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230806. Pentecost 10.

Genesis 32:22-31 Psalm 17:1-7, 16 Romans 9 1-8 Matthew 14:13-21

+ In the name of God, Source of all being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit. Amen

It is interesting to note that in the biblical narrative fear is the motivation for people to respond in various ways. When we read the story of Jacob, we find that he is afraid and justifiably so of his brother’s rage after he steals Esau’s birthright. Before Jacob set out, he was dealing with his feelings knowing he was about to meet Esau, the brother he had cheated out of his most precious possession, his birthright, and his blessings. Now Jacob was about to meet his brother for the first time in 20 years and he was frantic with fear. He collected his thoughts and decided to pray. It is fear that motivates him to prepare lavish gifts and send his family and servants across the Jabbok a large tributary of the Jordan River before meeting with his brother. Jacob trusted God’s promises, but he was still fearful, and feeling guilty about his dealing with his brother. It is also interesting to note that the bible tells us that the fear of God is a good and beneficial thing. The fear of the Lord is said to be the beginning of wisdom Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10 and Job 28:28 and knowledge Proverbs 1:7. This fear of God signifies the awe we feel in the presence of God, and a feeling that is intended to draw us closer to a deeper level of trust in God and love of God. In a theological sense we ought to fear God simply because God is God, and though we are made in the image of God, God is different from us, a mystery to us, self-sufficient and without need of us. God is perfection of love, beauty and justice and completely other to anything we could imagine. In divine holiness, we can never compare to God and in God’s merciful presence we come face to face with our own longings, our restless striving, and our own painful need of God. These aspects of God are terrifying. But the fear of God is life giving, and creative, drawing us towards wisdom, freedom and life as we move toward the mystery and love that is God. Jacob, in his time of fear and terror prayed to God, and he found himself in a wrestling match all night in which he would not give up until he was blessed. He was persistent. God encourages persistence in all areas of our lives, including the spiritual. He did receive the blessing he so dearly desired and also received a new name. God gave many Bible people new names: Abraham, Sarah, and Peter for example. Their new names were symbols of how God had changed their lives. Here we see how Jacob’s character had changed. Jacob, the ambitious deceiver, had now become Israel, the one who struggles with God and overcomes. We can learn from this, that when we face a difficult conflict, we can runabout frantically without a sensible strategy, or we can pause to pray and seek God’s guidance. We can also learn that strong character develops as we struggle through tough conditions. There are many in today’s world struggling and afraid through tough conditions. Not only in our own area where people are finding it difficult to provide for themselves and their families as they did before, but in countries struggling after war, drought, fire and continuing failure of crops and climate change causing famine. The story of five loaves and two fish feeding five thousand is in all four gospels and in John’s gospel is followed by the teaching on the doctrine of the Eucharist. (John 6: 53-55) There is nothing ordinary about this event and when we think of the miracle of Jesus’ incarnation, this miracle is a sign which demonstrates sacramentally Christ’s identity as the Bread of life. We read in John 6 verse 53 Jesus said to them. Very Truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of Man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Jesus cared for the people in their ordinary hunger and demonstrated loving hospitality. We learn of Jesus compassion for human ordinary needs. He had been travelling, healing the sick along the way, and had just learned that his faithful cousin John was dead. At the end of the day the disciples wanted the crowd to go home but Jesus with compassion that shows no bounds wanted them to be fed. Like the healing miracles of Jesus, the miracle of feeding shows us the presence of the kingdom of God. It reminds us of God providing manna for the children of Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness (Exod. 16:1-36). And it began to fulfill Old Testament prophetic promises, such as are found in Isaiah 25:6.which relate to the Kingdom of Heaven. On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. Feeding the hungry is both an act of compassion and a demonstration of the presence of God’s kingdom. It cannot be explained by scientific reason or contemporary science. The assent of faith is seen as logical because it preserves God’s transcendent nature. A God we could fully explain could not be God at all. God is mystery and it is the mystery that informs our faith. Throughout the centuries, Christians have followed the lead of Jesus in seeking to feed people, especially those with limited access to food. We are striving to help the poor, not only by feeding them, but also by helping them to develop the means to feed themselves through the work of Anglicare North Coast. Often a difficult task when people are so low that they find it impossible to respond to help as we sometimes find with rough sleepers here. Can we not be fearful as we go into the world Christ loves, but go with courage in the power of the Holy Spirit? Can we be inspired to care for human need and offer hospitality to people and be part of the kingdom ministry of Jesus? The feeding of the five thousand teaches the importance of sharing, making the most of what we have, and that whatever is brought to Christ, is not only sufficient, but becomes more than enough. This means that as we bring all of ourselves to Christ in the Eucharist, broken and afraid we will be sent out strengthened and given the courage we need to place our trust in God, and be surprised by the miracles. Amen The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan tssf Canon Pastor Grafton Cathedral

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