This Sunday’s Gospel reading is John 6.1-21 (or 1-15)
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?” …Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Earlier this month, we looked at the importance of taking people and their gifts seriously. We see the same here: Peter is dismissive of the boy’s offering, while Jesus sees its potential (not least in the way it sets an example of sharing).
Last week, we looked at the importance of the balance between material and spiritual feeding. Jesus knows that the crowd need food as well as sermons. We can’t witness to God’s love, if we don’t show that love in our day-to-day behaviour.
As the Letter to James says: Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Ministering to people’s physical needs – whether feeding the hungry, or building a world where they aren’t hungry again – is one way we make the Gospel a reality, and open people’s lives to the power of the Spirit.
But we cannot live by bread alone. The value of sharing goes beyond the purely material. When we share of what God has given us, we are drawn into the communion – the love – that is at the very heart of God. Today’s Gospel reading not only teaches us about the human generosity and sharing that draws us into the life of God. It also points us to the feast of the Eucharist – where God’s self-giving in Jesus takes flesh for us in bread and wine.
Pray for David Barclay, starting work on 1 August at the Contextual Theology Centre on its Call to Change initiative with the Church Urban Fund. Pray that this work will help churches to engage with their neighbours to build generous and just communities.
Pray also for all communities affected by the Olympics – and for local initiatives such as Highway Neighbours helping people support one another in living with its impact, and enjoying the historic events.