Monthly Archives: May 2022

Easter 7 – 29th May – Rachel Pengelly

Acts 16:16-34, John 17:20-end

May the words of my mouth and meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight amen.

The passage we have heard from Matthew is known as the great commission. Or as we would say, a command or a role given to a person or a group. Interestingly, this important passage is only in Matthew and is not in any other of the gospels. This is surprising as it is such an important passage. The gospel of Matthew has five long speeches by Jesus ending in a sentence like,  “when Jesus finished saying these things” The author is highlighting the idea that Jesus is the new Moses for example, by collecting the teachings into five speeches, parallel to the Torah or Old Testament said to be the teachings of Moses. Matthew is the most Jewish of the Gospels. The great commission is at the climax of Matthews Gospel.

 It is said that Matthew was a Tax Collector and would have been an outcast as they were seen by some Jewish people as dishonest and given to greed. They were said to often skim money out of the taxpayers for personal gain,  in collaboration with the Romans as they were not paid a wage for their work.  But Jesus called him to follow him regardless.

Several years ago, I attended an Exploring Christianity Course where I, and three other students exploring the prospect of ordination, wrestled with this passage, no matter how much I tried to work out alone, what the passage was saying, I kept missing the point. When we came together to study the great commission it started to become clearer and there was so much, we discovered! When it was decided that I was going to talk to you today about this passage I felt a mixture of trepidation and joy as this is now one of my favourite Bible passages.

We are looking in on a scene that occurred between the resurrection of Jesus and his ascension to the father. Some of the disciples have seen the risen Christ, some have not. The women who first proclaimed that Jesus had risen to the disciples on Easter Day, were simply not believed by the eleven. Jesus is described a bit later as suddenly meeting with some of the disciples, being with them, with the words “Greetings. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me.”

The eleven disciples travel from Jerusalem to Galilee. Only eleven of course as Judas as died and has yet to be replaced with Matthias. They do as they are asked. Jesus does not travel with them.  I wonder what conversations there were between them. Were they anxious? Not all the disciples have seen Jesus yet, so I wonder if they think this is a pointless journey? Were they excited at the prospect at seeing Jesus again? What questions did they have?

 They go to the mountain in Galilee. Scholars have argued, which mountain?  but we are not told in the text. We do know however that important events in Jesus’ ministry happen up on the mountain side.  The closest Mountain is the Mount Tabor, the sight of the transfiguration so they could have been sent there.  So, they arrive, and Jesus appears and is with them. Some worship him and others doubted. I wonder why they doubted.  It is of course a very human thing to do but Jesus is standing among them, they can see him. We remember previously in the gospel of John, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, but she does not recognise him. Jesus’ appearance had changed. The doubters could be simply unable to recognise the risen Jesus. The text does not tell us who the doubters were. But I am not surprised that some felt unsure, after all they had just witnessed the crucifixion and burial even if at a distance. This raises the question, How will we recognise Jesus?

Jesus says to them ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me’ This is a very strong statement. In other words.

‘I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission’ The voice Bible.

This is easier to understand. Jesus has won the authority through the victory over sin and death and will now use to take over the world through the disciples. The world the way Jesus wants it. He is now passing this commission to the disciples to fulfil. He then commissions them to Go and make disciples. This commission is ours too. To go out and tell the good news and encourage new believers and those who do not know Jesus Christ and help them come to faith, to go to dark places and shine Christs’ light. To be with people as Jesus was. He tells them to make disciples of all nations, they are being sent far and wide to baptise in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit. According to one scholar who says,

‘Not merely is the truth to be preached; Christ requires a confession of discipleship. He expects his people to be bound together in Church fellowship. ‘(Adeney, 2022)

Baptism is essential.  This is a command to preach the gospels and to baptise from Jesus himself. Then to teach them, this is how the gospel is spread.  Telling them to go out and tell others to baptise. What does this mean for us? How can we do that? It can be as simple as you telling your story of faith, the example of how you live the good works that you do. Planting a small seed in the minds of others for God to nourish.

This is a heavy commission, and should not be done alone, as I discovered on that previous course. The disciples went out in two or groups to teach later in The Acts of the Apostles and they are assured that God is with them. Jesus then gives his reassurance by saying ‘surely, I am with you’. They need reassurance as Jesus will ascend and leave them soon… for good. They needed his reassurance and so do we, to take on this exciting and daunting task. But we remember Jesus left physically but not spiritually.

 In the nativity narrative, at the very beginning of Matthews Gospel, Jesus is called Emmanuel meaning God with us, Matthew now comes full circle to the ultimate end, where that promise is fulfilled with the assurance of an ever-present God, through the power of the holy spirit Jesus left with us, who will be with us to the very end of an age.

 Whoever you are, and wherever you are in your journey, the most important message for me in this passage is the very last line. And surely, I am with you to the end of an age. Whatever we are going through in our lives currently, in the past and in the future, good or bad, God is with us, every single one of us. Even if we have turned away from Christ in the past, we have that beautiful promise, I am with you to the end of an age.


Adeney, W., 2022. Matthew 28:18 Sermons: Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 17 May 2022].


Easter 6 – Rogation – 22nd May 2022

Easter 6 – Rogation – Year C – Acts 16:9-15, Mark 6;26-31

In the name of the Living God: Loving Father, Risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit, Amen

When we gathered on the last of these feasts of the agricultural year- Plough Sunday back in January, I talked about planting the seeds for my vegetable growing in the rectory green house. We talked about seeds of new life and growth in our churches and blessed seeds people had brought with them. Remembering I am not remotely green fingered, I have to say my seed growing has not been entirely successful, but I have nurtured a courgette plant into life and planted it out in the green house this week. (This is a first for me!). Thankfully I have also reaped the benefit of other people’s efforts with tomatoes via last weekend’s plant sales and a squash plant too.

This time our feast of the agricultural year is Rogation. Traditionally, blessing the land and praying for the harvest. Rogation falls on the sixth Sunday of Easter is as a the trigger to start 3 days of prayer called for in the lead up to ascension day on Thursday. The word rogation comes from the latin to ask, and was inspired by the collect for this Sunday in the Book of Common Prayer, which includes whatsoever ye shall ask for in my Name – he will give it you. So we follow this tradition of asking for God’s blessing on the land today for a fruitful harvest in all the different forms this can take.

This is an important focus for us – and one we must not lose sight of. It is easy for many of us with our distance from the production of the food we need, to be a bit insulated from the impacts on those who work the land. Rogation – helps us to remember and link things together and be mindful of God’s good earth and his creation of which we are stewards, which is good for us – and helps us to. Especially as it is important to be conscious of the wonder of God’s creation all around us.

I asked one of the local farmers, what is on the minds of the farming community at the moment. He said sorting out the detail of the farming measures and subsidies to support the environment, which are being replaced following our exit from the EU. Detail is yet to be forthcoming – and this is making life difficult for the farming community and needs sorting out. He also talked about how interrelated we are and the bigger picture in relation to food supply for our whole world. This is something that has been concerning me too. How impacts of poor harvests, or harvests impacted by conflict will send shock waves.

Theoretically, as a world we have enough food to feed everyone, but it is not always where it is needed. Some have too much and some have too little, and some of the things going on at the moment, are going to impact the equilibrium of world food supply in the months ahead too. The Arthur Rank Centre which supports rural communities and ministry have stated that there are hidden depths to our global situation. We have now been praying for peace in Ukraine and an end to the conflict there as weeks have turn into months.

This week there has been a call for access to Odessa’s grain stores to release vital supplies to the people of Ukraine. Ukraine is a fertile country and supplied nine per cent of the world’s grain in 2019. The current situation has wider implications. Clearly, that contribution is under serious threat because of the war. As a world we are much more linked than we often realise. Sadly, humans have been destroying the crops of other humans during wars for a very long time, and as markets become global, the impacts become global. We obviously expect to see food prices rise, along with everything else, but in other areas, which import grain from Ukraine, particularly in Africa, we are sadly likely to expect famine..

It makes praying for peace for justice, and for genuine reconciliation work all the more vital. We need to consider how we can help our brothers and sisters, whose lives have been turned upside down by war, where ever that is. As well as the likely down the road costs to those with the least. Making it all the more important we strive for peace today, tomorrow and beyond and we pray for peace too.

From thinking about blessing the land and the complexities of that, let’s think next about how frequently Jesus uses stories from our natural world to make deeper points about how we should live as stewards on God’s beautiful world and in his kingdom now.

Our gospel today was two parables – stories with deeper meaning – the first part – ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

That is a very idealised view of how a crop really grows and there are a lot of things missing. Apart from sleeping and rising, the farmer does not appear to be doing anything between sowing and harvesting. There is no mention of preparing the ground,  fertilizing, tilling, fighting pests. Nor do we get any influence of the forces of nature essential for growth like sun or rain, and/or the various destructive forces like wind, hail, weeds, pests and drought that at least threaten the seed’s maturation.

The references to time are pretty hazy too. It sounds like growth is pretty instantaneous after sowing – which often is not the case. It takes some time in my experiences for long dormant seeds to germinate. Also there is no mention of the roots of the crop – which have to be there first before the stalk. So what is this story really about!

The commentary I read said views on that were mixed, depending on whether you started from the seed or the farmer’s perspective, and I am not sure we will ever really know what Jesus’s point for his day was. But for our day we can glean that the kingdom of God is in the every day, here and now. In the activities in the world around us – the crops in the fields around this village/town remind us that the kingdom of God is also not under our control. We can do a lot to help increase the yield of crops, but there is nothing we can do to guarantee a good harvest! Forces of nature interact with our endeavours. There is also a sense in the final part of the parable that one cannot escape the sense of an appointed time of the harvest. This is not about the growth or length of time between seedtime and harvest, but the accent on the harvest does affirm a time when all will be brought to its final end, the ripe grain will be harvested. How we interpret that is open to debate – Certainly a call to readiness, alertness to God in our lives now – our present reality and to look for and at harvest differently.

Thankfully the second parable we heard, is a bit easier:- With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade

Even in the Holy Land the mustard plant is apparently not big enough for the birds to make nests in its branches. So what does that bit mean! In this instance the birds are not what they seem. It is thought that they are a reference to the Old Testament – From Daniel and Ezekiel. Where the birds represented the nations of the world. So this is pointing to the reality that the kingdom of God began with the Jews and the coming of Jesus, but is intended to grow to include all the races and nations of the earth. For me this makes it important we rise to the challenge of being globally minded. Encouraging others to love their neighbours not just those close at hand, but our neighbours in Ukraine and in Africa in the choices we make. Another way of looking at this story is again about the kingdom of God, in us and around us. Our lived reality of God’s presence with us. This can start really small and grow through the most unlikely of places and opportunities and develop and mature in us and around us. This is not about force or conquest, but about organic growth in our hearts and that spreading its influence in our lives. We need to value what is potentially very small but actively growing in our Christian life and development and see opportunities (no matter how unlikely) as ways of growing the kingdom of God in our hearts.

In a way we need to be open to the limitless potential of God’s Spirit to bring life and growth, and open to the signs of God’s kingdom among us and within us. God’s kingdom can’t be counted down on a calendar, nor heralded by grand display. The key to this parable and the previous one is that – God’s kingdom is already among us. And we are living in that Kingdom now. That the place to start is in our hearts and to ask God through the power of his Holy Spirit to guide us and nourish us, to tend and nurture us and to establish in us, his love first and foremost guiding our every thought and action. Bubbling out to encourage others on their walks in God’s kingdom – in our here and now and present reality.

In different ways these 2 parables, tricky as they are, do boil down to our approach to life and starting from the heart, God’s amazing love for us and our loving response to that guiding our hearts.

And I am going to end by reading a reflective heart based prayer – aspects of the natural world thrown in to finish. Sadly I have had this for a while, and I don’t know where I found it.

Let us pray Lord, may my heart be as a spacious barn; a place where the swallows of your peace and gentleness may nest and lay their young; a place where the crops and fruits of your word may be stored, to be brought out and shared in due season; a place where bales of the hay of your comfort and compassion and love are piled high, ready for the winter of loss and discouragement and hardship; a place where prayer soars as an owl and returns blessed by your grace and spirit. a place that is as your kingdom in the midst of us, ever constant, ever changing, ever open, ever inclusive, ever a place of life and love and daring. Amen.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995. Copyright acknowledgement Some material included in this service is copyright: ©  The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2020 and from the book of Common Prayer

Source of the prayer at the end unknown.

Easter 5 – Rev Alison Way – 15th May 2022

Acts 11:1-18, John 13:31-35

In the name of the Living God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer Amen

When I was young there were lots of cartoons, featuring a girl and a boy called “love is”. They showed pictures that matched their slogans like

  • Love is not asking how much her new dress cost

  • Love is having his picture on your desk and having his love in your heart

  • Love is letting her take over the bathroom

Social attitudes have changed a bit since the seventies and eighties! What characterises love for us? And if we had to sum it up – how would we? Saying what love actually is – is quite difficult because its lots of things. It makes the world go around. Love is our reason for being! Maybe even love is giving someone your last rolo!! – Not that I am influenced by advertising at all.

In a way Jesus is setting the bar very high this morning in our gospel reading in understanding what love is. We heard he asked us to love each other as he has loved us. We know that Jesus love for us is very deep and remarkable, but it was also very costly. That means our love of other people needs to be deep and can on occasions be very costly too. Ultimately Jesus was willing to die for us as we remembered on Good Friday and we cannot go any further than that! But we can love if we stand in God’s love for us.

We have a number of amazing examples of people who have followed Jesus and paid this price too, Technically, we call these people – martyrs, but I think it might be better to call them heroes, as these are people we really need to look up too! One of these was a chap called Maximillian Kolbe. He was a Polish friar and was sent to Auschwitz in the second world war for helping Jewish refugees. He helped around 2000 of them before he was imprisoned. When in prison in July 1941 one of the prisoners in Kolbe’s block escaped, and as a result, it was the policy if the prisoner was not recaptured to kill ten of the prisoners. Ten men were chosen, among them a young Polish sergeant began to beg for the sake of his wife and children. Maximilian stepped forward. He offered to go in the place of the young Polish soldier and he did.

Also, in the second world war we might remember the story of Corrie Ten Boom, who was also imprisoned and devoted long hours to caring for sick and dying fellow inmates. In her autobiography – which is a difficult but worthwhile read – Corrie says it was only her confidence in God’s love that kept her going.

Most of us are not called out to live out Jesus words to love one another to this extreme, but our lives provide many opportunities to love as Jesus did. I want us to think for a moment about  some of the people that love us now. People alive today or people that have passed into the heart of our loving God. Loving people who love us is super and the people we travel with are a very great gift for us! And we know that all the more when they are with us no longer

However in what Jesus says is also clear that loving only those who love us is not an option to Christians. In our reading from Acts – Peter was also dealing with this over the thorny question of Jesus’ kingdom being for everyone. Peter is explaining to people who were criticising him – why he thought this. And we can see from the end of the story – those people at the end praising God for what Peter had said which is quite a turnaround. Peter had had to have a complete turnaround in his attitude to reach this point. Sometimes we need to do the same. Looking back on things and reflecting – can help us learn for the future. We cannot change what we may have done but we can learn from it and who in this life has never changed their mind about something and then wondered later on why we held the first view we had!

As I said loving those who love us is relatively easy. We all also have people in our lives we need to work harder at loving. I think it is possible to love someone despite of themselves and their actions and the things they may have done to hurt us. In my role, I sadly to often encounter unresolved relationships and family breakdown and often all the more sadly when the opportunity for seeking forgiveness and being forgiven is passed. Forgiveness is fundamental to loving as Jesus loved. He forgave people that did terrible things to him and let him down. We also need to be gracious, humble and forgiving sometimes, and much more than we want to be. Being forgiving is good for us – both seeking to be forgiven and being quick and open-hearted to forgive others. Humble service, gracefulness and generosity are essential ingredients of Jesus loving way as is being forgiving and seeking forgiveness.

I think there are a few circumstances especially in relation to ‘abuse’ where there are some caveats to this and what is realistic to achieve (especially if the abuser involved doesn’t recognise it). But mostly the graceful, humble and generous way is the way to go. When we think about those we need to forgive or work harder at loving we may sometimes think that to love as Jesus loves is impossible for us and in our own strength alone it probably is. But we stand in God’s love for us and if we let it have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us helping us change.

The commandment contains the assurance of Jesus’ love for us. So like the disciples in our doubts, denials and betrayals and failures to understand – we tread a well-worn path – safe in God’s love because we are already loved in all our weaknesses. We can attempt to love those we are given to love day by day through the strength the Holy Spirit gives us. Though we may not always get everything absolutely right all the time (no-one ever does) that does not mean we should not try to live this way. Be open to loving as Jesus did (and not being hollow or shallow!) Let’s get beyond it – and live lovingly every day

I have to say in guiding our actions, sometimes what is the loving thing to do is a good barometer question for selecting what we do. Alongside what will speak of the love and hope of God in our lives?

I read a story about a headteacher in a school where many children have known very little of love. Some are refugees and have witnessed things that we would shudder at. Every day the headteacher chose special helpers to prepare the hall for assembly, collect the registers and help clear up the lunch things. He didn’t choose the obviously good to undertake these tasks. He watched for the child who looked unhappy, the one who kept getting into fights and arguments or the one the teachers say never gave in his homework. The basis of his choice is that these are children who need to be loved and have had very little experience of it. What he said was that in his experience as the children feel the love for themselves we see them slowly change and open up for the good.

Love works. By being loved, the children become loveable and capable of loving themselves. We need to remember that as God’s children, God loves us unconditionally and through that love we too become capable of love and can attempt to fulfil what seems humanly impossible to love as Jesus loved. We can only do this – by standing in God’s love for us – that love divine all love’s excelling

Going to end with a prayer

Lord God, we thank you for those who care for us day by day, and who show us love’s tenderness.
We thank you for those you have given us to love, in our families and among our friends, and who show us love’s gratitude.
We thank you for those who help us when we are unable to help ourselves, and who show us love’s kindness.
We thank you for those who know all our faults, and who show us love’s patience.
We thank you for those we have grieved and hurt, who repeatedly forgive us, and who show us love’s generosity.
We thank you for your love which sustains us, and which shows us that love has no end. Amen.

References:  © ROOTS for Churches Ltd ( Reproduced with permission. The Hiding Place – Corrie Ten Boom,, The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995

Easter 4 – Penny Ashton – May 8th 2022

Easter 4 – Spiritual Gifts?

Acts 9:36 – end and John 10: 22-30

 Do we ever wonder why we do certain things?  Often we find out later what God’s plan was in asking us to make a phone call or visit a friend.  The story from Acts is one in which we can see God’s plan in action, while the people taking part might not have been able to.

Dorcas was a needlewoman and dressmaker.  She was generous with her gift and known for her generosity and so was much loved.  We often feel that our skills are not included in the list of spiritual gifts that Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 12 – where he includes things such as wisdom, knowledge, prophecy and teaching.  Paul had obviously only included a few of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, as it seems clear from this passage that needlework was for Dorcas a spiritual gift because she used it for God.  It is possible that we have not properly understood the gifting teaching, as the more I look into it, the more I become convinced that a gift comes from the Holy Spirit to the extent that we use it for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom.  If we think along those lines, then we will look at how we do things in a whole new way.  If you are a regular maker of cakes for our coffee mornings, you might now look at this in a new light.

Another way of looking at this is to consider the rule of St Benedict for monastic life which has three mottoes. The first is ‘’So that God may be glorified in all things” which could be described as the reason for choosing the way of life, the second “peace”, the reward hoped for in leading the monastic life and the third is “work and pray”, and is what monks do in order to obtain the first two.  We could all do worse than apply these three mottoes to our own lives, as George Herbert encourages us to do in the hymn ‘Teach me, my God and King in all things Thee to see’.

If we look back at our original question, there are actually several questions.  The matter-of-fact way that the death of Dorcas is told implies that this was an occasion for sorrow, but in the ways that things were in those days, not the shock that it would have been nowadays.  Illness and death were a much more common occurrence than they are nowadays, although as the reaction of those who knew her shows, still the occasion for sorrow.  No reason is given for summoning Peter however.  There is no suggestion that a miracle was hoped for, although the timescales indicate that her body was not buried as quickly as was customary, so perhaps they were just daring to hope.  As ever, we have the advantage of knowing how the story continues.  We know that Peter was not far away at Lydda – about 14 miles, so certainly he would have been there by the next day and it is possible that he was able to return with the messengers within the day.  The text of the reading sounds as though he wasted no time in leaving.

It is customary, even today to visit or make contact by a phone call, email or card with a household where there has been a death, and it is possible that Peter simply intended to visit to pay his respects to a much loved friend.  Could he also have been thinking though of the time when Jesus raised Lazarus, or when he witnessed the raising of Jairus’s daughter?  Unfortunately Luke only tells us what people did, and not often what they thought at the time!  It does seem to be the case though that Peter was following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, even if he was not aware at the time what God had in store for him.  One of the things that Jesus says in our Gospel reading is ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.’  Peter had been with Jesus for long enough to know his master’s will, and he was generally careful to follow it after his catastrophic denial during Jesus’ trial.  We heard last week in our gospel reading how Jesus took Peter aside after the breakfast meeting on the beach and tasked him with caring for his sheep.  Those words must have stuck fast in Peter’s brain in the way that lessons learned the hard way often do.

Both of our readings today are full of questions why – why was Peter sent for, why did he go, and added to that what made him think when he arrived that Dorcas could be raised?  In the gospel we are also wondering why the Jews could not see and hear from Jesus’ teaching and actions who he was.  Nearly all the unanswered questions we have regarding our faith begin with why – my hope is that when we finally see God and can be in his presence, it will all suddenly become plain to us.  For now, that is why we need to have faith.

What we can see from today’s story from Acts though is the way in which the Holy Spirit is at work in joining things up – bringing people to the right place at the right time.  This chapter in Acts covers a lot of ground, and possibly several years, as it began with Saul setting off to destroy the church in Damascus before his dramatic meeting with Jesus on the way.  He then spent time with the Damascus church before returning to Jerusalem to meet with the church leaders there, where he was initially met with suspicion until Barnabas supported him.  Once he was accepted, the church appears to have entered into a period of relative peace and growth, and it was during this time that Peter seems to have travelled around the area to meet with and encourage new believers and fellowships.  It was this travelling that brought him to Lydda, where he was instrumental in a healing miracle, and it was here that Dorcas’s friends found him, and summoned him to her.  It could be that having heard of the recent healing they had hope for her.

At the end of this story however, we hear that Peter went to lodge with Simon the tanner.  In those days tanning, which involves handling of dead animals was considered unclean to the Jews.  I had a friend who lived near a tannery a while ago, and she told me that as far as she was concerned, having lived near enough to smell the chemicals, it still was unclean!  However, the fact that he visited implies that Peter’s thinking was becoming more open.  The story of what happened next is no doubt one that we shall be looking at soon, but it shows how the Holy Spirit is moving people around so that they can be in the right place at the time when God has work for them.  As my commentary says: ‘Note how God used the invitation of the people of Joppa to bring Peter there. Likewise, God often uses what appear initially to be incidental occurrences to open up great ministries.’[1]

If we have been able to act upon reminders from God to check up on friends, only to find out afterwards that they were going through a tough time, we too will be able to look back and see the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  And the next time any of us does some cleaning or needlework, makes a cake or arranges flowers, we need to remember where our gifts and skills come from and for whom we are ultimately doing the work.

[1] Constable’s notes, Copyright ©1996-2020, but reprinted with permission

Easter 3 – 1st May 2022 – Rev Ken Masters

Readings: Acts 91-6 ; John 211-19

The long reading from the Gospel has many points of interest, but I’m going to concentrate on just one.  The Risen Jesus invited his disciples to breakfast.  Offhand, I can’t think of any other mention of breakfast in the Gospels.  But then the word breakfast is of modern origin; the Authorized Version translates the Greek simply as dine.  Reference books suggest that in the first century, working men might break their fast with a morsel of bread and some olives; the two proper meals of the day were a light meal at noon and the main meal at sunset.  So, the meal Jesus invited his disciples to share might have been an augmented breaking of the fast or may have been later at noon, when bread and fish would have been quite normal.

Whatever the case, meals in general were prominent events throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry.  We may think of him attending the wedding feast at Cana; or eating at Peter’s house in Capernaum; or, after calling Levi to follow him, dining at his house with tax-collectors and sinners; or in the house of Simon the leper, when a woman washed his feet with her tears.  And, as a different kind of meal, again at evening, there was the Feeding of the Multitudes with bread and fish.  At most meals Jesus is described teaching by questions and answers, as well as by Parables that challenging his hearers to come to a decision or to accept the need for change.

The most famous meal, of course, was what we know as the Last Supper.  If we’re to be precise, it was the last meal before was Jesus betrayed and crucified.  From it came our Christian tradition of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion or the Mass or the Eucharist.  In the medieval Church and then in Roman Catholic rites and the Book of Common Prayer, it was very much a commemoration of Jesus’ Passion and Death.

However, after Jesus’ Resurrection the Gospels describe a number of meals which the Risen Jesus shared with his disciples.  In the Upper Room, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews; the supper at Emmaus when the two disciples only recognised Jesus when he broke the bread; and as we heard just now the meal by the Lakeside.  The Risen Jesus came with a greeting of Peace be with you; he helped his disciples begin to understand what had happened; and he came with forgiveness.  The disciples all ran away at his arrest – so they were all in need of his forgiveness and loving acceptance.  By the Lakeside this was focused on Peter – who’d denied knowing Jesus three times.  And so, three times the Risen Jesus asked Peter ‘do you love me?’  And Jesus responded to Peter’s affirmative answer, by charging him to care for all the disciples, so demonstrating his forgiveness and acceptance, adding: ‘follow me’.

In his book Resurrection, Rowan Williams writes of [p.100f] :

the enormous importance of the stories of the risen Jesus breaking bread with the disciples.  … To welcome or be welcomed by him at a meal on the further side of Calvary [and the crucifixion] is the ultimate assurance of mercy and acceptance, of indestructible love.

after Calvary … the community’s meal with Jesus is invariably an ‘Easter’ event (and so most properly celebrated on the first day of the week).

To take food as from the hand of Jesus after Easter is to receive from him the gift of his essential being – that presence of truth and acceptance before which we find again our lost selves.  His food is the bread of life … : to eat Jesus’ food is to recognize the gift of himself behind it.

This may seem a long way from our attendance at this service.  And yet, as we ponder the Gospel descriptions of what happened after the first Easter Day, we may catch something of the wonder and joy of those appearances of the Risen Jesus to his followers.  We have not have gone through the trauma of our earthly Master being crucified, but we may be able to empathise a bit – and therefore then to appreciate something of the incredible change brought by his Risen presence.

In this Eastertide service of Eucharist – of Thanksgiving – we may find in ourselves some Peace, some forgiveness and acceptance, some joy and love, as well as some awareness of the presence of the Risen Jesus.  As we do, we may share these among ourselves and then go out to share them with others.  And the call of the Risen Jesus comes to us, as it did to Peter: ‘Follow me’.

A prayer I often use before the service seems especially appropriate after this morning’s Gospel:

As watchmen look for the morning, so do we look for thee, O Lord; come with the dawning of the day, and make thyself known to us in the breaking of the bread; for thou art our God for ever and ever. Amen.