Reading Matthew 14.13-21
Preacher Canon Robert Titley
For the baptism of James Eccleston
The news is awful. So it’s wonderful that James is here to remind us what life should be about – what, deep down, it is about – joy not hate, thanksgiving not bitterness, giving life not taking it.
I was at a wedding yesterday and the priest, presenting the newly-married couple to the congregation, told us that is what God has made us for, to make a gift of our lives to others. And that is true not just of marriage but all friendships, and how we work, how we spend, how we live.
The news, though, poses a question for parents: what sort of world are you bringing a new life into? Gaza, Isis in Iraq, Russia and Ukraine – where will they lead? It’s probably not good not to think too much along these lines. I don’t think my parents would have been too happy if they’d known in advance what my formative decade would be like. The Seventies – unemployment, industrial strife, power cuts, glam rock, bad hair – but in the event they weren’t too bad. Much more seriously, think of a couple contemplating a family a hundred years ago, in a world on the brink of global war. They might have had second thoughts, but I’m glad some didn’t – it was the year my father was born.
All this poses another question, though, which it is good to dwell on, about the challenges of parenthood and godparenthood: what can I do to equip a child, a young person for a world like ours? Let’s look at the gospel reading.
A big crowd in the wilderness, hardly any food, but Jesus somehow feeds them. What happened? How could anyone do that? I don’t know, no-one does, and the Bible doesn’t tell us, but for the early Christians this does not seem to have been the pressing question. They went on telling this story, and they made sure to record it (in all four gospels) not chiefly because it described a remarkable piece of high-volume catering but because it resonated with their own experience – this is how Jesus’ God does things.
‘Where are we to get food for all these people?’ ask the disciples.
‘How much have you got?’ asks Jesus.
Not a lot.
‘OK, just give it to me,’ and he blesses it and gives it back to them, and then it’s enough – more than.
Many a parent will know that poverty, the lack of balance between the needs of bringing up children – money, patience, understanding, time – and the resources they have to offer. I remember preparing for the first children’s party I ever organised, really worried that the games I’d devised might not last more than twenty minutes (they didn’t, and it didn’t matter). And never mind parenthood – many of us here may be looking at something coming up in the days before we are back here next Sunday and wondering, ‘How on earth am I going to cope with that?’ those times when the needs of the moment and our paltry resources are a long way apart.
Give to God all you have and you will receive it back blessed and bigger; and you may well find that it is enough, perhaps more than enough. Human paltriness can be enough if we don’t fret over it but place it in the hands of God – who has quite a lot of experience of bringing something out of nothing.
This is a good lesson to learn – for all of us, for James – and we are taught it here, week by week. In a few minutes, two of you will bring up a small amount of food, some bread and a jug of wine. We shall offer them up for God to bless them, and we shall receive them back as the body and blood of Christ, the life of Jesus made as a gift to us. And that will be enough; more than enough.