Ninth Sunday of Trinity
Introduction and Call to Worship
Our focus today is on the Christian life: We need the root of the church community in order that we can grow and become the disciples Jesus is calling us to be! We are fed by Him spiritually and physically as we seek to build his kingdom today.
First Reading 2 Kings 4:42-44
Elisha is at Gilgal when there is a famine. When a man arrives with twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain, the prophet orders his servant to give it to the people to eat. The servant protests that it will not feed a hundred people, but Elisha insists. When they eat, they have some left over.
Second Reading Ephesians 3:14-21
The writer prays that God grants the Ephesians strength through the Holy Spirit, that Christ live in their hearts through faith. He prays for them the power to comprehend the fullness of Christ’s love and be filled with God.
Gospel John 6:1-21
John describes the feeding of the five thousand. After this, Jesus withdraws to the mountain by himself. That evening, his disciples take a boat across the sea. When a storm blows up they see Jesus walking on the sea towards them. They are terrified but he tells them not to be afraid. Immediately the boat reaches land.
HOMILY "May you be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” (Ephesians 3:16,17)
It seems like just a few weeks back we worked to produce our Church Development Plan, our 20:20 Vision for Thorpe. At the centre of our hopes for the future was a desire to see our church grow in many and different ways, and we have realised much of that exciting vision already. So well done and congratulations! But there is so much more still to do!
As we head towards the last 18 months of that plan we will be thinking much more about people – our lives, relationships and this community of Thorpe in which we are located. We will be seeking to grow our outreach, welcome and teaching, as well as lay leadership as we focus on people. And the scriptures teach us all we need to know about relationships – with each other and with God, who loves each one of us and calls us to service in his Church. St Paul, the great Evangelistic Christian and Apostle of his day, knows all about the importance of people for the mission of Christ in and to the world and the building up of God’s Kingdom. He concludes today’s Epistle to a community of believers he cares deeply about, the Ephesians, with a beautiful prayer: "May you be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” (Ephesians 3:16,17)
Let’s look at this in more detail: They need to be strengthened “in their inner being”. As we hone our 20:20 Vision and think specifically about people, we must recognise that we live at a time and in a world where less attention is paid to a person’s “inner being” – of course people are inherently spiritual and they have a desire to be in relationship; not just one to another, but with God. This is humanity’s God-given, created inclination to know God’s love. From our Christian perspective, such strength has to do with what motivates a person to behave the way they do when they face various circumstances in life – it is about our spiritual orientation which directs us and our decision-making towards God. This is counter-cultural and deeply attractive. Yet for all of us it is ever so easy to be distracted by the ways and demands of the world! In the face of this, a deep spiritual renewal in our inner being will help us to prioritise Jesus and faith. And this means learning to trust God, not least in prayer, and not to think we can achieve things on our own. This means a stronger and more faithful commitment to regular worship & prayer, fed by the sacraments and taught by the scriptures.
This is important, however old we are and whatever stage of life we find God, for the longer we live, the more our character is tested by life’s many challenges. And none of this is without a price, as St Paul knew; being faithful to Jesus is costly! He experienced many different forms of hardship as he prioritised the Gospel and the Church. Spiritual renewal of our inner being is essential for our Christian character, especially at times of challenge and change, as we seek to remain faithful to Christ to the end of our lives, as we promise in the Confirmation Liturgy. At the heart of this spiritual renewal is our need to be grounded – rooted in the Gospel that feeds us. Any gardener knows that to grow a crop the soil must be lovingly treated, fed and respected, because the place a plant grows is the source of life. Without being fed, the plant will not thrive. We too need to be rooted – spiritually – and St Mary’s is the garden in which we have been planted. Here, we are fed – just as our Lord fed the 5000 both with physical food and spiritual nourishment. Here at St Mary’s we enjoy wonderful feasts and parties, and I am sure the wine and cheese in two weeks’ time will be just such an occasion! Yet Church is more than fellowship, for here we are also pruned, in order that we may grow even more healthy branches and in God’s time bear fruit. That “pruning while planted” is described by St Paul as love. And the love people have for one another here at St Mary’s is a truly remarkable blessing and is also deeply attractive to those who come here.
We are strengthened in our inner being by the power of the Spirit which is God’s creative love in action. This is a different kind of power to the ways of the world for it is a spiritual power. If that sounds a bit mystical, let me explain. The idea of ‘spirit’ has to do with what animates us as human beings; the very presence of God moving among the Church, the same spirit that brought everything into being (Genesis 1:2) and that overshadowed Mary at the Incarnation (Luke 1:35) and the very same spirit that Jesus gave up from the cross (Luke23:46). We are animated by the spirit of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – the fruits of the Spirit of God. (Galatians 5:22-23)
It’s this kind of spiritual power that will lead us into all truth and strengthen us in our inner being, should we choose to pray for such holy inspiration. Perhaps you could commit time to praying our parish mission prayer that the whole Church corporate may experience a renewal in spirit; transforming Church, transforming lives! God’s Spirit gives us power and Christ dwells in our hearts because we choose to demonstrate this kind of faith – rooted and grounded in love. It’s love that keeps us stable, that keeps us present to commit to the long-term task of doing the work of God, being disciples today. This exciting work requires our unity of purpose, as we renew and grow into the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Amen
From the accounts of the feeding of the five thousand we are reminded that our Lord feeds us both physically and spiritually.
Christian life is a journey and we need to take care that we are rooted in the Church, regularly fed through worship and open to spiritual renewal as we seek to grow deeper in faith, following our Lord and striving to make his Kingdom known today.
We need to be both physically and spiritually sustained – animated by God’s creative spirit of love. A good place to start is to regularly pray our Thorpe 20:20 mission prayer.