Summary: A short sermon for a Harvest Festival Service broadcast on BBC Radio
Since moving to Rhos on Sea as minister of the Methodist Church two years ago one of the things that Janet and myself keep saying is that we’ll go out on one of the fishing trips that leave from the small harbour where we began our service. The fact that we get sea sick on a mill pond doesn’t really bode well.
The idea of catching fish and then cooking them the same day for tea has a great attraction to it. Fresh mackerel, barbecued or grilled sounds just perfect. And what would be even better is if, with just two mackerel, we could have enough to go round and feed many.
Which brings us neatly to that story of Jesus and the five loaves and two fish that we have just heard. When Jesus saw the crowds on the hillside he was filled with compassion for them.
Seeing the need of the crowd for food, Jesus made it possible for all to be fed. Instead of giving in to the pressure of his disciples to send people away to get food, he told them to feed the people ’You give them something to eat.’ he said.
Eventually, the disciples came to Jesus with five loaves and two fish which Jesus blessed. He then broke them, the disciples distributed it, and all were fed.
As we celebrate harvest this story speaks to us.
First, the five thousand plus people gathered on the hillside that day were all fed. Of course we don’t really know what happened that day and the miracle of the five loaves and two fish going round the crowd may not be as simple as it first seems.
You can imagine the scene that day. It was getting late and the people were hungry. But would they all have set out that morning with no food at all? Surely at least some of them would have taken something to eat, even if only a little.
Maybe, what we have here are selfish people who, knowing that some wouldn’t have food, didn’t really want to share what they had. And then, when Jesus blessed the bread and the fish, and the disciples began to take it round the crowd, all those who had brought food began to share it and, before you knew it, everyone had plenty and there was even some left over. The miracle was, maybe, about turning selfish people into compassionate and generous people when touched by the love of Christ.
That speaks right to the heart of harvest. For a moment, think of the crowds on the hillside as the varied peoples of the world. Some have a lot, others have little, some have nothing at all.
We give thanks to God today for the wonderful harvest of land, sea and air. We give thanks to God for what we have in our kitchen cupboards and our fridge freezers, for what we have grown in our own gardens. You can give thanks to God for the bacon and eggs, porridge or toast you might be eating now. We give thanks to God for all who work to bring food to our tables, sometimes in difficult, demanding and dangerous conditions.
But we, who have plenty, cannot celebrate harvest without giving more than a thought to those on the hillside beside us, our fellow human beings, who have little or nothing, those who today sit beside us in God’s world and who will not eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. Those who have no food and no running water; those whose crops have failed because of too much or too little rain. So our harvest celebration is tinged with sorrow and sadness for a world where some have a lot and others have nothing. Sorrow and sadness for people created and loved by God who suffer.
And that leads us to the second part of the miracle. Jesus put the responsibility for feeding the people on the hillside firmly in the hands of his followers ’You give them something to eat.’ said Jesus.
The congregation here at Rhos Methodist Church is very generous in supporting people across the world – we sponsoring a child, the Junior Church last year raised over £2000 in just six months to dig wells in Nigeria through Water Aid. Over the years the congregation have given more money than any other Methodist Church to the work of the Methodist Relief and Development Fund seeking to help those across the world in desperate need.
Few of us can physically go overseas ourselves to support those who lack the basics of living. But we can support the work of organisations who take aid, relief and who support long term development. We can continue to commit ourselves to making poverty history, to seeking releasing the debt burden of the poorest nations and to buying fairly traded products, to petitioning organisations and governments to ensure the voice of the poor is heard. We need to do more than pray for them. We need to speak out and take action as well.