Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.
In the Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
What wonderful words, beautiful words from Jesus today! Words with an unfathomable depth of meaning: Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.
Friends, do you ever feel as though your life is fragmented?
Is it broken? Are you left scrambling to pick up the pieces of consequences of past actions? Either your own actions of which you are ashamed, or the harmful actions of others done to you? Thoughts, words and deeds, things done and left undone.
Perhaps you feel your life is divided, with no unity, centre or organizing principle?
Maybe some key parts of your life are missing – a loved one, a relationship, health, memory, a talent or ability, an image of yourself, an identity?
Our lives are fragmented in many ways – and perhaps this past year of pandemic has left you all the more fragmented, scattering your plans, hopes and dreams, your family & freinds, your finances, etc.
And also, as we have seen over the past year, our world is fragmented in may ways - with racial divisions, political polarization, injustices and inequalities.
We are broken, scattered, fragmented; but friends the good news this morning is this: what we ourselves can only try to do in vain, Jesus can do for us and through us: gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.
That was the purpose of His life and ministry: that nothing be lost – that is why God the Father sent His only Son into our world to live among us, to share our human life and burdens; that is why Jesus stretched out His arms on the hard wood of the cross, that all may be gathered within His saving embrace.
Jesus said, And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (John 6:39 ESV)
God has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to His purpose, which His set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:9–10 ESV)
God hates nothing that He has made – and desires nothing more than that all should be gathered up in Jesus.
There is no part of your life hidden from His eyes – God is the one unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid. Now there may be some parts we would prefer to leave lost or buried, but you see, what to us appears to be bunch of shattered pieces, Christ is gathering up into one beautiful mosaic, or stained glass window, transfigured by His glorious light.
And this window, this mosaic is all the more beautiful because in the fullness of time we shall see that even those tarnished fragments of our lives somehow fit into place to form a necessary part of a much greater whole.
Likewise every single human being is valuable in God’s eyes – and those who seem least valuable to us in our blindness, are most precious to Him. There is no life forgotten, no person beyond the pale of His saving mercy, no man, woman or child unworthy of love.
Our Gospel story begins with Jesus lifting up His eyes, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward Him. Whether we realize it or not, we are seeking the nourishment, sustenance and refreshment that only Jesus can provide. In the words of a great prayer, Jesus knows our needs before we ask and our ignorance in asking; He has compassion on our weakness and gives us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask.
Jesus knows the crowd is hungry before they ask Him and so He says to Philip: ‘Where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?’ Jesus said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
Notice how Philip estimates the need in terms of money – and worries that their funds are insufficient: ‘200 denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.’
Philips sounds like the church lamenting its financial woes! Sounds each of like us worrying about our home finances, assuming that if only we had a little more, then we would be secure.
But it turns out that what they already have is sufficient – or rather, it is enough for Jesus to take and then multiply. Five barley loaves and two fish. By the way, the barley detail is important: in those days, barley was less valuable than wheat, so the point here seems to be that the provisions are especially meagre and unvaluable
In fact, all the details here are important. Notice how John (the author) carefully records the various quantities and describes how Jesus Himself is attentive to the small details.
There are five barley loaves, which Jesus takes, gives thanks for, and breaks to distribute. So also the two fish. 5 loaves + 2 fish to feed 5,000 people; and the leftover fragments of food are enough to fill 12 baskets.
Throughout the Bible - and especially in John's Gospel - numbers are of great symbolic significance. 5 loaves + 2 fish = 7 units of food. Whenever the number seven or a seven-fold numerical pattern appears, the biblical authors want us to think of the seven days of creation. So what Jesus is enacting and what John is indicating here is that in this miracle, something new is being created (or re-created).
In Part II of John's Gospel, the Book of Revelation, in that great vision of the new creation, Jesus says from His glorious throne in the New Jerusalem, Behold, I am making all things new (Rev. 21.5). Here John shows that Jesus has the power enacts the same in the wilderness. Just so, Jesus wills to make all things new for you and for this parish of St. James during the wilderness of this pandemic.
After the miraculous multiplication and feeding of the five-thousand, somehow there’s extras leftover. The leftover fragments are enough to fill twelve baskets.
Like seven, the number twelve is also highly significant in the Bible:
What does this mean? It’s as though the twelve baskets of leftover fragments are to be taken out of this restaurant as doggy bags to feed and nourish the rest of the world, gathering all nations, tribes and tongues around one great banquet table (Rev. 7.9; 19.6-8).
So you see, all of this informs and inspires the mission of the church to gather up the fragments that nothing may be lost. This is what inspires our outreach, social justice, evangelism and our strategic plan work.
Friends, this means we must have an eye and ear for fragments: fragments of love, truth, kindness; even fragments of people and things that are seemingly of no worth.
Through His power working in us, we must gather these up for Jesus Christ.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18–20 ESV)
In our reading today from St. Paul, his letter to the Galatians, he describes it this way: the Jerusalem above is free and she is our mother. [Learn more about this difficult passage here.]
The heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal city of peace and refreshment, is our spiritual home. Our parish of St. James, Caledon East is the outpost of the New Jerusalem here in our little corner of the world. And the Church has a maternal role: giving birth to new children through the waters of baptism; educating and raising children in the faith; seeking the lost (Luke 15.8-10); and gathering all round the dinner table for nourishment and fellowship.
Friendss, your own home is a domestic church, which has become all the more important during this 'wilderness' time of pandemic, with restrictions on gatherings for public worship. Here are some resources to make your home a domestic church and your dinner table a holy table.