Make a connection with God that nourishes and sustains
Mary Copping, 2 August 2020
Isaiah 55: 1–5; Romans 9: 1–5; Matthew 14: 13–21
I wonder if you, like me, have put on a few pounds over this lockdown. I know that many people have – perhaps comfort eating in the stress of being unable to see others, especially if you live by yourself; perhaps boredom (nothing else to do, so let’s eat … or drink). Many of us have certainly been feeding well over this time.
Our reading from Matthew of the feeding of the 5,000 is a very familiar one to us. Some say it was one of the miracles of Jesus, and this I believe. Some say that the boy sharing the loaves and fishes shamed others into sharing their food as well. However we interpret it, it’s a description of Jesus feeding people physically. But also, he’d been feeding the people spiritually as well, teaching them and healing the sick, caring for their souls too.
And during this lockdown we’ve been feeding our souls as well, whether we realise it or not. As I’ve talked to people over the weeks, one of the major things that people have been saying to me is how much they’ve been able to appreciate the created world, God’s creation, as they’ve been walking or looking out of the window. They’ve been noticing the changes, the new life, the growth, God at work in the world. Also, people have said how they’ve had to stop from busyness, live more peaceful lives, focus on what’s important, and yes, spend time praying, being with God. And of course, as we walk and admire the beauty of God’s creation, as we sit in peace and quiet, as we spend time praying, God is feeding our souls. We are giving him a chance to come to us and fill us again with his presence. We’re giving him time.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, when asked how we should gradually come out of this lockdown, said that of course we should continue washing our hands well and continue to distance from people, to stop the spread. But we should also, as God’s people, walk in faith, hope and courage. He spoke about these as being gifts from God, but we are to do our bit to nurture these. He urged us to do this by sitting quietly and praying, letting God know about the things and people on our hearts and minds. When we do that, we make a connection with God that nourishes and sustains us.
During this lockdown we’ve been making more connection with God through nature, through the peace and quietness. And as we go out from here, we can take faith, hope and courage to others. In our reading from Romans we see Paul’s sadness, because the Israelites, many of them didn’t understand who God is. We may feel the same sadness for our relatives, friends, at not knowing God, not knowing the strength and help he can give us, not knowing the peace he gives and looking for satisfaction in other places. From Isaiah 55: ‘Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.’ The evangelist J John described evangelism as one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. For us, as we feed on God’s presence, on his word, as we listen for his voice, we’re nourished as the archbishop described, and as we speak with and meet people again we spread God’s love and peace through our words and actions to all those around us.
When anyone is ordained as a priest, as they are given their licence the bishop gives them the ‘cure of souls’ of the parish and benefice (cure meaning the care of souls, of many people – those who go to church and those who don’t). The priests are expected to be nourished by having a regular time with God through prayer and through saying the Daily Office. They are also given a Bible, and of course expected to read and study it. So, all expected to feed on God through these means, to listen to him and so able to take God out to the world. But of course, this is for each one of us, not just for clergy – to feed on God and take him to this needy world.
Of course, this Covid-19 will continue to overshadow us for a long time to come. And many have suffered greatly through this time. My one-year-old granddaughter still waits for the operations she needs and some of which she was just going to have before lockdown, as so many others in these situations. The National Health Service will continue to be pressured. Where can we go but to seek God’s help and strength and nourishment at this time? Just a moment of prayer, peace and quiet and asking God to help us and all those in need.
In John chapter 6, when some of Jesus’ followers turned away from him because things had become too difficult, he asked his disciples, ‘Do you want to leave too?’ and Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ So, for us, as we continue to go through difficulties and pain, who shall we go to for help, sustenance, strength? Jesus – he has the words of eternal life. From Isaiah again, ‘Listen, listen to me and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare’. As we go forward into whatever life has got for us, let us give God time and space to feed us, nourish us and fill us to overflowing so that we can bring the living bread to others.
So, to finish, a poem from Malcolm Guite:
Where to get bread? An ever-pressing question
That trembles on the lips of anxious mothers,
Bread for their families, bread for all these others;
A whole world on the margin of exhaustion.
And where that hunger has been satisfied
Where to get bread? The question still returns
In our abundance something starves and yearns
We crave fulfilment, crave and are denied.
And then comes One who speaks into our needs
Who opens out the secret hopes we cherish
Whose presence calls our hidden hearts to flourish
Whose words unfold in us like living seeds
Come to me, broken, hungry, incomplete,
I Am the Bread of Life, break Me and eat.