Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford
Gathering God’s People
Acknowledgement of First Peoples
We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal.
May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.
Call to Worship
(Abingdon Worship Annual 2021)
We are tired in body and spirit.
Why have you come today?
We have come to follow Jesus.
Come and eat your fill.
But there are only five barley loaves and two fish.
There is plenty for all.
Jesus gathers the fragments of our lives, that nothing may be lost.
Come! Let us worship.
Hymn 133: O worship the King all glorious above.
(Tune – Hanover)
God of steadfast love, fools say in their hearts: “There is no God.” May our words and our very lives prove that we are not foolish. May our faith be as constant as the North Star, and may others know that we are Christians by our love. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
God of our hopes and dreams, we are empty, and long to be filled; we are hungry, and long to be fed; we are lost, and long to be found.
Invite us once more to eat our fill and find our true nourishment in Jesus, the bread of heaven.
Just as Jesus gathered up the fragments of the five loaves and two fish after feeding the five thousand, gather up the pieces of our lives and shelter us in your love. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
As God restored the fortunes of Zion, exiles were like people who dream— people filled with rejoicing and gladness. As God restores our fortunes, let us join their glad song and their rejoicing.
Thanks, be to God!
In response to the love, we have found in Christ—a love that passes all understanding—let us share signs of Christ’s peace.
Peace be with you!
And also, with you!
(You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.)
Caretaker of our souls, in your love, nothing is lost. As Jesus gathered the leftover food after feeding the five thousand, gather our offerings into your service. As Jesus gathered the longing of those who looked to him to be their king, gather our longing to do your will. As Jesus gathered the outcasts to your heavenly banquet, gather our fellowship into your host of saints. Bless the gifts we have gathered in your name, that nothing may be lost, and that everything may be gained. Amen.
Hymn 650: Brother, sister, let me serve you.
(Tune – Servant Song)
The Service of the Word
The First Reading: 2 Samuel 11:1-15
The Gospel Reading: John 6:1-21
After the final reading the reader will say For the Word of the Lord
Please respond by saying Thanks be to God.
Readings: NRSV Translation
2 Samuel 11:1-15
1 In the spring of the year, the time
when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel
with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained
at Jerusalem. 2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from
his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw
from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3 David
sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, ‘This is Bathsheba
daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ 4 So David sent
messengers to fetch her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was
purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her
house. 5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, ‘I am
pregnant.’ 6 So David sent word to Joab, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’
And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked
how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. 8 Then
David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house, and wash your feet.’ Uriah went
out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the
king. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all
the servants of his lord and did not go down to his house. 10 When
they told David, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house’, David said to Uriah,
‘You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your
house?’ 11 Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah remain
in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open
field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my
wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a
thing.’ 12 Then David said to Uriah, ‘Remain here today also, and
tomorrow I will send you back.’ So, Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On
the next day, 13 David invited him to eat and drink in his presence
and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the
servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. 14 In the
morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of
Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the
hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down
1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ 10 Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also, the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’ 15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.
Preaching of the Word - Of Cabbages and Kings.
The world is a hungry place. People are hungry for food, for jobs, for love, for care, for leadership that cares. The list of our hunger goes on and on. What the Bible knows is what we all know – all of our hunger centres around a spiritual void. We are hungry for God. That hunger is very real, and yet we deceive ourselves into believing we can feed that hunger with other things such as food, money, fancy clothes, fancy cars, more technology, more stuff.
We accumulate so much stuff, stuff that we believe says something about who we are – stuff that we somehow mistaken for who and what we are. We accumulate so much stuff that our homes overflow with stuff, until we have to go beyond the home and rent storage spaces. That is, we have to store the excess amount of our self somewhere else, so that our self becomes fragmented, separated into different places. We become a problem to ourselves – or what we believe is what we are, what defines us: the clothes we wear, the house we live in, the cars we drive and so forth.
This, in all likelihood, is mostly a Western civilisation problem. It is a problem driven by our desire to be like everybody else – especially those who have more than we have. And it is becoming a worldwide problem, as our principal export is a lifestyle based on the accumulation of more and more stuff. The whole world desires to be just like us.
This is all driven by a belief that there is not enough stuff in this world, so we had better stockpile as much as possible for ourselves. This perceived scarcity of stuff leads to trade imbalances, the stealing of resources from other parts of the world, and eventually manifests itself in trade wars that can soon turn into outright warfare. So, then we need to accumulate more resources, more stuff, dedicated to the protection of what we already have. We end up demanding leaders who can assure us that our stuff will remain ours forever and ever.
Into such a world steps Jesus. Rome had conquered Israel and turned it into a client state, exporting all its goods to other parts of the empire, and charging outrageous taxes on those goods at the same time. It was a dangerous time to be a client of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Rome demanded full loyalty.
So along comes Jesus. The Jesus in John is declared from the first verse of the fourth gospel as God – the Word, the logos – in the flesh. Indeed, this is the only way to make sense of someone who can take five barley loaves and a couple of fish and feed thousands of people with lots and lots of leftovers! Barley loaves, as opposed to wheat loaves, is the food of the poor. The lesson here is quite simple, and yet one that we refuse to accept: The need of the world is not too great for our resources if it is the Lord who directs the use of those resources. (NZ produces enough food for 40 million people but unable to feed own 4 million at reasonable cost for all)
A mighty big “if.”
Meanwhile, the people try to make him king. That would seem to be appealing. Look at how people in every conceivable human community clamour to become king. Right now, we are looking at two individuals who will marshal millions if not billions of dollars for the right to become or remain “king.” Look around the world where competing individuals and groups of individuals resort to violence to gain and maintain a position that reflects “kingship.”
Then look at Jesus. Nothing doing. As soon as there is a hint that the people might make him the next king, he sneaks off to be alone. Why, might we ask ourselves? It might have saved him having to go to Jerusalem only to be crucified, dead and buried. Why would he turn his back on what others count as the ultimate goal?
Here we may do well to recall that Jesus appears to have studied scripture pretty carefully. At every possible turn of events, he can marshal quotations from every corner of Hebrew scripture. So, no doubt at this juncture he very well may have the eighth chapter of the First Book of Samuel in mind. This is the episode when Israel demanded that the boy prophet Samuel appeal to God to give them a king – because, after all, they reasoned, all the surrounding countries have kings, so they should have one too.
This signalled a lack of trust in the God of the Exodus, who up to this pivotal moment, had raised up judges to pull the tribes together in times of great danger. When the danger passed, so did the judge, and people went back to life in their tribal clans with their diffuse political connections. But at the time of Samuel, with threats from surrounding kingdoms, the people demanded a king to unite them and make them strong. God tried to dissuade Samuel. Samuel tried to dissuade the people in chapter 8 of First Samuel, saying, in effect, “A king will take your sons and make them soldiers and send them to war; and take your daughters and make them his servants; he will take your fields and produce, and tax you on all of it; until you will wish you had never asked for a king, but by then it will be too late.”
But the people persisted, and God gave them Saul, which did not work out particularly well. And then David, and, well, look at what happened to David in this Sunday’s episode in 2 Samuel 11:1-15. After failing to pull off a cover- up of his indiscretion with Bathsheba, he used his authority of the military to have her husband Uriah killed in battle. Under the reign of Solomon, the kind of consolidation of power and goods becomes so acute that the people attempted a social revolution, so unhappy were they with their once-desired king.
Verna Dozier, a wise lay leader in the Episcopal Church, in her book “The Dream of God,” called this demand for a king the “Second Fall” after the episode in the Garden of Eden. The third fall happens early in the life of the church, at the time of Constantine, when the church goes from being an alternative to the Empire and allows itself to become the Empire – the Church becomes king. The impulse is the same in 2 Samuel as it is under Constantine – we want to be like everybody else. And yet, to this day we are still looking for a way out of being an Imperial Church and somehow find our way back to the very beginning.
For as anyone can see, Jesus will have none of it. And yet, we continue to hitch our wagons, our stars, our souls and our very being, to the belief that with just the right “king” all shall be well.
We find ourselves clinging to models of leadership and institutional power that the Bible repeatedly warns us against. And we wonder why it no longer works. Again, read about David and the so-called Wise One, Solomon, and see how quickly it all fell apart even then, approximately 900 years before Jesus.
It is no wonder that God decided the only way to get our attention was to come down himself and be one of us. God in Christ invites us once and for all to give up any notions that being like everybody else has any life-giving sustainability. The accumulation of power and stuff will never fill the spiritual void that keeps us from becoming the people God wants us to be.
Our portion of the gospel today ends with the disciples heading off in a boat across the sea. They run into rough waters and high winds. When all seems about lost, Jesus appears. The text is not entirely clear – it could mean he was walking on the water, but it can also mean he was “on the seashore.” So, we can read this to say there he was, on the shore, to welcome them ashore when after much hard work and treacherous time they approached him and the shore. He simply says, “Be not afraid.” Note, as soon as they see him, as soon as he says this, they are immediately safe ashore!
Can it be that for St. John the meaning is to be found in the peace that pertains once we willingly receive Jesus to be our companion? Companion – literally, one with whom we share bread. He who is the Bread of Life, the Bread from Heaven, the True Bread – our manna, our sustenance, our daily bread. As theologian and former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple said, “Christ is the guide of life whom we follow in the strength that He supplies into the way of Peace.”
That’s pretty much it. We can continue to trust in our appointed and elected leaders, and trust in the accumulation of more and more stuff. Or we can trust in Jesus, who withdraws again to the mountain to be alone.
What if we were to withdraw day by day to be alone with Jesus? How might we allow him to be our daily bread? The need of the world is not too great for our resources if it is the Lord who directs the use of those resources. Once we trust in the Lord, we will find ourselves on the other shore, safe and secure from all alarm with nothing to fear. Our deepest and true hunger can and will be satisfied, if only we will continue to use oars and row our way to the other side – his side – to the country that needs no king.
Hymn 256: The Servant King.
(Tune – Servant King)
Pentecost 9 Sunday – Year B
God our Creator, we give you thanks that you disclose yourself to us in all the mysteries of your creation.
We pray for your beautiful, broken world: for all who live in places of war, disease, degradation or famine; for leaders of nations and for all who work to alleviate the misery of others.
As you fed your people of old, feed today your people, who hunger for food, for security, for wisdom, justice and peace. Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God our Redeemer, we give you thanks that you, come to us in the person of Jesus, feeding us with your body and blood.
We pray for your church: for those who eat at your table and those excluded from your fellowship; for the people of this congregation and for all who minister here in your name.
As you fed your people of old, feed today your people, who hunger to know your good news of forgiveness and grace.
Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God our Companion, we give you thanks that you come to us in the joy of human relationships.
We pray for all with whom we share our lives: for our families, our friends and those with whom we work and play; for the people of this community, for the homeless, and the unemployed.
As you fed your people of old, feed today your people, who hunger for dignity, acceptance and love.
Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God our Healer, we give you thanks that you come to us in the dark and lonely places of our lives.
We pray for all in trouble or distress: for the friendless and unwanted and those who mourn the loss of loved ones; for those whose bodies ache, whose minds are confused, whose spirits are sad. We pray for the sick and the dying and for all who minister to them. As you fed your people of old, feed today your people, who hunger for hope and healing, comfort and consolation.
Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God our Lover, we give you thanks that in life and in death you hold us in your embrace.
We give you thanks for all who have loved and followed you.
As you fed your faithful people of old, feed us today, who hunger for your presence, and at our life's end bring us, with all your saints, to eat at your heavenly table.
Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father in
heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth
as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive
those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from
evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.
Hymn 690: Beauty for Brokenness (God of the poor)
(Tune – Beauty for Brokenness)
Go to walk in the ways of Christ, who strengthens us in our inner being through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Go to serve our living Lord, who gathers the fragments of our lives, that nothing may be lost.
Go with the love of God our creator, redeemer and giver of life. Amen.
Hymn 778: Shalom to you now.
(Tune – Somos Del Senor)