By the time you read this we shall have been at St Crux in York, the old church at the bottom of The Shambles that is no longer used for worship but which can be hired by churches, charities and other community groups. How many loaves we shall have used, how many coffees or teas will have been served and how many people we shall have met, I really couldn’t say. I suspect it will be far fewer than the 5000 Jesus shared loaves and fishes with and just as when Jesus fed that crowd, I think we shall have met other needs than just physical hunger. Two things make me say that.
The first is what from time to time I feel deep down in myself. Sometimes it may be tiredness, sometimes restlessness and sometimes a deep dissatisfaction with my own efforts to live the Christian life and make progress on my spiritual journey. That can sometimes manifest itself as a hunger, a feeling that ‘I don’t read enough’. I know the words that Jesus quoted in the wilderness:
“Man is not to live on bread alone,
but on every word from God.”
While accepting the truth of that, I sometimes feel as if I am starving myself – I am not feeding using all the opportunities God offers me. The other day I felt quite exhausted by mid-afternoon. That feeling of restlessness and hunger had come over me the day before and I had begun to read a book called ‘Resourcing Renewal’. So I took myself off with the book to a tea shop where I could relax and read. I felt better when I came away some time later. Back home I listened to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto while tea was being prepared and felt better still. By the time tea was finished I was able to wrestle with the sermon for Sunday and more or less finish my service preparation. It hadn’t been the salad, the physical food, which had restored me, but the reading and the music. God speaks and reaches out to us in so many ways, but we do not always let him feed us.
The other thing was an article entitled ‘UK Prayer Profile’, which I found on the Methodist Church’s website on my computer. A survey had shown that nearly half of all UK adults (some 20 million people) pray. The statistic was taken from a report prepared by Tearfund. It said to me that there are many who recognise deep down inside them a spiritual need and seek for that yearning to be satisfied. I also found myself thinking, “That figure is far greater than the number of people who go to Church!” Sadly I reflected that this was a clear indication that while many feel a need, a lot also feel the Church that they know cannot meet their need, and that’s something we need to take seriously.
Truly “Man is not to live on bread alone” – don’t starve yourselves.
Wishing you every blessing,
Your Minister and friend,