St. Giles’ Cathedral
Sunday August 2nd 2020
8th Sunday after Trinity
God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6: 8
Let us worship God.
The lesson is written in the gospel according to St. Matthew in the 14th chapter.
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ 16 Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ 17 They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ 18 And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
The word of the Lord; thanks be to God.
Loving Shepherd of thy sheep,
keep me, Lord, in safety keep;
nothing can thy power withstand,
none can pluck me from thy hand.
Loving Shepherd, ever near,
teach me still thy voice to hear;
suffer not my feet to stray
from the straight and narrow way.
Loving Shepherd, thou didst give
thine own life that I might live,
may I love thee day by day,
gladly thy sweet will obey.
Where thou leadest I would go,
walking in thy steps below;
then, before thy Father’s throne
Jesus, claim me for thine own.
Jonathan Battishill 1738-1801
Text: Jane Eliza Leeson 1808-1881
When we read in the Gospels about geographical locations like the desert or the city or the lake, it’s important that we don’t just see them in that geographical sense, but that they have a deeper meaning in them. The city is a place of danger. The desert is a liminal place, a place on the margins of existence and of society.
Remember that when he is on retreat in the desert early in his ministry Jesus encounters the temptations of the devil. That time, as you know, Jesus refused to turn stones into bread. Now here we are back in the desert where Jesus is dealing with the need of those who have followed him into that place. We might agree with the disciples that it is really time to turn the people away, that they should go and get their own food and leave Jesus in peace, but Jesus says no.
What follows is this miraculous feast in the middle of the desert. The context is important. There has just been a feast at which death was present; the feast that Herod holds and at which his wife’s daughter dances and John the Baptist is executed and his head is placed on the platter. And here in the wilderness, in the desert, is this feast of life.
We are not hungry this morning, most of us, but I wonder if we’re willing to believe in abundance, in a gospel of abundance, abundance of compassion for all, including those who are on the margins. I wonder, are we willing this morning to believe in a God who, in the words of the psalm, ‘satisfies you with good as long as you live.’ I wonder this morning if you’re able to capture that miraculous vision of abundance in the fifty-fifth chapter of Isaiah, the belief that the more that we give, the more there is to go around. Isn’t that at the heart of the miraculous feeding in the desert?
I pray that our post-Covid world might be one where God’s promise of abundance will be shared with the poorest and the hungry; or will we turn away from compassion to apathy, like the people in the Charles Causley poem, “The Ballad of the Bread Man”?
He went round to all the people
A paper crown on his head.
Here is some bread from my father.
Take, eat, he said.
Nobody seemed very hungry.
Nobody seemed to care.
Nobody saw the god in himself
Quietly standing there.
Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God. When shall I come to appear before the presence of God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they daily say unto me, “Where is now thy God?”
Text: Psalm 42 1-3
Music: Herbert Howells 1892-1983
Let us pray.
It was night
when the betrayer sat at table,
It was night
when he dipped the piece of bread,
It was night
when he went out,
and gathered with the adversaries,
to do the work of the night.
And we know this night, O God.
We know it in the fear which envelops our world in these days of pandemic;
in lands where war and violence reign;
in the hopelessness in the face of a child going hungry;
the rending asunder of a community where race or religion are a cause of tension;
the loneliness of the valley of the shadow of death.
We know this night in our own culpability for not loving as you love,
not forgiving as you forgive,
not dying to self as you will die for us.
Hear our silent prayers for mercy Lord Christ…
…and deep in the silence we hear a faint murmur…a rumour…a whisper…
‘If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.’
and the whisper becomes a defiant claim:
“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it”
and the claim becomes a promise and a person:
“I am the light of the world”
and in this is life and hope and reconciliation and healing.
Thanks be to God for the light.
O Lord hear our prayers for ourselves and others as we join together in the Lord’s Prayer:
which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil;
for thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory
for ever and ever, Amen.
Be of good courage, render no-one evil for evil,
but hold fast to the good; honour all of God’s people,
and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the Communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you
and all whom you love
this day and for ever.
Dieterich Buxtehude Praeludium in F BuxWV 157
CCL Licence No 980930
Streaming Licence 57837
The service was conducted by Rev Calum I MacLeod
The lesson was read by Helen Heatlie
The hymn was recorded in 2001 by The Choir of St Giles’ Cathedral Peter Backhouse, Assistant Organist, Michael Harris, Organist and Master of the Music
The anthem was recorded in 2008 by the Choir of St Giles’ Cathedral, Peter Backhouse, Assistant Organist, Michael Harris, Organist and Master of the Music