I know exactly where I was. I was sitting in the quire of Canterbury Cathedral. It was March 1976. To be more exact, it was the Fourth Sunday in Lent. With a little detective work, I know that it was 28 March 1976.
I know that it was the Fourth Sunday in Lent, because the gospel that day was this story of the boy with the five barley-loaves and the two, small fish. I remember to this day the experience of hearing, as if for the first time, the story of the young lad who shared his lunch. Now, every time I hear this passage, I find myself sitting in Canterbury’s quire.
This story opens chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. The chapter begins here, which is part of the larger feeding story, and then moves on to the Calming of the Sea, and finally the Bread of Life discourse. It’s an incredibly rich and significant chapter, full of possibilities. Because it is so rich, the story of the boy is often lost. It’s easy to overlook him, or to lose him altogether. In fact, the other three gospels, all of which record this miracle, fail to mention the boy. And John fails, or has other reasons, not to name him. It is this nameless boy who has held my attention for over forty years.
Jesus paints the picture of two people: a judge, a man with authority with no respect for others who won’t be ashamed, and a widow, weak and vulnerable. The widow comes persistently asking for justice such that the judge relents, so as to stop being bothered.
Have you agreed to something like the judge? Given in just to stop someone from bothering you. Have you received something for acting like the widow? Persistently present, continually asking. Have you ever felt that God is like the unjust judge? Distant, unhearing, refusing, without respect or shame. Has prayer felt like repetitive knocking or finger pointing?
The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
In the celebration of the Eucharist, the priest may say two prayers over the bread and wine immediately following their placement on the altar. In these prayers, the bread is called the fruit of the earth, the wine, the fruit of the vine; both are identified as having been received through the goodness of God, and both are called “the work of human hands.” This understanding, what I’ll call the “offertory posture,” positions us and our labors as intertwined with God’s own goodness and creativity. Our work, and the fruit of it, is also the fruit of God’s creation, and anything we create is to be viewed as coming ultimately from God, and offered back to God. This reciprocity of giving involves continuous interchange between God and his people.
Lenten Commemoration – George Herbert (1593-1633)
Our God and King, you called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in your temple: Give us grace, we pray, joyfully to perform the tasks you give us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
In the calendar of the church, we commemorate today a 17th-century Church of England country parson named George Herbert. Down through the centuries, he is most remembered for his arresting, revealing, passionate poetry, which was published posthumously. There was a secret to George Herbert’s greatness, but not the obvious.
We know that all things work together for good* for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. *30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?