Miracles happen – a sermon for All Age Eucharist

May God give us ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts open to the Spirit’s word to us today.

Can I have some volunteers? Can you step through this piece of paper? [Hold up A4 paper] No? Why not? It’s impossible! Of course. To step through you’d need a hole. [Cut slit in centre of paper, hold it up again] Now can you climb through? No? It’s still impossible.

[While delivering the next section, cut paper so that it makes a loop a person can step through, but don’t unfold it yet.] Jesus did something in our bible reading today that people thought was impossible. There they were, 5,000 people who’d come to listen to Jesus. Imagine them: thousands of them, standing or sitting on the ground, as far as the eye could see. And nothing to eat. Except one little boy offered his packed lunch: just five loaves of bread and two fish. Nothing like enough to feed all these people. But Jesus took the food, prayed over it, and gave it to them. And there was more than enough to go round.

[Unfold paper loop.] Now can you step through it? Yes! [Volunteers step through.] It wasn’t impossible after all. What I’ve done with the paper is just a clever trick. I’ll show you how to do it later if you like. But what Jesus did, making those few loaves and fish feed all those people wasn’t a trick. It was something real. It was a miracle.

What is a miracle? [Invite suggestions.] The very best definition of a miracle I’ve come across was told to me by a seven year old: “a miracle is something impossible that God does”. Something impossible that God does. Because with God, nothing is impossible.

It is impossible to feed 5,000 people with a little bit of bread and fish. It would be like trying to feed all of us here with just this biscuit [Hold up biscuit.] I couldn’t do it, you couldn’t do it. We could share it out, [break off tiny pieces and give to volunteers] but we wouldn’t be satisfied. But when Jesus feeds people, they are satisfied. Even when he feeds them using almost nothing.

Almost nothing, but not quite nothing. For the feeding of the 5,000 to happen, someone had to offer something. The little boy had to offer his little bit of bread and fish for Jesus to use. I wonder how that little boy felt? I wonder if he was nervous about offering what little he had to Jesus. He must have known it couldn’t possibly be enough to feed all those people. I wonder if he felt a little bit silly even offering it?

Like all miracles in the Bible, this story tells us something about God. It tells us that God can do the impossible. And it tells us that God can take the tiniest offering and multiply it.

Miracles don’t stop with the Bible. God is still working miracles, things which seem impossible, but somehow God makes them happen. As many of you will know, Lighthouse is happening this week. I’m part of the group that organises Lighthouse in High Wycombe, and every year there comes a meeting where we say to each other “this just won’t work, it’s impossible”. And yet, every year, by God’s grace, it does work. So I always think of Lighthouse as a bit of a miracle.

Miracles happen when we, like the little boy in our story, offer something to God, and God gives it back a thousand times over. Offering can be risky. Maybe we offer something precious to us, or something we treasure, or – most risky of all – we offer ourselves.

Or maybe we offer prayer for a situation that seems impossible. Prayer can be risky too. But it does change things. Some of you will remember the years, the decades of prayer for an end to apartheid, or to the troubles in Northern Ireland. Situations which seemed at the time impossible to resolve, but they did come to an end, thanks in no small part to the faithful prayer of many millions of ordinary people. There are other situations now which seem impossible, and we must go on praying for those.

Miracles begin when we offer ourselves, all that we have and all that we are, to God in prayer and in worship and in service. Even if you feel like what you have to offer is too small, offer it anyway. God will take whatever we offer, even the smallest scrap of bread, and use and multiply it beyond what we could ever do or even imagine.

God, as we heard in our first reading, “by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” So offer yourselves. Offer yourselves to God, to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, to become the means by which God works miracles. And don’t be surprised if you get more than you bargained for.

Amen.

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“What sort of peace?” Sermon for Trinity 7 All Age Eucharist with Admission to Holy Communion (Ephesians 2.13-22, Mark 6.30-34, 53-56)

Did you notice which of our word and picture cards was held up the most times during the reading? It was “peace”. Peace is a very important concept in the Bible and in the church. In a few minutes we will exchange a sign of peace, saying to each other “peace be with you”. But what kind of peace is this? It’s not the simple kind, the mere absence of noise, distraction or conflict. It is the deep peace, the “peace which passes all understanding”, which can only be found by drawing near to Jesus.

When we come close to Jesus, something very special happens. I’m going to need some volunteers to demonstrate. [give each person a length of string, all tied to a central cross] Now I want you to all go as far as your string will allow you. See how far they are from the cross now, and how far they are from each other. Now, I’d like you all to come closer to the cross. Look, they’re all closer to the cross now, but what has happened to the distance between them? They’re closer to each other too.

This is what happens in communion. Jesus invites each of us to his table. And when we draw near to him, we draw nearer to each other too. Our communion with Christ puts us in communion with our brothers and sisters here in this church, around the world, and throughout the ages. We are in communion with all who are called to the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, to share in and become part of the body of Christ.

Through Christ’s peace, which is so much greater than we can understand, we are drawn into communion with those we have never met, and those with whom we profoundly disagree, no less than we are with those we love.  And that shared communion has to change the way we are with one another, as we grow to reflect the love Jesus shows us in the sacrament and on the cross. We are changed by our encounter with the living, risen Christ in the bread and wine.

In our gospel reading we heard about those who were healed just by coming near enough to Jesus to touch his cloak. This is the power of Christ. Jesus drew near to people, especially those people nobody else wanted to be with. And when Jesus drew near to people they were changed. They could see things they could never see before, they could do things they could never do before. They were healed.

And we too are invited to be changed, transformed and made whole by meeting Jesus in his body and blood at communion. [use picture cards from reading] Our task, our calling, is to fix our eyes on the cross and on the bread and wine, and draw near with faith. When we do we are healed, the divisions between us are healed. The walls we put up between ourselves and the ‘other’ are torn down, and we the living stones rebuilt into a temple, Christ’s church, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, built on Christ the cornerstone. And then, only then, can we truly know the peace of God.

For our prayers today, we are going to use lego to build a church, to represent the way we are built together in unity into the one church of God. Please come forward and choose a brick to represent yourself, and also bricks to represent those for whom you pray, and build them in to the church.