The Height and Breadth of Love
9th Sunday after Trinity Ephesians 3:14-21 John 6: 1-21
The average person in the street seems to know little of the content on the Bible these days, but those who do will quote the feeding of the 5000 as one of the miracles they know. It was an amazing story of five small rolls and a couple of sardines. Amazing that a small boy had not eaten his lunch by the time it was needed, and that he was willing to hand it over.
It was also a test of the disciple’s faith, as they had to begin to hand out this minute quantity of food to thousands of people. But this morning I want to look at the why of the miracle and set it in the context of that wonderful reading from Ephesians.
Jesus fed the people simply because he loved them and saw their need. The disciples were all for sending them away – but Jesus’ love for them could not let him do that. This miracle shows us a God who cares for each individual need.
A God who cares about community – and people caring for each other, and a God who gives, not just what we need but abundantly – notice there were 12 baskets of food left over. One for each of the disciples.
This the God Paul talks about in the prayer in his letter to the church at Ephesus and now for us here today.
What did Paul pray for us? ‘I pray that you may have the power to grasp how broad and long and high and deep is the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge and that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.’ Not a lot then!
Let us unpack this prayer - how broad is the love of Christ?
Well certainly broader than any broadband.
His love is not like elastic that if overstretched will snap, His love is more like the spider’s web, which if you watch the spider spinning is an extension of his very being. If the thin strand of a spiders web is magnified to represent our size the thread would be stronger than steel.
It is as broad or wide as the oceans that lap at the edge of the world. It is the rainbow that stretches over black and white, Arab and Jew. This love never judges or measures by appearances. It can reach into every place, desert, jungle, cave or sea and sky. It can reach into the depths of the human heart to comfort the lonely, and walk with the afraid, it can help the downtrodden to stand up and the cantankerous to be calm.
This love of Christ is boundless and limitless, for he is God’s Son – and love’s door is open wide to everyone.
Let every one who is thirsty come.
How long does the love of Christ last?
Longer than life insurance and there is no small print
It is from everlasting to everlasting because Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
His love brings healing to our past hurts, help to our present needs, and hope for our future both here and into eternity,
Right from the start, at that moment of conception, when we were being made in secret, Jesus was there.
He knows all about our lives with all the highs and the lows. He feels the wounds, the deep regrets, the guilt, the loss, all that baggage we try to leave at the airport, but they will keep sending it on.
On the cross his love was released to heal our deepest wounds and free us so that we can live in this present moment, held in the love of God, which is new every morning;
And it gets better, what is more wonderful is that nothing can separate us from that love. Let that sink in for a moment. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. One of the comfortable words that we say at the start of every funeral ‘I am convinced that neither death, nor life, not angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And what of the future?
Jesus says ‘don’t be afraid for there is nowhere you can go where I will not be there with you.
How high is the love of Christ?
God says - For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways of love higher than yours.
If you were creating the world would you have thought of making buttercups – or ladybirds, thought of painting the sky a different colour each day. Would you have made sunsets that make your eyes almost ache to look at?
God our creator, Jesus our redeemer did it all for love.
How deep is the love of Christ?
As the old spiritual says, ‘nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen’ - and it is true nobody knows the pain, the exhaustion, the grief, the loneliness, the prison, the utter desolation, the screaming voices, the black choking silence, the smooth-sided walled pit that some are in, and where the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.
But the love of God can reach even there, David wrote ‘he drew me out of the desolate pit and set my feet upon a rock.’
God in Christ came down from heaven to earth, down to the cross, down to the tomb, down to that place of utter Godless darkness, on Easter Saturday, so that like him we can be resurrected and raised up from our dark place.
We are entering a new phase in our Benefice life. Very soon Steven will be with us and there will be change. There is no beating about the bush, change is difficult. We get set in our ways and comfortable and if we are honest most of us are a little bit scared of change. Can you just for a moment imagine how you would have felt if Jesus had given you half a sardine and a bit of bread roll and told you to feed the 5000+ people all looking at you for lunch? Yes, there was a miracle but it only happened as the first disciple began by handing out the bread and fish.
One of my favorite quotes is from the peace loving Gandhi who said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” .
And I would venture to say that the same concept applies to church as well. The disciples became the change, became the miracle and we can do the same thing as we encounter change as well. We prayed for someone to come and shake us up, take us forward, bring in young people and that is what is going to happen if we embrace the change required.
Just as the disciples took the bread and fish and with wavering faith began to give it out, so we this morning take the bread, broken for us and the wine outpoured as a symbol of the love of God in Christ and we feed on his love by faith.
May God help each one of us to grasp something of the love of God for each one of us this morning. May each one of us be willing to be the change we have prayed for and see the miracle unfold in front of us.
Now unto him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.