood are given by God, and they are significant, but they are not the whole story. This life is transitory. There is a “food that endures to eternal life.” It does not rot but instead nourishes real life, divine life, life that continues on forever.
But this crowd isn’t quite there yet. They’ve seen Jesus do some powerful things. They’ve been on the receiving end of a miracle feast. But they were also raised on stories of the miracles their forebears saw and experienced. They have the stories of Moses on their mind. Jesus miraculously fed them once. Moses fed the people in the desert for forty years. Will Jesus prove to them he is as great as Moses?
Like a good rabbi, though, Jesus points out the fault in their reasoning. It wasn’t Moses who fed the people in the desert. It was God. They called the manna “bread from heaven,” but Jesus is saying that yet again, they’ve missed the point. The manna wasn’t the bread from heaven. Or rather, it was so only in a limited sense. Manna was first and foremost a sign. It fed the bodies of the people, but it was meant to point them to a larger spiritual truth. “It is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Notice the tenses of the verbs in what Jesus says. “Moses has given,” “my Father who gives.” The bread from heaven was now, in their midst, given to the people in the crowd that day, not to their ancestors in the past.
The other thing Jesus is doing in this statement is the thing that’s eventually going to get him killed: he is aligning himself with God the Father in a way no other rabbi would ever dare to do. My Father. If it’s not the truth, it’s definitely blasphemy. With his teachings, Jesus claims for himself the prerogatives of God; giving life, and judgement. He offends the Jewish leadership with his words, and makes the people cautious. No wonder they keep asking for signs, drawing near, then moving away again. Jesus is either the Son of God, or he’s dangerously unhinged. Neither really is comfortable for mere mortals to be around!
Still, the prospect of being fed by God with something better than manna is too enticing. “Sir, from now on give us this bread.”
Jesus says the words “I am” seven times in John’s Gospel, and this is the first of the seven. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” It’s big and bold and wonderful and scary all at once. And we’re going to see in the next few weeks, as we go through the rest of John chapter six, how the people respond to this incredible statement.
This big, bold, wonderful declaration is what we will assent to and participate in now in the sacrament of communion. We have made our own declaration in the creed: we believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, being of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made, who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven. We will eat the broken bread, the sign of the broken body of Jesus, broken for us; the Bread of Life. Our participation in this sacrament is our assent to Jesus’ words: “He who comes to be will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” We believe you Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
HOLY BAPTISM. Today we give thanks and praise to God for gift, the blessing, and the promise He gives us in our Baptism as we celebrate the Holy Baptism of Gunnar.
GUEST MUSICIAN. We rejoice and give thanks for Wendy Harman who is our guest musician at the piano today.
ST. MARY’S OUTDOOR YARD SALE. Big thanks to Clara, Norma, Janice, Sharon and the team of volunteers for the wonderful yard sale at St. Mary’s yesterday! See photos below!
RECTOR’S VACATION. Claude is taking his annual vacation during the month of August. Revd Nathaniel Deng Mayen will presiding and preaching in his absence with support from Beth, Henry and John. Pastoral emergencies should be directed towards Archdeacon Catherine Harper at 306- 570-8837, from Aug 1-14, and Archdeacon Cheryl Toth at 306-591-5924 from Aug 14 – 28.
CONGREGATIONAL MEETING. Following on from the theme of ‘change and renewal’ which the Vestry discerned at it’s last meeting, the Rector and Wardens set September 12 as the date for a congregational meeting to take place after the morning service to update and reflect together on matters of parish life. Please mark your calendars!
BISHOP ROB’S FAREWELL BIKE TOUR. Please join us next Saturday at 11.15 a.m. as Bishop Rob visits St. Mary’s for farewell visit, blessing, and prayers.
THE FEAST OF ST. JAMES, APOSTLE AND MARTYR, A.D. 44
JULY 25, 2021 10.30 a.m.
MORNING PRAYER with HOLY BAPTISM
I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear I will worship toward thy holy temple. Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; Make thy way straight before me, that with a clear mind I may glorify thee forever, One Divine Power worshipped in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Modified 2021-07-26: Added audio recording of this sermon)
St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, Feast of St. James, July 25, 2021 Revd. Canon Claude Schroeder
So today is very happy and joyful day for us at St. Mary’s. We have come to celebrate Gunnar’s baptism. It was just about two years ago that we celebrated Steve and Karen’s wedding at the church, where I recall praying that they would receive the gift and heritage of children and that they would see their children Christianly and virtuously brought up to thy praise and honour. So I would say prayers are being answered!
Now we have, gosh, 4 generations of Maupins, and 3 generations of Perssons in church today, with great- grandmother Irene, grand-parents Karen and Kelley, and Art and Marion, and great aunts, and aunts and uncles and cousins. This is really wonderful because the way in which the Word of God is handed on through the generations, always seeking to become flesh in us, as it did in Jesus Christ.
In the calendar that governs the worship of the church, today is a red-letter day, hence the colour of church and robes. Red Letter days are days set aside to honor and celebrate the Saints of the Church, and today, July 25this the Feast of St. James the Apostle and Martyr. Ordinarily, on Sunday we come to church to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his victory over Satan, sin, and death in the service of Holy Communion. And so when a Saint’s Day falls on a Sunday, it gets moved to the Monday. First things first.
LIVE AUDIO STREAMING during today’s service is available on the Order of Service page. Recorded audio will be added following worship.
PARISH LIFE NOTES
GUEST MUSICIAN. We rejoice and gave thanks for Allison Luff who is our guest musician at the piano today.
ST. MARY’S OUTDOOR YARD SALE will take place on July 24th. We will start accepting items starting July 18th from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Household items, clothing, treasures, jewelry, toys, tools, books (no Encyclopedias or Reader’s Digest). Volunteers of all ages welcome! Please call Clara.
MESSAGE FROM THE VESTRY. On Tuesday, July 13 the St. Mary’s Vestry had its first in-person meeting since the beginning of the pandemic last year. All vestry members were present: Canon Claude Schroeder, Beth (Warden), Mary (Warden), Katherine, Alanna, Tom, Bob, Ben, Revd. Nathaniel Deng Mayen, and Andrew. At our meeting the Vestry discerned that we are in a time of renewal and change.
Valerie has resigned as St. Mary’s Organist and Director of Music. Rev. Claude is finding people to fill in for music during the summer. Decisions on Music Ministry will be formulated in the fall.
Funeral Ministry – We need to review how this ministry will be conducted and find new volunteers.
Kate has resigned as FaithQuest Coordinator, after many years of excellent service to the parish. Planning is needed regarding the future of FaithQuest.
The involvement and participation of the congregation will be important in all of the above ministries. A congregational meeting will be planned in September.
Church Finances as of June 30:
Year to date income is $98,894.59; (49% of Budget)
Year to date expense are at $114,701.22; (54% of budget)
Net income is $-15,806.63.
We have paid our fair share to the Diocese and our insurance and taxes for the year. We are all reminded to be vigilant and help to ensure that income levels remain where they should be.
During this time of transition back to ‘normal’ after the restrictions of COVID, we are reminded that people have differing levels of comfort regarding attending services, wearing of masks etc. We need to remember those who do not feel comfortable attending at this time and be accepting of each other regarding our journeys back to ‘normal’ interactions
Bishop Rob Hardwick has begun his farewell bike tour through the Diocese, and will making a final visit to St. Mary’s for prayer and blessing at 11:15 AM on Saturday July 31.
SHORT TERM MISSION TRIP! On Thursday, July 15 Clara led a group of St. Mary’s youth through the neighborhood to deliver flyers for our upcoming yard sale. Pictured left to right are: Zachary, Anya, Eli, Clara, Eva, Georgia, Myka, Liam, Emma, and Luci.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-twoothers and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what isoffered to you.The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10. 1,3-4, 8, 17-20)
NEXT SUNDAY: 10.30 a.m. Celebration of Holy Baptism of Gunnar.
How can we have the Holy Spirit?
The answer is, for each of us to love his wife: you who are married your wife, and I who am a monk, my monastic life.
I must love my solitude, and not get depressed, not get tired, I must stand vigil, and not think that God sent me here in order to save the whole world, not to think that it is my duty to joke with this or that person, but to look after my job: I must have my eye on Christ.
When you leave your house and get married, you leave behind your father, mother, brothers, relatives, and, instead of your parents, your brothers and relatives, you find a new family. And having left, don’t look behind you, as the Psalm of…the Virgin Mary says, “Do not think of anything from your former family*” For now you have a whole new world before you, which you must rejoice in, to partake of, to taste, to give life to. Therefore, all of us must give life to our family, to our love, to the divinity that we have wedded, as St. Hesychios says. “Then our flesh we will be filled with divinity and we become Christ.” -Abbot Aimilianos of Simonopetra
*Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house; and the king will desire your beauty. (Psalm 45:10-11)
(Modified 2021-07-18: Added audio recording of this sermon.)
Sermon for St. Mary’s Anglican – by Henry Friesen July 18, 2021
Scriptures Lessons: Jermiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Ephesians 2:11-22 and Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts together, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
Caring for the Scattered
When I read our Old Testament lesson earlier this week I was struck with the word “scattered” which Jeremiah uses to describe the actions of some of Israel’s shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, says the Lord.” I looked up the word “scatter” and found that it can also mean dispersed, dissolved or spread. In English we use the word to mean objects randomly lying around as in leaves scattered on the ground or clothes scattered all over the laundry room floor.
God, through Jeremiah the prophet uses the word to describe a group of people who are spread apart or dispersed and I think it is the opposite of a group of people who are united in both body and spirit; a group that feels comfortable and safe in the place where they live.
This morning I want to us to think about this word together. Even if we do not consider ourselves to be shepherds or leaders perhaps there are ways in which we contribute to a kind of “scattering” and more importantly, perhaps there are ways in which we can work to alleviate those who feel as if they have been scattered, dispersed or simply lost and uncertain.