Preached by Revd Dr John Smith on 10th of April 2016 at St Peter & St Paul and St Michael and All Angels.
Up two long flights of escalators, always crowded, always chasing and up into Holborn Tube station. Despite the escalators, a better station than Covent Garden with the lifts, or Leicester Square which is always chaotic. Out into the street, is it always raining? More people, many more but I have this sense that God is here. I don’t understand it but it is what I feel.
And then I wondered, will it always be like this? What about 1000 years from now? I don’t have the imagination for the buildings or the technology. I can only think of us – human beings, God’s children – what will we be like? Will we be even more selfish or might it be a world that has rediscovered its sense of meaning. Will we still sense God, as I do now, or will it be non-sense – God present, but not sensed.
I stand there; no, I don’t walk on and think. It undermines it to call it a story – this story of Jesus Christ, his living and dying and rising; his loving, and loving by doing and healing and caring.
I think, this cannot be lost, it will not be lost. This Jesus, this Son of God who transforms our lives, who loves us, who gives us the responsibility, and what a responsibility:
Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he sees.
Yours are the feet with which he walks.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses the world.
So let’s start with our Gospel reading. Jesus stands there by the Sea of Tiberias, looking out for the disciples – he always travels towards those in trouble. It is the third time that the disciples see him since he rose from the dead. They are still lost and floundering, back fishing and even losing their touch with that. Fish from the other side they did, and there were fish in plenty. A foretaste of the future, perhaps. A moment of recognition, an invitation – “Come and have breakfast.” Very human but divine too. “Join me.” It has happened before, of course – he fed the 5000 – five barley loaves and two fish and enough left over to share with the world.
And then there are those words to Peter, three times he asks, “Do you love me?” Peter, the one who ran away, left him, denied him – forgiven and given work to do – feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. These are “do something” words. Saying “do you love me” is not enough. This is where Eliza Doolittle comes in – fed up with just words:
Words, words, I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
first from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars, burning above;
If you’re in love, show me!
Tell me no dreams, filled with desire,
If you’re in love, show me!
Jesus wants this…doing and serving and caring is loving and kingdom stuff. Saying it is just saying it – almost meaningless. So Jesus fed, and now we do too. If you’re in love, show me. The impulse to share food is basic and ancient, no wonder the old stories teach that what you give to a stranger you give to God. The more we are open to the stranger, whether we like them or not, we will see more and more of the Holy. Jesus said, “Come and have breakfast”, fed his disciples and us too. Jesus fed the 5000. No questions asked, no entry ticket…the insider, the outsider, the believer, the atheist, the lover and the thief are all in.
The night before he died he took bread and wine that became his body and his blood – do this in my memory and I will be there with you. And now we will take bread and wine which will become his body and his blood and we will share it too. We will not keep this to ourselves. For this place, this church, this life of ours is a house where love is found in water, wine and wheat . This is a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone to heal and strengthen, serve and teach. This is a house whose doors are open – this church – our lives, our doors, too. Time and time again we must say, as our Archbishop has said of God’s love, it’s extremely easy, God’s love is offered without qualifications, without price, without cost, to all people in all circumstances, always.
Help people grow and flourish into the people God’s love has called us to be. But somehow we make so many barriers, too many hurdles to jump. So, as Christians, we try to offer God’s love, but it comes with a cost: the cost of giving our time, our skills, our labour, our money. We share what we are and what we have. We crack the shell that protects us.
A tiny and very arthritic Miss Lewis went to her church every week to collect groceries, climbed the stairs – slowly, ever so slowly – went to her room – she only had one room – cooked on the hotplate, put the food into nice clean plastic containers, struggled down the stairs and gave the food to the homeless in the street. I call that Holy Communion. Food to people who do not belong and who people do not want.
Jesus stood by the sea and saw the disciples struggling. “Come and have breakfast”, the fire is alight. Share your food with mine. Share your lives with mine. It is a Christian call.
Listen to this prayer from Uruguay. It is said when bread and wine are brought to the altar. It calls for all of us to be involved, not just in the eucharist, but beyond these walls – not just for us but for everyone.
Let us celebrate the Supper of the Lord. Let us make a huge loaf of bread and let us bring abundant wine. Let the women not forget the salt, let the men bring along the yeast. Let many guests come: the lame, the blind, the crippled, the poor. Come quickly. Let us follow the recipe of the Lord. All of us, let us knead the dough together with our hands, together we knead hope. Let us see with joy how the bread grows. Because today we celebrate the meeting with the Lord. Today we renew our commitment to the Kingdom. Nobody will stay hungry.
We, you and I, will not be hungry because we are loved. The world will not be hungry because we love; and when we love we respect and honour and don’t hold on.
We are pilgrims on a journey
fellow travellers on the road
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.
So let this house proclaim from floor to rafter: all are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
I come up the escalator. Holborn Station, a crowded London road, Christ palpably present and thought,” what will it be like 1000 years from now?” And knew, that with Christ’s help and ours – loving one another and we are loved – all will be well in the Kingdom of God.
God’s love does make a difference if we let it. Makes a difference to their lives, helps them see the world differently because the world is different when we love and serve one another. It is the spark that sparks and endless spark. If you love, show me, fire me, do something.